Lucan and the Sublime: Power, Representation and Aesthetic Experience (Cambridge Classical Studies)

Lucan and the Sublime: Power, Representation and Aesthetic Experience (Cambridge Classical Studies)

Henry J. M. Day

Language: English

Pages: 274

ISBN: B00Y2S803A

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Lucan and the Sublime: Power, Representation and Aesthetic Experience (Cambridge Classical Studies)

Henry J. M. Day

Language: English

Pages: 274

ISBN: B00Y2S803A

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This is the first comprehensive study of the sublime in Lucan. Drawing upon renewed literary-critical interest in the tradition of philosophical aesthetics, Henry Day argues that the category of the sublime offers a means of moving beyond readings of Lucan's Bellum civile in terms of the poem's political commitment or, alternatively, nihilism. Demonstrating in dialogue with theorists from Burke and Kant to Freud, Lyotard and Ankersmit the continuing vitality of Longinus' foundational treatise On the Sublime, Day charts Lucan's complex and instructive exploration of the relationship between sublimity and ethical discourses of freedom and oppression. Through the Bellum civile's cataclysmic vision of civil war and metapoetic accounts of its own genesis, through its heated linguistic texture and proclaimed effects upon future readers, and, most powerfully of all, through its representation of its twin protagonists Caesar and Pompey, Lucan's great epic emerges as a central text in the history of the sublime.

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aesthetic category, always displays an ideological dimension, the nature of this dimension requires examination. Martindale assumes ‘progressive’ potential on the part of the sublime, while claiming that the disinterestedness of the beautiful is in fact more radical. Ankersmit, on the other hand, proposes a model of sublimity strongly conservative in its historical impulses: the ‘experience of the past’ that he describes is marked by the desire to return to the way things were. By contrast, I

powerful rhythmic unity to the lines and to Ajax’s earthly and supernatural similes.98 At this point, however, the ‘power-transference’ starts to shift direction, as Homer is himself inspired by the majesty of the raving Ajax and, in turn, ‘blows along’ his representation of Ajax’s agon through the ‘forcefulness’ of his language (oÎriov sunempne± to±v ˆgäsin, De sub. 9.11). In Longinus’ estimation, Homer’s description of Ajax becomes, additionally, a self-description: it is Homer who truly

supreme eloquence, in Ulysses, he gives him a mighty voice, and a force of speech ‘like a blizzard’ in its volume and violence. So ‘no mortal will contend’ with him, and ‘men will look upon him as a god’. This is the force and speed that Eupolis admires in Pericles and Aristophanes likens to the thunderbolt. This is in truth the power of speech.10 Quint. Inst. 12.10.64–5 To the thunderbolt as an image for mighty speech is here added the winter storm, another potentially sublime natural

Livy has it, 1.16.1) but that the truth of the story has itself become obscured (Dion. Hal. 2.56; Plut. Rom. 27). Predictably perhaps, the event was accompanied by thunder and lightning (cum magno fragore tonitribusque, Livy 1.16.1; Getty (1940) ad Luc. 1.197 compares Hor. Carm. 3.3.15–16, Ov. Fast. 2.495–6, Met. 14.806–28). 123 the caesarian sublime Lucr. 1.72–4, 3.16–17). Caesar now answers this question with action: his ingentis . . . motus, ignited once more, blast through the delay

finite (Lucr. 2.547–59, compared above to Lucan’s description of the Romans’ fleeing Caesar’s advance, 1.498–504). In Lucretius’ analogy the reader is placed in the role of sublime spectator, looking on from afar. But who occupies this position in the Virgilian scene? Not, as we have seen, Aeneas nor by implication his Trojans, still terror-stricken amid the storm’s rage. Neptune, we are told, ‘gazing out over the deep, raised his serene face over the water’s surface’ ‘alto / prospiciens summa

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