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Logic, emotion, and the sublime
Douglas College student research essay submitted as partial requirement for English 2117 course. Faculty sponsor to submit this essay to DOOR: Dr. Diane Stiles.
A recurring theme during the romantic period, spanning from 1785-1832, is the sublime. There is no readily available description of the sublime that would do it justice, as it is an almost entirely abstract concept that is conceptualized differently by each individual. It is a mysterious force that has gripped the minds of many, not uniquely in the romantic period. “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley and “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats both focus on the song of the skylark and nightingale to makes connections about the sublime, and “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins uses the flight of the titular bird; therefore all three use bird imagery to discuss the sublime. However, these three poems suggest that experiences of the sublime somewhat depend on how it is approached. Interestingly, Hopkins was writing about a romantic period theme in the victorian era, when it was not being written about, in a manner that reaches back to the middle ages and forward to the 20th century. Hopkins' transcendence of time somewhat reflects the prolonged obsession with the mystery of the sublime. The sublime is not uniquely a romantic period theme, and is taken up again in the 20th century, however readers and writers alike seem no closer to understanding it than they were before. The sublime recedes as it is approached. From “To a Skylark” readers learn it cannot be conceptualized logically or with intent to control. “Ode to a Nightingale” demonstrates that it can be experienced through a emotion and senses, and readers can seemingly conclude that all of the unconventional uses of opposing sense experiences can eventually lead to the sublime. Then finally, those conclusions are challenged by “The Windhover” who employs a blending of logic and emotion while ultimately experiencing the sublime with almost no mention of senses. Experiencing the sublime is as mysterious as the sublime itself, by beginning with opposites and then arriving at paradoxes it is an ephemeral topic with no clear conclusion, and those writing about it employ various strategies to attempt do so.
English poetry--19th centurySublime, The, in literatureMetaphor in literatureLogic in literatureEmotions in literatureEnglish poetry--18th century
Not peer reviewed