Thursday, December 16, 2010

What, according to Longinus, are the vices of the Sublime?

Longinus distinguishes the true Sublime from the False Sublime, and says that the vices of the Sublime emerge out of two things—"lack of passion and sincerity, and inadequacy of communication caused by faulty technique." He has repeatedly warned the readers "against bombast, puerility on affectation, and conceits of frigidity."

Turgidity of Language
Longinus takes a passage from Aeschylus and points out that the False Sublime is the result of turgidity of language :
"Quell they the oven's far-flung spleen dour-glow!
Ha, let me but one hearth-abider mark—
One flame-wreath torrent-like I'll whirl on high;
I'll burn the roof, to cinders shrival it;
Nay, now my chant is not of noble strain."
The second vice of the Sublime is puerility, 'a pedantic conceit which overdoes itself and becomes frigid at the last.' This is the besetting sin of the metaphysicals—Donne, Cowley and Crashaw. The following extract is an example of the 'Pedantic' conceit:
"Her soul was prickled
Like the bald head
Of a jaundiced Jewish banker.
Her hair and featurous face
Withered alike
An alibo boa-constrictor
She thought that resembled the Mona Lisa."
—A. C. Ficke
This demonstrates the futility of thought. It comes when a writer tries to show off falsely.
Parenthysus (Parenthesis)
The third vice of the false Sublime is known as 'Parenthysus'. It is 'passion out of place and unmeaning, there is no case for passion or unrestrained where restrain is needed.' Mere passion or sincerity of the poet for producing Sublime is not enough : for greatness place, manner, occasion and purpose are all essential.
Defects of Style
The fourth vice of the Sublime arises out of the defects of style. To quote Longinus : "All these ugly and parasitical growths arise in literature from a single cause, that pursuit of novelty in expression of ideas which may be regarded as the fashionable craze of the day. Our defects usually spring for the most part, from the same sources as our good points. Hence while beauties of expression and touch of sublimity and charming elegancies withal, are favourable to effective composition, yet these very things are the elements and foundation, not only of success but also of the contrary." For example, to call a woman, 'a thorn of eye' or to call the eyeball 'the princess of the eye' for the sake of novelty will create not sublimity but frigidity.
Q. 70. Examine Longinus's discussion of the use and misuse of metaphor and metaphorical description.
Ans. Figurative language possesses great natural power, and so the use of metaphors contributes to the Sublime. Metaphors should, however, be used in impassioned and descriptive passages. The proper time for using metaphors is when the passion rolls like a torrent and sweeps a multitude of them down their restless flood.
As to number of metaphors, Caecilius appears to agree with those who lay down a rule allowing two, or at the most three, Aristotle and Theophrastus say that bold metaphors are softened by such devices as the insertion of'as thought' and'as it were' and 'if I may speak thus.'
Metaphors are important as they produce sublimity. For example, mark the use of metaphors in the following and mark how they have enhanced sublimity.
(1)   Blood is the food of the fleshy parts.
(2)   The body is a narrow canal
(3)   The cables of the souls are loose as though of a ship.
(4)   Water is a temparate god.
Metaphors also help the writer or orator in attaining precision in every detail. Metaphors also help in attaining wit. Longinus's primary concern is oratory in which a happy or unhappy use of figures of speech, of the metaphor, makes all the difference. A metaphor is not an unnatural imposition on speech, thrust in just for ornament's sake. By introducing an element of strangeness into what one speaks or hears every day, that satisfy a basic demand of human nature—that for a pleasant surprise.
It is also true that there is an element of artifice in them that 'tends to raise suspicion in the mind of the reader………that the speaker is treating him like a silly boy and trying to outwit him by cunning figures.' This handicap, however, disappears in a style that is already elevated in other ways, for while they heighten the effect of elevation. The elevation in its turn helps to conceal their artifice, as the light of the sun eclipses lights. 'A figure, therefore, is effective only when it appears in disguise,' that is to say; when it is shaded by the brilliance of style. In a plain style it makes all the show, throwing the rest of the utterance into the shade.
The elaborate discussion on metaphors takes place in Chapter XXXII when Longinus turns his attention to diction. According to Longinus, diction comprises of the proper choice of words and use of metaphors and ornamental language. Among the ornaments of speech Longinus considers metaphor and hyperbole.
While much of what he says on metaphor has been said by others before him—Aristotle, Theophrastus, Quintilian—in one particular comment on metaphor he strikes a new note. Aristotle had limited the number of metaphors to not more than two at a time and the limitation had since become an important rule of the rhetoric. Longinus finds no justification for it whatever. Metaphors being the language of passion, passion alone, and no arbitrator, can determine time to count the metaphors when he is impassioned or number of metaphors he is using, nor has a reader when he is carried away by an impassioned utterance. Here is the first romantic protest against the supposedly inviolable sanctity of rules. It goes without saying that he is at one with his Greek and Roman predecessors in considering the metaphor a valuable aid to sublimity in style. On hyperbole he has just this observation to make that it should be the natural outcome of emotion and that, like all great art, it should 'appear in disguise.' Used in this way, it also lends distinction to style.
Uses of Metaphor and Metaphorical Description
1.          Figurative language powerful and forceful—source of sublime.
2.          Metaphors should be used in impassioned and descriptive passages. When passion is heavy and fast-flowing, metaphors should be used appropriately.
3.          Besides producing sublimity metaphors help in the attainment of precision.
4.          Metaphors satisfy the need of pleasant surprise.
5.          Metaphors should not be an ornament but an essential part of a work of literature.
6.          The use of metaphors should be natural, nor mechanical nor artificial.
7.          Excessive use of metaphors not commendable.
8.          Much of Longinus's ideas on metaphor are borrowed from Aristotle, Theophrastus and Quintilian. But Longinus unlike others does not limit the use of metaphors to a specific number limits.

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Anonymous said...

very helpful n a very good answer...thanx a lot

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