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Gregory Steel, IDSVA





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This dissertation traces the phenomenon we call the sublime as it relates to the lived experience. Not fully understood, this mystery, much like human existence, obscures any possible telos. The experience of the sublime shifts our perspective and focuses our attention on our being. The wonderings inspired by the experience of the sublime stimulates and directs our ontological viewpoint and our existential potentials.

This examination intends to reveal the necessity of sublime experiences in realizing our humanity and in plotting a course for a more just future. Tracing the genealogy of the sublime through foundational thinkers like Longinus, Burke, and Kant will establish the early interpretations of the experience. Examining the sublime through the shifting attitudes of Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Lacan will display a sense of uncertainty which unseated the sublime as integral to being human. Leaning upon thinkers like Rorty, Rescher, Deleuze, Guattari, and Kendall Walton, this works attempts to recover the sense of wonder inherent in experiences of the sublime. This exploration will examine the uncertain nature of the sublime and how it can be accessed in the contemporary world.

Contemporary cinema facilitates accessing the sublime in the modern world. Via our imaginations, we can, through engaging with creative and well-crafted stories, experience the sublime connections to our authentic being. Contemporary ideologies mediate interpretive associations of the sublime and create a cul-de-sac for the meanings of the experience and stifle the possibilities of the sublime. This exploration intends to reify the reflections on the sublime and re-establish the significance of the experience as part of humanities ongoing evolution.


Aesthetics | Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind


Insitute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland ME

The Sublime: An Existential and Ontological Alliance with Mystery



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