• Rhetorical Theory

    240G | CCN: 78106

    The Sublime Before and After Longinus

    Instructor: James Porter

    Date / Time: W 2-5P, 7415 DWINELLE

    4 Units

    Image of 'Death of Empedocles' by Salvator Rosa

    The sublime as it is understood today is Longino-centric: this understanding takes its cue from the one surviving text in antiquity that is devoted to the sublime, the treatise On the Sublime ascribed to "Longinus". But such an approach presumes that Longinus more or less coined the canonical concept of the sublime (it is one he in fact inherited), and it works from a narrow understanding of that concept. A correction is badly needed.

    The seminar will have two aims: to re-examine On the Sublime from the ground up; and to look at predecessors and later writers in the traditions of literature, philosophy, rhetoric, and aesthetics in Greece and Rome and in later periods, from Late Antiquity to the present. The general project will be to determine how the current consensus approach to the sublime came into existence at all, and then to explore some of the countless expansions of the concept that these alternative approaches can bring out. The alternatives highlight, among other things, the vulnerabilities of our critical, descriptive, and theoretical languages to prejudice and to radical imprecision.

    Readings will range widely from ancient authors to early moderns to contemporary theorists, covering a number of different fields and disciplines. About half the course will be on antiquity, the rest on later developments.

    Materials covered will include, depending on students’ interests, selections from Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Longinus, Plotinus, Augustine, Sydenham, H. More, Boileau, Burke, Kant, Monk, Lacan, Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, Lyotard, Rancière, Žižek and/or Lacan, selected secondary readings, and any other texts or images that students would like to see included. Individualized readings of original texts for anyone who wants this will be arranged once the seminar convenes.

    Seminars will involve discussion of assigned readings, weekly, student-led presentations (one or two per session), presentation of final research paper outlines during the last session, and a final research paper (20 pp.).

    No prerequisites. All readings will be made available in translation, although use of original texts will be encouraged where feasible. Apart from two texts to be bought in advance (see below), most readings will be supplied in PDF format or via online resources.

    Students from all disciplines welcome. The intent is that students from various fields (rhetoric, classics, comparative literature, French, English, German, philosophy, critical theory, history of art, and biblical and religious studies) will find a way to engage their own interests through the filter of this immensely long and surprisingly still unexplored assemblage of traditions of thinking and writing at the limits of thought and representation.

    Texts to be made available at the UC Berkeley Bookstore:

    Classical Literary Criticism, eds. Russell and Winterbottom (OUP 1989)

    Plato, Phaedrus (trans. Nehamas and Woodruff, Hackett).