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The Oxymoronic Nature of the Romantic Sublime / Martina Domines Veliki

By: Domines Veliki, Martina.
Material type: ArticleArticleDescription: str. Str. 62-79.Other title: The Oxymoronic Nature of the Romantic Sublime [Naslov na engleskom:].Subject(s): 6.03 | Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, the sublime, the Alps eng In: English studies from archives to prospects. Volume 1. Literature and cultural studies Str. 62-79edited by Stipe Grgas, Tihana Klepač, Martina Domines VelikiSummary: The Romantics were struck with the sublimities of nature which arrested their attention and stirred them into a creative disposition. This paper aims to explore the eighteenth-century discourse on the sublime and to trace its influence in the works of Wordsworth (The Prelude), Byron (Manfred) and Shelley (Mont Blanc). It will mainly rely on David Hume’s “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” (1748) and Edmund Burke’s “Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful” (1757) to counteract Kant’s aesthetic philosophy in the readings of the afore-mentioned Romantic writers. The key trope for the Romantic experience of the sublime is the fascination with the unknown realities of nature. Thus for Wordsworth, the sublime is inextricably bound up with the process of growing up. From his childhood on, he was “fostered alike by beauty and by fear” (The Prelude, Book I, 306) and the early experience of nature was essential for the later experiences of the Simplon Pass in the Alps and the ascent of Snowdon in Wales. Byron’s tour of the Bernese Alps serves as the basis for Manfred’s experience of the sublime. Manfred wants to love the mountains but cannot and his recognition of the sublime in nature is bound up with his desire to forget and to die. Finally, for Shelley the encounter with the sublimity of the highest mountain peak in Europe instigates his belief in the sheer materiality of the mountain and his inability to accept it as simply a white mass of stone. Thus, for all three poets the interplay between the human mind and the material world remains crucial in recognizing the potentials of the sublime.
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The Romantics were struck with the sublimities of nature which arrested their attention and stirred them into a creative disposition. This paper aims to explore the eighteenth-century discourse on the sublime and to trace its influence in the works of Wordsworth (The Prelude), Byron (Manfred) and Shelley (Mont Blanc). It will mainly rely on David Hume’s “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” (1748) and Edmund Burke’s “Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful” (1757) to counteract Kant’s aesthetic philosophy in the readings of the afore-mentioned Romantic writers. The key trope for the Romantic experience of the sublime is the fascination with the unknown realities of nature. Thus for Wordsworth, the sublime is inextricably bound up with the process of growing up. From his childhood on, he was “fostered alike by beauty and by fear” (The Prelude, Book I, 306) and the early experience of nature was essential for the later experiences of the Simplon Pass in the Alps and the ascent of Snowdon in Wales. Byron’s tour of the Bernese Alps serves as the basis for Manfred’s experience of the sublime. Manfred wants to love the mountains but cannot and his recognition of the sublime in nature is bound up with his desire to forget and to die. Finally, for Shelley the encounter with the sublimity of the highest mountain peak in Europe instigates his belief in the sheer materiality of the mountain and his inability to accept it as simply a white mass of stone. Thus, for all three poets the interplay between the human mind and the material world remains crucial in recognizing the potentials of the sublime.

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