On the Sublime

by Longinus

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What role does Passion play in creating the sublime in On the Sublime?

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Longinus turns his attention to passion in Section XIII of this treatise. He takes the view that passion is definitely not synonymous with sublime literature. He argues that some passions can be found which have nothing to do with sublimity and are "of a low order," which he characterises as being pity, grief and fear. Equally, Longinus argues that it is perfectly possible to find examples of the sublime which have nothing to do with passion, and gives an example from The Odyssey. However, Longinus definitely disagrees with the idea that passion does not have anything to do with sublimity, as the final sentence of this section makes evident:

I would affirm with confidence that there is no tone so lofty as that of genuine passion, in its right place, when it bursts out in a wild gust of mad enthusiasm and as it were fills the speaker's words with frenzy.

Passion therefore cannot be completely separated from the sublime, as it often plays an important and valuable part in creating sublimity, but it is definitely not synonymous with sublimity and the two terms must not be used interchangably, Longinus argues.

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