Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Dickinson and the Sublime College

Originally examined by Immanuel Kant, he describes the sublime as an aesthetic experience in which one feels a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation. The sublime is known to be found in “formless objects" or represented by a "boundlessness". Kant notes, one would expect the feeling of being overwhelmed to also be accompanied by a feeling of fear or at least discomfort, however, he understands the sublime to be a pleasurable experience instead. The concept of the sublime is presented as a puzzle to Kant and many others. Its complications appear in that while “the beautiful” is concerned with form, the sublime may be or is usually interpreted as formless. Second, that while the beautiful indicates a purposiveness of nature or having profound implications, the sublime appears to be 'counter-purposive'. That is, the object appears ill-matched to our faculties of sense and cognition. The sublime has no reason or origin. Through these questionable understandings the question of what ensues when experiencing the sublime is raised. Dickinson, although mindful of the sublimes inability to be explained, constantly attempts to use the theme of evanescent presence to explain the extensive notions of the...

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