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Showing posts from February, 2015

Death/Women/Power: The Sublime and Beautiful in Burke

A little late, but had some fantastic seminars on Burke last week. As my first monograph was on the sublime, there's always something of a hesitation for me in approaching a topic I feel I've explored inside and out (and through and over and under....), but I was really pleased with some fizzing and perceptive ideas, which I've 'annotated' below - hopefully without misrepresenting the students' original points too badly...

1. If the sublime is an experience founded on the vertigo of self-preservation, then in a sense the whole economy of the sublime is founded on death. As an aesthetic of exhilerating and exhilerated 'life', it is the very proximity to death that makes the experiences of sublimity meaningful.

Yet if the 'life' of the Burkean subject has been intensified (both physiologically and existentially) by its juxtaposition with death, death itself - as a student pointed out - is 'outside' the sublime. Come too close to death, and…

Gray's Elegy: From Curfew to Philosophical Grief

It's been two years since I last blogged on Gray, and I suppose it's testament to the subtle richness of the poem that having taught it as a 'go-to' mid-18th century poem at Sussex, Brighton and Exeter, I still find students create interesting modulations of it. Nearly all of this comes from our discussion of landscape in the opening seven stanzas.

1. There's a fantastic, albeit irrelevant, Anglo-Norman etymology for curfew, which is all to do with the covering of fires, or cuevre-fu.

What some students interestingly did with the curfew bell was to mark the conjunction of 'human' and 'natural' temporalities here. The tolling of the bell, I suppose, is a single, dividing stroke between day and night, a broadly cultural mark; whereas natural timescales are continuous - sort of curvilinear - as darkness falls, the seasons bleed into one another, and nature slowly wheels through its cycles.

For the ploughman, perhaps, these temporalities are synchronous…