Emily Brady (Edinburgh): "Sublimity and Art"10th June 2015 - 4:00 pm, Edinburgh
The arts have an ambivalent status in the history of the sublime. Some philosophers have taken poetry, painting, and music to be sublime, while others have clearly designated the arts as capable only of representing, conveying, or expressing it, that is, somehow derivative of sublimity in nature, whether that be through visual depictions of sublime phenomena, through the language of poetry and literature, or through music. Here, I take as a starting point the eighteenth-century view that the arts, on the whole, are not sublime as such and consider it with reference to recent debates in aesthetics. I argue that (1) paradigm cases of the sublime involve qualities related to overwhelming vastness or power coupled with a strong emotional reaction of excitement and delight tinged with anxiety, and (2) because most works of art lack the combination of these qualities and accompanying responses, they cannot be sublime in the paradigmatic sense. Along the way, I discuss differences between sublimity and profundity in art, as well as considering the inclusion of works of architecture and some forms of land art in the category of the sublime.
About the speaker
Emily Brady is Professor of Environment and Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. She is a Trustee of the American Society of Aesthetics, and has previously held the positions of President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics; Secretary, Treasurer, and Executive Committee Member of the British Society of Aesthetics; and an Associate Editor and Co-Editor of the journals “Environmental Values and Society” and “Space”. Her research interests span aesthetics and the philosophy of art, environmental ethics, eighteenth-century philosophy, Kant, and animal studies, and has published widely on these topics. She has co-edited a number of volumes on environmental ethics and aesthetics, and is the author of two monographs, “Aesthetics of the Natural Environment” (2003), “The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature” (2013). She is currently working on her third monograph, “Aesthetics of Nature in the Eighteenth Century: A Philosophical History”, as part of an Edinburgh Sabbatical Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.