October 15, 2012

Longinus where have you been all my life? Not.

In On the Sublime, presumed author, Longinus gives us insight into exactly what it takes to construct good writing--where has Longinus been all of my life?

His 5 keys to sublimity are:
  • the power of forming great conceptions; great thought
  • strong and inspired passion

Longinus cites that the above 2 are acquired naturally (as if you're either born a great writer or you're not)--the latter three he considers an art (I assume, these are qualifications that are not inherent but are cultivated through practice--lucky for us)

  •  due formation of figures
  •  noble diction
  •  dignified and elevated composition

Longinus' assumption that great writers can only be born, even for the first century, seems to be generalized and overly simplified. Before we can even truly dive into his points, he's taken away from the rest of the essay with this statement. It was hard for me to read and internalize the rest of the essay knowing that the Longinus

Although, I can see his point about passion. I do believe that one can find a passion, either through subject or through their own self discovery. Longinus; unlike Ong, who taught us to construct our audience, Barthes, who taught us how to be an author,  and Locke, who taught us how to truly use words; doesn't give us examples of how to apply the skills that he outlines in a clear and understandable format. While, I understand that this piece is very old, that may be cause to no longer deem it relevant. The idea that nobel diction is what makes a piece powerful, we know from this course isn't true. An example of a powerful piece that doesn't have noble diction is a text we read earlier this semester, Sojourner Truth's Ain't I a Woman. This completely contradicts Longinus' theory of power being created through diction because this piece has an agency that represents the voices of many emancipated slaves post-civil war.

1 comment:

George Dean said...

I agree with your take on Longinus. Although he displays his points throughout the passage on what comprises the "sublime", it didn't seem that he ever gave a concrete example of what the art of "noble" diction actually looked like.
He acknowledges “great art by the presence of great ideas”; great thoughts, so forth are “conceived of by great men”. The only way to achieve greatness in ones writing is to put forth the diction, passion, and “elevated composition” into the text. Without any of these the individuals writing is deemed undeserving in Longinus’s eyes.

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