On the Sublime

by Longinus
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Comment on the aesthetic importance of "sublimity" as viewed by Longinus in On the Sublime.

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The aesthetic importance of sublimity is discussed by Longinus in Section IX of his treatise. In this section Longinus discusses the first essential source of elevated language, which, in his words, can be defined as "elevation of mind." This quality is only possible through the following injunction:

We must, therefore... nurture our souls... to thoughts sublime, and make them always pregnant, so to say, with noble inspiration.

"Noble inspiration" is vital to achieve because the aesthetic principles of sublimity can only be secured when it is "free from low and ignoble thoughts." There is a beauty in sublimity that makes it "admirable and worthy of immortality." Sublimity is something that is very closely linked to aesthetic principles of beauty and the ability to help humans transcend their limitations through a recognition of what is elevated and divine; it points the reader in other words to true examples of beauty as expressed in literature and the reader is transported as a result of surveying this beauty. Note the way in which Longinus describes sublimity as a state that is akin to producing a sensation similar to flight in its reader. This is only possible through the capture of the essence of beauty in its description.

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