Friday, May 21, 2010

Literature on the Digital Sublime

I've been trying to see if anyone else has already written about the effects of the digital age on our perception of the sublime, or the sublime found in the realms of the new media. One book that looks really promising is The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power and Cyberspace by Vincent Mosco. I haven't found an actual copy of the book yet, but reviews and summaries explain that it talks about the ability the computer gives us to transcend time, space, and politics. Mosco explores how with the computer, we can transcend time, space, and politics-as-usual. The "myth" in the title is the belief that we've developed that cyberspace can "lift us out of the banality of everyday life into the possibility of the sublime" ( This sounds like it could be really interesting, so I'm hoping to get a copy of the book (maybe the BYU library has it?) to look into his ideas more.

I also need to find some literature either on the sublime or invoking the sublime, probably from the Romantic Period, so that I can compare it to the ideas I'm developing about the sublime today. I could use The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge or The Adventures of Basil Lee by James Hogg, which I focused my last essay on. I was also considering
Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) or Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. Any other ideas?


  1. Have you considered Susan Sontag's "On Photography"? It's an award-winning volume about how photographic images have changed our ways of looking at the world and conveys Sontag's own skeptical opinion concerning "sublime neutrality."

    My humanities class read excerpts from it a couple of semesters ago and it came to mind as I was considering your topic. It's dated 1973, but I think there's a lot of good ideas you might like to apply - particularly concerning the following snippet:

    "But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth" (

    Maybe you could make a link between this and sites like Flikr if you're interested.

  2. While you'd have to do some fast talking to connect digital "sublimeness" with the following source, it could still yield some interesting results in terms of the 18th century british definition of the sublime that focused on nature; it follows the evolution of landscape into the cinematic era:

    HBLL Harold B. Lee Library Bookshelves/ PN 1995.67 .A1 L36 2006

    Also, "pictorial beauty onscreen", by Victor Freeburg:

    HBLL Harold B. Lee Library Bookshelves/ PN 1995 .F7 1972

    The fact that it treats images that would normally be considered "sublime" within the context of new media (film) might be interesting to explore. In which case, you might also want to check out "Baraka" at the LRC:

    HBLL Learning Resource Center Desk/ VC 7992