Of the Sublime: Presence in Question (Suny Series, Intersections)
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Today, the sublime has again become the focus of sustained reconsideration, but now for its epistemological and ontological or presentational aspects. As an unmasterable excess of beauty, the sublime marks the limits of representational thinking. These essays will be indispensable reading for anyone whose work is concerned with the sublime or, more generally, with the limits of representation, including philosophers, literary scholars and art historians."
in its suspension-which estab lishes and extends a rhythm-, the syncopation offers its syntax, its sublime grammar, on the edge of the language (or the drawing, or the song). Conse quently, this trace is still or again art, this inscription still or again style, poetry: for the gesture ofliberty is each time a singular manner of abandoning oneself (there is no such thing as general liberty, no such thing as general sub limity). This is not style "in the accoustico-decorative sense of the term"
poets of the past (like the Pythian on her tripod). The genius of these poets exhales as from the fault in Delphi, the effluvia that penetrate the souls of their successors (XIII, 2-4). The transmission and the repetition of genius takes place by means of a sort of (mysterious) mimetic contagion that is not, however, an imitation. As Kant attempts to explain it, one must not use great works of art as models of an "imitation" (Nachmachung) but as pieces or elements of a "succession" or "heritage"
to the other side, despite all Kant's multiple warnings, in order to reimplant the old head of the bridge, in order to reaffirm the archaic argument-archaic for Western thought at least-that one can infer the good from the beautiful, that if one feels well and makes the other feel well, one realizes the good and makes the other realize the good. Or as Lacoue-Labarthe2 would say, if one fic tions or figures the given tastefully, in accordance with beauty, one moralizes individual ethos or
mourn ing thus has to affect the "object" par excellence which poses an obstacle to respect and the good motive: the ego ( CPrR, 89-90; 79) which, however, according to Freud remains after the loss of attractive objects and, indeed, li:ves off this loss. This dark aspect of respect is the "humiliation" of the "pre sumption" and "arrogance" of the empirical ego, of its "overestimation" of The Interest of the Sublime 1 23 itself (CPrR, 86-87; 76). Narcissism must be thrown down Uete a bas],
as the trace of a flexion that arrests it, curves it back, and returns it against itself. Doubtless this gesture does not characterize only the trajectory The Gift ofthe World 139 of the imagination in the sublime event: one might even say that it defines the transcendental imagination in its essential structure. In fact, Heidegger describes the transcendental synthesis of the imagina tion-the very movement of transcendence-as an ec-static self-affection, a looking-away which looks back