The Sublime (Blooms Literary Themes)

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The fungi, decayed trees, and general decay of the house are connected with his illness and the curse of the house.

The Sublime (Bloom's Literary Themes) - AbeBooks - Harold Bloom:

This world is not the realm of nature so lauded by English Romantic poets and Goethe. As he reads, things happen both outside and inside the house. Metaphorically, as the narrator looks within, changes begin to occur. Ghosts buried deep within rise, as does the sleeping Madeline.

Madeline comes forward and unites with Roderick. As the narrator runs out of the house he is bathed in the radiance of a blood-red moon. Here Poe seems to have a modern understanding of sublimity, an awareness of the investment of moral and spiritual value other Romantic poets have woven into their notions of the sublime. It appears at times intimately tied up with our values only because we make use of these values as material from which to produce that peculiar kind of intensely pleasurable, circumscribed egotism we call sublimity. Like the aesthetic in general, the sublime is a matter of delusion, but it is in no sense pathological, any more than love or any of the other feelings that make life worth living are pathological.

The sublime is a matter of the non-rational, not the irrational. However, to discuss it as if it were an intuition of profound truth, a matter of the cognitive or ethical, is to court irrationality. You may, indeed must, feel the aesthetic as an intuition—but you cannot assert that it is an intuition and expect to talk sense. Led step by step into a Gothic manse where a premature burial takes place, we confront primal fears. Regardless of how we try to distance ourselves, reading this story means delving into the self, that strange region we cannot touch but whose awe, terror, and emptiness we know.

May, ed.

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Boston: Twayne Publishers, Mabbott, T. By Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Random House, Poe, Edgar Allan. The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. Philadelphia, Penn: Running Press, Shaw, Philip. The Sublime. New York: Routledge, Thompson, G. Voller, Jack G. The Supernatural Sublime. Filled with a host of characters, symbols, and pictorial representations that call into question any one definitive reading, The Four Zoas tempts readers to reason their way to an overarching interpretation.


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Fuddled before a sublime enigma that resembles The Four Zoas itself, Urizen struggles for interpretive mastery. In many ways, Urizen parallels the reader of the Four Zoas, who wrestles with a text that mythologizes both the horrible and beautiful aspects of creation. Los, a Zoa who Urizen thinks to be under his control, now works to bind Orc. Instead of creating dominion, it brings introspection and sorrow. Blake is fascinated with how our perception of a creating God, a transcendent being that has ordered the world, limits the human experience.

The speaker ironizes the image of God by asking the Tyger what kind of creator might bring evil into being. But there is more at play in the poem. The poem forms a commentary on the process of making meaning and the act of reading.

Thus, the poem, from a cultural perspective, parodies Enlightenment thought. To create a thing that should not mean but be necessitates that the poet enter the labyrinthine maze of language and meaning-making, which creates great anxiety. Yet paradoxically, the anxiety of doing what is philosophically impossible within a bounded language is what brings the poem into being. He represses the initial energy of creation in order to be able to create a narrative framework. At the end of the Book of Urizen, several questions remain unanswered, questions that are taken up again in The Four Zoas: Is Eden lost or re gained, or is it just an existential state within the human breast?

Will Urizen integrate? Will the sacred energies return? His spear, the Dionysian thyrsus, is a symbol of the god who creates and destroys, a god who in his own self-destructing creation is a kind of ironic interpreter, one who creates unstable worlds with words.

Literary Greatness and the American Sublime

Urizen is, on one level, a poetic representation of an increasing awareness that begins in the early s, especially with the German scholarship of the Bible, of the act of interpreting. He is a parodic representation of dualism inherent in the Western philosophic tradition beginning with Plato.

Urizen is the creator of a slave and master theology that mirrors the kind of morality Nietzsche describes in On the Genealogy of Morals. But Urizen also becomes the victim of his own ironic game of interpretation, a victim of the unstable system of metaphors he employs. Deutero-Isaiah uses Rahab, a goddess found in the Babylonian creation myth, to assert his own theology of the word. She is the one whom Yahweh, the one who creates world with words, disperses.

She is the Babylonian goddess whom the priestly writers and prophets of exile rail against while the Hebrews are held captive in Babylon from to b. To help create this image of Urizen, Blake writes Rahab over the character of Urizen. Here Urizen is defeated by Orc his own creation and also a symbol for creative, passionate rebellion in the human psyche only to be redeemed. As he comes to awareness, he desires to be a part of the text he has fabricated; he desires to be a character in the world, one who does not analyze, control, and interpret, but one who participates in life, one who is human.

Instead of living to see how the text he has written will be read, anxious for every reader to conform to his interpretive will, he gives up his war of words to experience those things that are beyond description, the sublime and incongruous reality to which all language alludes but which no narrative can harness.

Blooms Literary Themes the Sublime

He releases the world he has created. As the poem ends, the process of narrating and interpreting is portrayed in a dark, comic light. Intellectual strife dissipates, the dark religions depart in a moment where narrative and story end: an apocalypse beyond the word. The Four Zoas provides no sense of certainty, no tangible belief. Rather, it is a grand emptying that describes the numinous realm of the sublime. In doing so, Blake presents the seductive manner with which not only narrative but also notions of self and other, individual and society, and private and public are elicited and formed.

Thus The Four Zoas renders the sublime. Urizen is an ironic interpreter consumed by the game in which he engages. The Four Zoas parodies this interpretive transaction, one that fails to connect to the necessary dimensions of human life, none of which can be contained in narrative. For life, art, and the self are, for William Blake, sublime creations incapable of being bound by the fetters of reason.

Blake: A Biography. New York: Knopf, Altizer, Thomas J. Ault, Donald. Barrytown, NY: Station Hill, Secaucus, NJ: Citadel, Bidlake, Steven. Blake, William. David V. Commentary by Harold Bloom. New York: Doubleday, New York: OUP, Burke, Edmund. London: Routledge, Damrosch, Leopold, Jr. Princeton: Princeton UP, Frye, Northrop. Princeton UP, , Haigney, Catherine. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Lincoln, Andrew.