Hélène Ibata
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Presenting the unpresentable
The modernity of Burke’s Enquiry
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Chapter 2 furthers the argument that Burke’s Enquirypresented a challenge to visual artists by focusing on its contribution to theories of artistic representation. It places Burke’s views on painting’s representational inadequacy within a broader reflection about the artistic medium, mimesis, and the presentation of the unpresentable.

After arguing that the Enquiry outlines a shift from a mimetic conception of art to one which emphasises the artistic medium and, ultimately, the process of production of the artwork, the chapter examines the relevance of the Enquiry to modern aesthetics, by viewing it from the perspective of recent theories of the sublime (Lyotard’s in particular). This approach makes it possible to see in Burke’s conception intimations of what could be called an aesthetics of endeavour, in which the sublime becomes an immanent event of artistic production.

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The challenge of the sublime

From Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art


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