MS Nagarajan's Classical Criticism- Longinus notes, On the Sublime notes

The life of Longinus ,the author of the great treatise on the Sublime is shrouded in mystery .The Identity of the author and the precise date of the composition of on the Sublime remains unknown and uncertain. It is certain that this treatise did not receive any mention in ancient records. it was almost unknown until Robertello published it in Balse(1554). But not until its translation and Publication by Boileau(1674) did it receive adequate attention . Ever since then it achieved
phenomenal success and came to be regarded as the Bible of the Neo classicists, who praised it in theory that disregarded its rules in practice . The English title of the book On the Sublime has been variously translated. Hall translated the title Of the Height of Eloquence ; Pulteney(1680), A treatise of the Loftiness on Elegancy of speech’ .It is clear that all these translations are clumsy and they are hardly more accurate than the expression “Sublime”

Longinus as a Critic

The greatness of Longinus as a critic lies in the fact that he adopted a new method of Criticism Longinus’ treatise On the Sublime was not concerned specifically With poetry but only with one quality of the Sublime this is the Cardinal excellence from which the greatest poets and writers have derived there eminence.
Longinus agreed with aristotle's view of poetry that it yields and aesthetic pleasure .He took into account the pleasurable effect of poetry on the reader or audience and thus propounded the first “effective theory of literature”. The classical theories of rhetoric where effective as they devised ways in which words could be made to move listeners or readers .Persuasion could be achieved through moving but  Longinus is interested in achieving something higher than persuasion .His ultimate aim is the attainment of ecstasy or transport in which the reader or hearer is “carried away” “lifted out of himself” .Therefore according to Longinus the determining Criterion of the goodness and greatness of a work of art consists in its power to ‘move’ a person to ecstasy by the Grandeur and Passion of the work.
     The emphasis of Longinus is on the literature of power .The effect of this literature is achieved not by argument but by revelation of illumination .Literature is not propaganda, not a Sermon, not entertainment ;it is a vision .The effect of literature is the same as a soul-stirring music or scriptural incantation.
     It makes us see with the eye of the spirit and filters with awareness the truly Sublime has an uplifting effect that carries us to a new realm of experience and perception . He says “ Our  Soul is instinctively uplifted by the true sublime; it takes a proud flight and is  thus filled with joy Longinus emphasized that transport results mainly from the burst of passion. Our reaction to the truly Sublime is directed not by the power of discursive reason but by intuition and Insight
     Building upon the theory of sublimity, Longinus traces five principal sources of the Sublime. The five sources of sublimity are:
(a) capacity for great thought and a firm grasp of Ideas the power of forming great conceptions lofty thoughts
(b)Inspired emotion and strong passion these two characteristics are innate and Coextensive in the poet
(d) figures of speech and proper construction of figures
(e)Noble diction which in turn comprises choice of words ,use of metaphors and elaboration of language
(f)dignified and elevated composition- the harmonious arrangement of words in a certain order.

Impediments to sublimity

The three impediments to sublimity are:
(a) affectation -writing that is pretentious and designed to impress
(b) cold pedantry excessive concern with petty details and rules.
(c) sentimentality -exaggerated and self indulgent tenderness

The treatise of Longinus deeply influenced the post -Renaissance critics like Pope, Addison, Wordsworth Shelley Arnold and Jung.

Nagarajan, MS. English Literary Criticism and Theory.Orient Black Swan.2006.print. 


Post a Comment