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Longinus as a Critic


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A Greek critic Longinus wrote the treatise On the Sublime. He was the greatest creative writer of the 3rd century AD.

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Longinus as a Critic

  1. 1.  A Greek critic Longinus wrote the treatise On the Sublime. He was the greatest creative writer of the 3rd century AD.  Longinus was attracted to the logical or ethical side of Plato’s work.  He used for his own purpose the platonic account of the enchantments with which poetry can ravish and lift us out of ourselves.  He superimposed the imagination and insight of Plato.
  2. 2.  According to Longinus, a work of genius does not aim at persuasion, but ecstasy – on lifting the reader out of himself.  The sublime effect of literature is attained not by arguments but by revelation, or illumination.  Its function is sacramental. The truly sublime has uplifting effect.  In other words, we are lifted out of ourselves and carried to a new realm of experience and perception, and filled with ecstasy as if we ourselves had created what we see and hear.
  3. 3. For his theory of sublimity, Longinus classifies its characteristics. The five sources of sublimity are: 1. Capacity for great thought and a firm grasp of ideas, 2. Inspired emotion and strong passion, 3. Figures of speech and a proper construction of figures, 4. Noble diction, 5. The effect of dignity and elevation - the power to integrate and fuse the elements so as to give them a tone of sublimity.
  4. 4. Longinus also talked about the three impediments to sublimity: 1) affectation, 2) cold pedantry, and 3) sentimentality
  5. 5.  The treatise of Longinus influenced the post-renaissance critics.  For Addison, Milton’s Paradise Lost is a great poem on account of sublimity.  The Romantic concept of inspiration of the artist is an echo of sublimity.  Northrop Frye builds up a typology framed on the basis of Longinus’ ecstasies.  The transport of Longinus can be seen in relation to the concept of ‘synaesthesia’, or an equilibrium or organization of impulses suggested by I.A. Richards.
  6. 6.  In general we may consider that passage which always pleases, and pleases all readers, contains the beauty and truth of the sublime.  Thought and passion (which are the requirements for sublimity) – are demanded by Longinus in the same spirit in which Matthew Arnold demanded “truth and seriousness”.  According to him, the sublime consists of certain loftiness of language and it is by this only that the greatest poets and prose-writers have won pre-eminence and lasting fame.