12.04.2009

The humble sublime

Last month the online zine Digital Emunction posted a mini-essay I wrote, titled "Neglected Phd. monographs & the American Sublime". You can find it here. Speaking of neglect, I've been neglecting to contribute to the Plumbline. But the nice thing about websites is the archive : it's not hard to find what we've all contributed here. I hope the Plumbline will keep growing.

Anyway, the "humble sublime" might be something of a plumbline concept. The idea goes back to those great 20th-cent. critics MH Abrams & Erich Auerbach; my mini-essay begins to examine how this dimension of style has manifested in some American poets. Basically, the "humble sublime" has to do with writing that accentuates a conjunction of opposites : the "high", awesome, ineffable divine or transcendent, with the most ordinary, humble, "low" realities of human experience. (In Russian, I believe they call it something like bytye & byt - beauty & the daily grind.) Bringing the two together in some kind of Midway fairground.

2 comments:

J.H. Stotts said...

the difference is subtler and more interesting: bytie and byt both mean 'being' or 'life,' but the former is genesiac, and the latter quotidian. the central meaning is its own goldenmean.
in terms of spectacle the poet is a sort of conjunction/emunction of skeptic and holy fool, pagan and existenzaliste.

Henry Gould said...

Bolshoi spasiba, brat.

Learned recently (from curious & deep tome called "Hamlet's Mill", by G. Santillana & M. von Dechend) that Egyptian hieroglyphic writing often conflated the symbol for "heart" with that for "plumbline". One of the myths is that when a person dies, Osiris weighs the heart in the scales with the "feather" (symbol) of truth... there we have a kind of double measurement : the plumb-weight or plummet (of the heart), set in the scales of justice...

Anyway... nice to think of this valuation of heart, balance, measurement, & plumbline...

"In measurement began our might" (WB Yeats)

- Happy Holidays, everyone...