Transgressing the boundaries of reason
Burke’s poetic (Miltonic) reading of the sublime
in Writing and constructing the self in Great Britain in the long eighteenth century
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In the eighteenth century, the aesthetic quality of the sublime was discussed and thematised by various authors who focused on the relation between the human and the divine, emphasising the creative power of imagination in the aisthesis of the sublime experience. It seems that the interpretation of the sublime displays the limits of the human mind, while also speaking of the possibility of transgressing those limits either in the imaginative functioning or the bodily experience. This chapter, after a thorough introduction, focuses on Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Although the Lockean ‘clear and distinct’ ideas greatly influenced Burke in his philosophical argumentation, John Milton’s poetic impact is emphatically displayed in the ‘dark and obscure’ rhetoric of the work. Discussing the Miltonic obscurity, Burke is able to provide a complex sense not only to the concept but also to the self since he lays special emphasis on the importance of writing the self and reading – the writing and the reading self.


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