Byron and the Sublime

2019-11-25T11:39:38Z (GMT) by Peter Francev
This thesis seeks to fill the lack of scholarship regarding Byron and the sublime by tracing and investigating how and where Byron utilises the sublime in his major late-period works: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (hereafter CHP) cantos III and IV, Manfred, Cain, and Don Juan. Each text will be the focus of its own chapter, whilst considering possible sources of inspiration regarding the sublime. These include the theories of Longinus, Edmund Burke, and Immanuel Kant, as well as postmodern interpretations.
The ‘Alpine stanzas’ of CHP (canto III) demonstrate the various aspects of the Longinian sublime. Here, Longinus focuses on the role language plays in bringing the reader towards the sublime. Manfred is engaged with the relationship between sublimity and religion, especially in the two versions of the third act.
CHP (canto IV) moves away from the sublime of the natural world and, as I argue, shifts towards the construct of the human sublime. Harold’s journey continues through Italy, and in each location there is a different aspect of the Byronic sublime. The Venetian stanzas exemplify the grotesque, the Florentine stanzas illustrate the beautiful, and the Roman stanzas are the epitome of the human-created sublime.
Next, I come to Cain where I argue that Byron utilises the Lucretian sublime, paying special attention to ‘the swerve’ of atoms in the void. In the final chapter, I look to Don Juan and focus on five crucial cantos. Canto X continues the discussion of the void, whereas cantos XI and XIII present the opportunity to analyse how scepticism shapes the Byronic sublime. Canto XIV is the product of doubting and scepticism, because it focuses on the abyss. Lastly, in canto XVI, Byron has moved beyond the abyss in order to bring the reader to the religious sublime—the highest form of sublime.

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