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The Sublime

Semester and Year SP 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1788
Section 001
Instructor Bradley Lewis
Days F
Time 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



Art of the sublime stirs up strong emotions and competing evaluations. Often labeled “indescribable,” the sublime has been debated for centuries amongst writers, poets, artists, and philosophers. The concept goes back to classical Greece, but it became particularly important in eighteenth century Europe. At that time the sublime was applied in relation to the creative arts to describe aspects of nature that instill awe and wonder such as mountains, avalanches, waterfalls, stormy seas, or the infinite vault of the starry sky. In the wake of the French Revolution, the sublime for the Romantics became a quasi-secular route to cultural and aesthetic freedom through contact with the unbounded and the supersensible. In our contemporary world, where culture and gender difference, psychoanalysis, postmodern theory, technology, neuroscience, and neoliberal spectacle seem to eclipse former concepts of nature and transcendent experience, the characteristics of the sublime are perhaps more fuzzy than ever. The term and the debates however remain very much alive and relevant to contemporary aesthetic, metaphysical, and ethical concerns. This course will examine theories of the sublime in writers and artists from ancient to postmodern, including Longinus, Burke, Kant, Wordsworth, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Newman, Rosenblum, Lyotard, Deleuze, Kristeva, and Viola.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)