Sublime

Introduction:

If we are looking for utter confusion and disruption of the senses -- an anarchy of sensory activity -- the final scene of The Monk serves as an example of the "sublime" in the literature of this period. However, more often in the work of sensibility, we find Ann Radcliffe's sublime (quoted below) -- well ordered and, in a way, comforting to Ellena. Even Smart's musings on his cat Jeoffrey, with all their lunacy, are very conscious and consistent with their logic and form. Often, the sublime is not the free play of sentiment, but rather a controlled, albeit engulfing, sensibilious experience. At times, we see in these passages, the sublime response is connected with the "noble" and "tender" passions, not the prophetic and mad we perceive in Blake and others.

A number of other questions arise around the issue of the sublime in the literature of the period: How is it conceived in relation to a greater power, Radcliffe's "force" and "deity"? As Williams seems to suggest, how is the sublime solely an artistic production? Is the sublime closely related to the "noble" and "tender" "passions" as Blair suggests below, or as Sir Jones posits, the product of "hate, anger, fear, and the terrible passions"? Is the Romantic sublime the fruition of eighteenth-century sensibility?

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