Right. Thank you for interesting commentary on the character of great
literature, from Hamsun to Tolstoy and beyond.
We read from Landow's brief introduction to Burke's distinction between the
beautiful and sublime that, while the former is pleasing to us, the latter
leaves the beholder in a state of horror. The argument goes thus:
We are "astonished" when we encouter the sublime, and " astonishment is
that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some
degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its
object, that it cannot entertain any other." [Burke, On the Sublime, ed. J.
T. Bolton. 58.
What should interest us is Walter Benjamin's rejection of what HE referred
to as amazement, and which we can roughly assimilate to Burke's
astonishment. The sublime exists, pace Benjamin, but we should turn away
from it. Amazement is, we learn, unscientific.
Hence Burke's concluding remarks on the sublime makes perfect sense:
"Terror is in all cases whatsoever . . . the ruling principle of the
sublime" (ibid.) WTF! No way! These are the dictums of the new terroristic
Mvh. / Yours sincerely,
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