The Philosophical Enquiry, theories of the sublime and the sister arts tradition
in The challenge of the sublime
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This first chapter emphasises what Burke’s Enquiry owes to the existing discourse on the sublime (to Longinus and Addison in particular), in order to highlight its innovations, more specifically its aesthetically stimulating irrationalism and sensualism. It then focuses on Burke’s unique distinction between visual and verbal representation, his rejection of their common mimetic basis, and his argument that only the non-mimetic, suggestive medium of the verbal arts, language, may impart the sublime. At a time when parallels between the arts prevailed, this was an isolated point of view, which introduced a new paragone situation, and a challenge to visual artists. The end of the chapter examines a number of competing theories of the sublime that were compatible with painting, which makes it possible to enhance the specificity of theEnquiry and the paradox of its appeal to visual artists.

The challenge of the sublime

From Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art

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