Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Sublimity & Something Blue

I have talked before about beauty and the sublime, or at least have referenced someone else's words on the subjects; I had a mind-blowing lecture about the pair on Monday that reminded me. According to Longinus, "a well-timed stroke of sublimity scatters everything before it like a thunderbolt" and has the power to fill us with inspired emotion. The power of sublimity fascinates me.
There is a school of thought that sees there being no pleasure without pain. Edmund Burke wrote on the subject and asks what we are afraid of; pain, vastness, obscurity. The powerful, the infinite. All of these "fill the mind with delightful horror, the truest test of the sublime". It is a paradox - we are drawn to pain and terror, and yet we seek pleasure. The sublime is only that because it both terrifies and delights us. A way to resolve this is to see ourselves finding pleasure in fictional or imagined pain, or that the pain of the sublime is metaphorical to begin with.
I prefer to see sublimity as something both frightening and illuminating.
Like a thunderstorm at sea, or real heart-wrenching love.

On an unrelated note, it is Holocaust Memorial Day today. A favourite girl of mine sent me John Boyne's The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and I finished reading it yesterday. Tonight, I want to watch Mark Herman's film, and take a little time to think about what we are capable of as a race - all things bad and beautiful.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Edmund Burke

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