Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Point

In this blog I'm going to talk about my writing processes, and hopefully be able to get some helpful feedback that will help me improve my papers. I'm currently exploring how the new digital focus of our society affects our understanding of the sublime. The internet is a huge part of our world today, and gives us instant access to limitless information, images and videos. The incredible potential of the internet and other technologies can in itself produce a feeling of the sublime, since we can find and do so much more than we ever could before, and a single person will never be able to utilize the full potential of these technologies. And yet this wealth of knowledge can also detract from the romantic use of the sublime in relation to nature. In romantic literature a sense of sublimity was created because of the incomprehensible greatness of the natural world. Can that same sense be found now, when we know how natural processes work and in many ways have gained some control over them? Also, since amazing things can be found daily on YouTube, are we becoming desensitized to them, so that we no longer reach that intense feeling of awe that could once be found in nature?


  1. What you said about the sublime being the result of "incomprehensible greatness reminds me of what Chris said in his post about Borges: "The servers and networks we are connected to are invisible to us. We don't know where they are, and for the most part we have no idea how they work. As far as we can tell, the exist in a separate dimension from the real space that we inhabit." Maybe you could connect your ideas and his.

  2. It might be interesting to think of the 18th century British definition of "the sublime," which usually involved depictions of nature. So, my understanding is that three Englishmen, who had traveled across the Alps, were prompted to think of the sublime in relation to nature.

    John Dennis, in 1693, spoke of the sublime "mingled with Horrours, and sometimes almost with despair." So, maybe in your relation to modern technology, you might also write of the negative aspects as part of today's element of the sublime...perhaps the despair at finding what you want amongst 2 million unrelated entries in a search. Or the horror of how immensely prominent digital media are now, without people even realizing it.

    The earl of Shaftesbury spoke of the mountains he crossed and pondered the "infinity of space." So, that is certainly an analogy for the infinity of the internet - that we could never fully hope to explore or reach the end of.

    Certainly, various modern texts like The Matrix, Bladerunner, Neuromancer, Snow Crash, etc all consider not the banality of technology, but rather the frightening ramifications of it, which seems to me to fit with the sublime.

    I got these quotes from Wikipedia: