The University of Toronto at Scarborough

ENGB02Y: English Literature: Historical Survey (Spring Term)

Instructor: Melba Cuddy-Keane

The Sublime

"Fostered alike by beauty and by fear" (Wordsworth, ThePrelude, 1: 302)

"with cheer sublime" (Wordsworth, "Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways," l. 14)

The sublime is perhaps best understood by focusing on the effect it produces and the difference of this experience from an experience of the beautiful.

The experience of the sublime is an experience of fear and awe, evoked through the presence of supernatural or superhuman forces. Under the influence of these overpowering emotions, the rational, logical faculties of the mind are suspended and what is heightened instead is a spiritual awareness of a realm more vast and grand than anything in ordinary material existence and far beyond the range of normal human understanding.

The experience of the beautiful on the other hand is associated with feelings of love, perceptions of order, proportion, and correspondence, and the sense of being a related and integrated part of a harmonious world.

The sublime is frequently conveyed through the imagery of violent storms, rugged and mountainous landscapes, ruined and haunted castles; the modern sublime may be more associated with the haunted mind.

These notes are intended for the use of students in a lecture course; for any other use, please acknowledge this site.


ENGB02 Home

Bladen Library WWW

Scarborough College

English Home Page

To comment on this web site, please write to: Melba Cuddy-Keane