Ideas for topics for sublime course

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					The eighteenth-century poetic sublime: poetry, politics and aesthetics 1640-1790

This course will explore the evolution of theories and practice of the poetic sublime in
this period. We most commonly associate the eighteenth century sublime with Edmund
Burke’s 1759 Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the
Beautiful. This series of classes will investigate the prehistory of this influential cultural
aesthetic, and the various ways in which it shaped the poetry and prose of the period.
Beginning with John Hall’s translation of Longinus, and ending with Burke, Godwin and
Wollstonecraft’s debates over the revolutionary sublime, it will explore the politics and
the aesthetics of the sublime, and its antitype, poetic bathos, in a range of poetic and
critical texts. Students will be encouraged to make links with the history of sublime
theory in the visual arts. In exploring the evolving discourse of the sublime, the course
will offer a new perspective on the traditional divisions made in this period, (early
modern, eighteenth century, Romantic) and juxtapose both familiar and neglected critical
works and poems. Classes will cover the sublime and republicanism, (John Hall,
Marvell, Milton, Lucian); theorising the sublime (Addison, Dennis, Akenside, Burke);
sublimity and bathos (Peri Bathous, The Dunciad, Swift, ‘Poetry; A Rhapsody’); the
Christian sublime (Thomson, Seasons, Blackmore, Creation); the gothic and ancient
sublime (Walpole, Castle of Otranto, James Macpherson, Fragments of Ancient Poetry,
Robert Lowth, Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews); and sublime and revolution (Burke,
Wollstonecraft, Helen Maria Williams).

Short bibliography

De Bolla, Peter, and Ashfield, Andrew, The Sublime: A Reader in Eighteenth-Century
Aesthetic Theory (1996)
De Bolla, Peter, The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics, and the
Subject (1989)
Gibbons, Luke, Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial
Sublime (2003)
Hipple, Walter, The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Picturesque in Eighteenth century
British Aesthetic Theory (1957)
Irlam, Shaun, Elations: the Poetics of Enthusiasm in Eighteenth Century Britain (1999)
Monk, Samuel Holt, The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in Eighteenth-Century
England (1935, rev. 1960)
Morris, David B, The Religious Sublime: Christian Poetry and Critical Tradition in
Eighteenth-Century England (1974)
Noggle, James, The Skeptical Sublime: Aesthetic Ideology in Pope and the Tory Satirists
Vijay, Mishra, The Gothic Sublime (1994)
The eighteenth-century poetic sublime: poetry, politics and aesthetics 1640-1790

Week 1:
The republican sublime
John H[all], Peri Hypsous, or Dionysius Longinus of the Height of Eloquence (1652)
Andrew Marvell, An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland (1650)
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

Week 2
Theorising the sublime
Joseph Addison, selected essays from the Spectator (1712-14)
John Dennis, Grounds of Criticism in Poetry (1704)
Edmund Burke, Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and
the Beautiful. (1759)

Week 3
Sublimity and bathos
Alexander Pope, Peri Bathous (1727), The Dunciad (1728-43)
Jonathan Swift, ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody’ (1733)

Week 4
The Christian Sublime
Richard Blackmore, Creation (1712)
James Thomson, Seasons (1730)

Week 5
The Gothic and ancient sublime
Horace Walpole, Castle of Otranto (1764)
James Macpherson, Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760)
Robert Lowth, Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews (1753)

Week 6
Sublime revolution
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the rights of Man (1790)
Helen Maria Williams, Letters written in France (1790)

Dr Abigail Williams
Dr Christine Gerrard

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