What is the sublime?

We have gathered up a few examples of how the sublime has been understood across time and discipline. This blog post is a work in progress. jen [at] stagewest.org (subject: The%20Sublime) (Let us know what the sublime is to you.)

1. "At once tiny and huge: what is this feeling we call sublime?"

"Have you ever felt awe and exhilaration while contemplating a vista of jagged, snow-capped mountains? Or been fascinated but also a bit unsettled while beholding a thunderous waterfall such as Niagara? Or felt existentially insignificant but strangely exalted while gazing up at the clear, starry night sky? If so, then you’ve had an experience of what philosophers from the mid-18th century to the present call the sublime."  - Sandra Shapshay, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University, Bloomington

Read this fascinating contemporary essay about the paradoxical experience of the sublime.

2. The sublime in webcomic form

This entry into the sublime is from philosophy-themed webcomic creator Corey Mohler. Corey's website existentialcomics.com is a wonderful dive into appreciating philosophy and the sublime. Also jokes.

3. The sublime in video form

Check out this video exploration of the sublime, produced by http://theschooloflife.com. The video is a delightful, bite-sized retelling of an episode of BBC broadcaster Melvyn Bragg's podcast series "A History of Ideas".  The piece features the ideas of 18th-century Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, drawing from his 1757 treatise "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful." 

4. The sublime in art

In 2008, The Tate London produced an exhibition exploring The Art of the Sublime, from the Baroque era to the Contemporary. This large collection of academic articles and artistic works provides a rich jumping-off point into the vast body of scholarship and artwork inspired by the concept and emotion of the sublime. We found the wide range of imagery considered sublime through the ages fascinating. What pieces of art do you think of when you think of the sublime?

Pictured here:

Albert Bierstadt, Among the Sierra Nevada, California. oil on canvas (1868)
Mark Rothko, Untitled. Acrylic on paper (1969)
Andreas Gursky, Shanghai 2000. C-print (2000)

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Painting by Albert Bierstadt, 1868

Untitled. Mark Rothko. Acrylic on paper, 1969  Shanghai 2000. Andreas Gursky. C-print


5. The sublime in NY Times Magazine/ audio form

We propose, for your consideration, the story of the Cloud Appreciation Society

This blog post is a work in progress. jen [at] stagewest.org (subject: The%20Sublime) (Let us know what the sublime is to you.)