Posted: September 3rd, 2013
Longinus: from on the sublime
Sublime theory is a style of writing or speaking that is used to expresses the content in a great way. Rhetoric is an art of persuading the minds of the listeners. Rhetoric is related to science since it through it that scientists try to demonstrate through different theory the existence of nature. In addition, it is through rhetoric relation that divine objects are explained. This greatness described by sublime is indescribable, limitless and immeasurable. According to Longinus, the term sublime, has never been clearly defined since it consists of many aspects such excellence, distinction, amazement and wonder, combined into one. I agree with Longinus for there are divine things in the nature whose, magnificent cannot be explainable. Therefore sublime which is the style used to express this magnificent is not definable. Longinus states that people pose some serious challenges to the theory of sublime. Some argue that sublimity is a natural art that is inborn hence; it cannot be taught nor acquired. However, Longinus disagrees with them and calls this perception a fault that people have towards sublimity. He adds that the other fault that people commit when it comes to sublimity is turgidity, which is a tendency to overdo sublime. This fault occurs when a writer goes overboard when describing the greatness of the content in the poem or speech. Another fault that Longinus describes is pseudo-bacchanalian that touches on application of unnecessary emotions in poetry or speech. He explains that emotions should go hand in hand with the content written rather than the writer imposing their own emotions where one is not needed. In my own opinion, I would say that the writers impose their own emotion that they feel regardless of the readers’ emotion since the writer is passionate about the subject. This faults that writers commit are what makes their work not to be considered sublime.
Sublime in rhetoric theory is a product of the poet. According to Plato’s theory of knowledge, which defines knowledge as a belief of something that a person has when that belief is justified through, prove. Plato explains that having a belief alone is not the same as knowledge rather it is having a belief that is proven beyond doubt through sufficient evidence (Benson, 2000). This theory therefore exempts this theory of sublime since the theory does not provide proof beyond doubt on matters it expresses. Rhetoric theory therefore is not easily accepted in science and religion matters since in these two areas a measurable proof is needed to convince people of their existence. Therefore, in line with this theory Longinus reconciles that sublime writing is not something that is acquired easily but through experience. Longinus explains ways on how a writer can acquire knowledge on sublime writing through several ways that he proves by presenting examples of other writers. The first way he describes of attaining sublimity is through the greatness of thought. This greatness is achieved through the writer conceiving powerful ideas that the writer will successfully put in writing. The writer must put the idea into words, and it should reflect the same effect as the thought. The other way of attaining sublime in writing is the appropriate use of emotions that are both inspiring and strong in the poem or speech. The emotions should be genuine and in line with the content. I disagree with Longinus on choosing emotions; I believe that the writer should express the greatness of the subject according to how the writer feels since the idea is generated by the writer and the purpose is to persuade the readers.
The other way is selecting and organizing the thoughts into writing using different writing features and combining them in a proper manner to attract and captivate the listeners. This is achieved through amplification, that is, putting more emphasis on all the details that are in that poet by strengthening the argument or situation behind it to give it more meaning. The other technique is visualizing the images of the ideas to create clarity to the audience or readers. This technique when blended well with the facts creates easy persuasion to the readers or listeners and makes them listen more closely. The other technique is figures that are used to create a deeper design or to deduce the situation. It works well in diverting the current situation at hand by providing relief to the listeners. Figures should be chosen and used depending on the occasion, place, purpose and the manner to be represented. Figures help in creating suspense to the listeners by masking the real design of the writing until later. Therefore, the critics who think that sublime is an art one is born with are incorrect. Though Longinus explains that it is not easy he clarifies that it is possible for a writer to attain sublime in rhetoric theory through learning, practicing and experience.
Benson, Hugh H. Socratic Wisdom: The Model of Knowledge in Plato’s Early Dialogues. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print
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