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Towards an Urban Sublime: Expressing the Inexpressible in Urban Romantic Poetry As the industrial revolution brought about the rapid urbanization of cities throughout Europe, writers who were previously concerned with the aesthetics of nature and the countryside found themselves grappling with an entirely new set of poetic and philosophical concerns. The teeming crowds, towering structures and spectacular sights that they encountered in the novel environment of the city incited in them feelings of overwhelming terror and awe akin to those typically associated with the romantic “sublime.” However, as we look more closely at the cityfocused works of poets like Baillie, Wordsworth and Hood, we begin to see that there is a fundamental difference between the “natural” sublime of earlier romantic poetry and the “urban” sublime of the city poem. Whereas the poet’s sublime experience in nature is typically associated with some sort of catharsis or transcendence, forcing man to come to terms with the limitations of his own humanity, the urban sublime instead incites a feelings of wonder and disgust at the incredible potential of that humanity itself, or—as Anne Janowitz put it in her essay The Artifactual Sublime —it forces man to confront “the self as if it were not the self; to experience the madeness of the human world as if it were different stuff than the labour of persons.” While it is true that, as Janowitz notes, this “misrecognition” of the sublime object often resulted in the experience of “romantic alienation,” I argue that the use of sublime language and natural imagery also acted as a sort of coping mechanism for their writers. Through the experience of the “urban” sublime is of course intrinsically linked to feelings of terror and isolation, the fact that these poets were describing particularly urban experiences in terms of something formerly associated with nature helped them to bridge the gap between the urban world and the natural one. This technique, therefore, served the dual purpose of expressing the unfamiliarity of this new landscape and familiarizing it, allowing these poets to discover, as Wordsworth put it, that the underlying “spirit of Nature” was still upon them, even in this “vast receptacle.” In Thomas Hood’s delightfully erratic Moral Reflections on the Cross of Saint Paul’s , we find a perfect example of the struggle many poets faced to familiarize the sublimely overwhelming urban environment. Hood’s speaker—who is presumably a tourist visiting London for the first time—is hilariously unable to produce any original or insightful “reflections” about the complex cityscape he sees spread out before him, and resorts instead to stringing together a bizarre collection of references and metaphors that don’t seem to fit together into a cohesive vision. The speaker’s numerous allusions to “classic” works of literature suggest that he feels a longing to express the “profound” nature of the landscape he is viewing, but even these references come off as disjointed and confused. In the poem’s first stanza, the speaker compares the ball of Saint Paul’s cathedral to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods in Greek mythology. He then immediately moves on to reference a figure from Roman mythology, when he proclaims that he is sitting “Among the gods, by Jupiter!” The speaker’s thoughts turn again towards the literary in the third stanza, when—looking down at the city crowds beneath him—the speaker feels the need to question the nature of man. “What is life?” He asks himself, and answers with an apparent reference to a now cliche line from William Shakespeare's As You Like it : “And what is life? And all its ages— / There’s seven stages!” Before he is able to offer any sort of “real” philosophical inquiry into what he means by this, however, the speaker distracts himself by naming off the seven neighborhoods of London, and never returns to the subject. While this random misfiring of halfbaked references helps develop the speaker’s delightfully zany personality, it also gestures at the bewilderment he feels upon taking in the sprawling landscape of London from above. Though the speaker cannot adequately express the profound emotional impact of this landscape in his own words—and it is clear that he does not have the educational background to substantiate even an insightful literary comparison—he still feels the urge to grasp for images and analogies that he associates with grandiosity and power. This attempt—and failure—to express the inexpressible is a common struggle in the literature of the sublime, and in Joanna Baillie’s poem London —which was written around the same time as Hood’s piece—we are introduced to yet another speaker who cannot quite find the right words to describe the overwhelming urban landscape. The difference here is that Baillie’s speaker is more familiar with the concept of the natural sublime, and she uses the language associated with it to explore the ways that the experience of urban sublime is both related to and separate from the experience of the sublime in nature. The poem’s initial description of the city—in which we find the city viewed again from above, from the hills of Hampstead “through the clear air”—presents the urban space as a rather innocuous, almost quaint vision. The London skyline seems to the speaker a “goodly sight,” and its structures are rendered in relation to familiar human figures. The spires of St. Paul’s cathedral flank the structure “in kindred grace, like twain of sisters dear,” the “ridgy roofs” of the city’s buildings sit amicably “side by side.” The entire vision is “softly tinted” by the distance of the viewer, _____. However, as the air begins to grow denser, and “moistened winds” prevail, the city’s landscape transfigures into something far more menacing. The “thin soft haze” of the poem’s first section becomes a “grand panoply of smoke arrayed,” and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral—which is now surrounded not by quaint spires, but by “heavy” clouds that sail around its imposing dome—seems “a curtain gloom / Connecting heaven and earth,—a threatening sign of doom.” The shifting weather strips the humanity from the city’s landscape, and the language of the speaker quickly shifts to the language that references the natural sublime. The combination of almost ethereal However, this use of sublime language also allows the speaker to articulate the differences between the urban world and the natural one. Though the speaker seems compelled to compare the structure to prodigious natural figures (she states that the cathedral “might some lofty alpine peak be deemed”) it becomes apparent that these metaphors are not quite sufficient to describe the sight she is witnessing. Because its form reveals “man’s artful structure,” (and by extension the “artful structure” of man’s society), the cathedral cannot be viewed as totally natural. Instead, it is referred to as “more than natural,” and seems to transcend the boundaries of both humanity and nature as it first “connects heaven and hearth” and then, a few lines later seems “far removed from Earth.” This somewhat confused description demonstrates the speaker’s complex feelings about the urban landscape. Though she knows one thing for certain about this cathedral—“She is sublime”—the speaker cannot quite find the language she needs to describe the sense of the particularly “urban” sublime she is experiencing. She knows the cathedral is a product of mankind, and that the power that it is imbued with is intrinsically linked with the oppressive church that it represents and the often corrupt society that it is a part of. Part of the reason that the church looks seems to her so terrifying is certainly the fact that entering the streets of the city means succumbing to the dominance of the church, the government, and society as a whole. Language has always failed to fully express the sublime experience, however, and the speaker’s attempts to conflate the urban sublime of the city with the natural sublime simply demonstrates a desire to give a recognizable form to the terror she is experiencing—in order to truly become what Lyotard calls an “expressive witness to the inexpressible,” the speaker must carry thought and rationality to their logical conclusions, and for a romantic poet the world can best be rationalized and understood in terms of the rural. In contrast to Hood’s speaker, whose manic metaphorhopping was a symptom of a mind unprepared to grapple with the urban landscape’s complexities, Baillie’s speaker logically considers the unfamiliar in terms of her own experience, and makes the urban feel, in a way, like an extension of nature. This blending of the natural and the urban is epitomized in the final portion of Baillie’s poem, when the viewpoint shifts to the perspective of a “distant traveller.” From afar, this traveller is able to view the London in its entirety, and finds himself awestruck by the stars in the “luminous canopy” above the city that seem to be “cast up from myriads of lamps that shine / Along her streets in many a starry line.” The “flood of human life in motion” creates a noise that sounds to the traveller like the “voice of a tempestuous ocean,” and he finds his soul filled with a “sad but pleasing awe” upon hearing it. These magnificent sights, which seem at once human and natural, express the rich suggest that the city is capable of igniting in the human soul the same complex emotions that a sublime natural splendor might. Wordsworth took this idea to its ultimate conclusion as he navigated the bacchanalian chaos that is St. Bartholomew’s fair at the conclusion of The Prelude, Book Seven. In Wordsworth’s poem, we are not viewing London from above, but from the very trenches of the city, and the sublimity he is experiencing comes not from the contemplation of the urban
Time and Light: Alienation in Contemporary Space Traditional spaces serve to facilitate movement and commerce1, simplifying life through efficient design. The mall, casinos, airports, and other commoditycentres function to encourage a numbing alienation and propagate consumption. Alternative, nontraditional spaces undermine these aims, instead providing a space for selfreflection and repositioning away from the capitalist trajectory of space, and therefore the mechanics of the everyday through their manipulation of time and light. A synartetic, or nonhistorical, approach to the analysis of these alternative spaces provides an avenue that cannot be periodized or folded back into the more traditional narratives of space. Benjamin’s arcades and the shopping mall participate in the traditional trajectories of capital, commerce and space. In this traditional narrative, spaces function to serve us by facilitating movement and commerce through their architectural makeup. Benjamin references An Illustrated Guide to Paris in his seminal Passagenwerk: These arcades, a recent invention of industrial luxury, are glassroofed, marblepaneled corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings, whose owners have joined together for such enterprises. Lining both sides of these corridors, which get their light from above, are the most elegant shops, so that the passage is a city, a world in miniature2 These enclosed microcosms, with their monumental facades and wide array of consumer options, parallel the 1960s American mall in both form and purpose. Victor Gruen, a prominent shoppingplaza designer, believed that suburban malls could become the epicenter of suburban 1 Here I mean commerce as a signifier of the implicit narrative of traditional spaces. Benjamin, Walter, and Rolf Tiedemann. The Arcades Project . Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1999. Print. 2 social interactions.3 The community sphere Benjamin detected in the Arcades was perhaps fully realized by the American mall.4 This traditional trajectory directs us towards spaces that facilitate commerce and movement. Space is treated as an engine of capital, chained to an insatiable desire for goods and services. Although overlooked by this narrative, there is a rich history of nonconsumable spaces in the 20th century. These spaces resist us: they are non indexical, serving to neither facilitate commerce or movement. These spaces manipulate time and light in order to motivate selfreflection; through them we examine the positioning of our bodies in the contemporary environment. Unlike in the mall, within the alternative spaces we are faced with an introspective experience that unveils (rather than obscures) the true nature of alienation in the contemporary environment. For instance, James Turrell’s A Frontal Passage (Figure 1) transforms the passivity of light into an active force by endowing it with a physical presence as the singular artistic medium utilized in the work. This manipulation increases the awareness of one’s own body, and therefore one’s positioning in the space. Light becomes a marker of the existential moment in that to become aware of one’s body and its temporal limitations is the feeling of existentialism. The properties of light, when manipulated through structures, forces a reorientation that is symptomatic of an experience with existential questions5. This existential moment hinges on 3 Davidson, Ronald A.. “Parks, Malls, and the Art of War”. Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 73 (2011): 27–51. Web... 4 I think it is important to note here the furthest articulation of this spatial impulse: ecommerce. However, this conclusion of the narrative seems to function more to implode the dialogue in on itself rather than furthering it. In this way, ecommerce becomes the ouroboros. By shedding it’s locus, ecommerce distances itself from a discourse on physical structures or site and moves towards one regarding modes of consumption. 5 These existential questions, and the experience attached therefore, mark a new sublime differing from the historical sublime in form and function. The sublime is no longer an individual experience, instead it is marked by a collective existential experience. Furthermore, the new sublime is no longer strictly attached to “art space” or feats of god, instead it is extended into commodity space and the everyday. manmade structures with alienation as a key determinant of the contemporary experience. The selfreflexive manipulation of time and light open the body to the feeling of existentialism and causes a subsequent repositioning in the contemporary landscape. Turrell's work provides us a lens through which to examine the intersection of time, space, and light as mechanics of the new social existentialism. As the catalogue establishes: “ Instead of diffusing freely from one side of this wall to the other, the light ends abruptly in space, as if it had density. The power of the work lies in this paradox, in which nothingness gains physical presence.”6 The physical presence of nothingness, manifested through the physicality of light, confronts us with our own finitude. In other words, we disappoint the desire to fill space undefined, as light can. Therefore, disappointing the accompanying wish for immortality. As one moves around the work, the work itself changes. The positioning of the body to the piece transforms it from a mere light show to an expansive view of the abyss. Our body’s relationship to the piece is therefore of tantamount importance. The experience of becoming reaware of the limitations of our body is in fact the experience of existentialism. Light, space, and time function in the work to trigger a new awareness of our body in the space. Our awareness of our body in this space then triggers an awareness of our body in the contemporary environment. This repositioning is symptomatic of the new social existentialism. This new understanding of the contemporary environment includes an acknowledgement (or a purposeful unacknowledgment) of our own alienation from other bodies and space itself. Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights , New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 343 6 Shopping malls and casinos are designed to encourage naive alienation; their windowless facades obscure natural light, and the passing of time. Naive alienation encourages an acceptance of our positioning and a continuation of the rhythm of neoliberalism through a shrouding of the potential for collectivity. If we are all individual consumers, then we are alone and must consume products to bridge the gap between ourselves and others. Alternatives to these traditional structures, such as Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario ( Figure 2) , use light as a physical force to express a revelatory alienation. Revelatory alienation functions to unveil our positioning, allowing for self reflection and a radical repositioning. Revelatory alienation tears down the constructed individualism of neoliberalism. In its place emerges a collective existentialism experienced through the body's relationship to space. Noguchi’s work is symptomatic of this type of unveiling. Nestled in between the largest mall in California, several office centres, and a parking lot, California Scenario is a dramatic pause in the monotony of the everyday7. Light in Noguchi’s work is as present as the sculptural elements, arguably becoming a sculptural object in itself. Standing in California Scenario feels similar to standing on a sundial one becomes aware of the passing of time as a physical presence. During the afternoon, the sun bouncing off the neighboring parking lot causes the space to become so bright and hot that it is physically overpowering for many viewers.8 The heat and light reflecting off the adjacent parking garages dramatically changes the environment. It is through this heat that light becomes a texture in the work; this heat makes it uncomfortable to be within the space and therefore 7 Ironically, in reading the Yelp reviews of the California Scenario it becomes clear that (when not reflected upon) the work often becomes an elaborate stage for the everyday. Vivian A. writes “ My friends and I took our prom pictures here (...) It was an impeccable place to take pictures at; nice, quiet and may I add, very clean too! Although it's a quite a small space, there's a lot of different artsy backgrounds you can choose from, which made it the perfect photo spot!” 8 Yelp user Tilla L. writes “ I came around 2 pm which was so hot that day so it could have a huge impact based on my experience here.” changes how one composes their body within the space. Compare this to the florescent lights of an office building or mall, lights within these structures pass as neutral and unremarkable. They work to neutralize the space, anesthetizing the aesthetic experience of existing within them and therefore distancing us from a real awareness of our bodies and the passing of time. Light within California Scenario functions as the only real temporal marker. The piece does not change; the landscape and sculptures are constantly preserved as to appear atemporal and unchanging. Even in just moving across the plaza, one can observe how light is utilized as haptic and dynamic. Approaching the forested area of the plaza feels like approaching a mirage, the heat reflecting off the stone ground contrasts the lush grass and temperate shade (Figure 3). The transitioning between the two environments within the larger scenario shocks the body into a revelatory alienation. Using this experience as a key; one can then reconsider the positioning of their body outside California Scenario instead of naively accepting the conditions of their positioning in the world. Naive alienation, or acceptance, suggests an abstraction or denial of space. To follow Worringer’s Abstraction and Empathy to its conclusion would be to admit that to productively exist in the contemporary environment one must mentally abstract space. Completely absorbing the myriad of hyperreal contemporary spaces would be overwhelming to an individual. Worringer elaborates; While the tendency of empathy has as its condition a happy pantheistic relation of confidence between man and the phenomena of the external world, the tendency to abstraction is the result of a great inner conflict between man and his surroundings, and
FIRMA IL TUO STILE IN CUCINA 1 L’AMORE PER IL NOSTRO LAVORO E PER UNA VITA DEDICATA AL VERO MADE IN ITALY FIRMA IL TUO STILE IN CUCINA Da oltre 30 anni con Megaros la tradizione incontra la maestria sublime di chi modella il legno e la profonda passione di creare soluzioni esclusive e uniche che arredano con gusto e raffinatezza degli ambienti della casa.
The pair make some sublime, magnificently mouth-filling, luxuriant “liquid red caviar” that would satisfy the most fastidious palate.
Responsive handling, sublime curves, innovative technology and classic good looks are just a few of the things that have gone to make Mazda MX-5 the world’s favourite roadster.
In pleasure sublime, Just by being with you.
Others Familiars Almandine Goby Food 32 Almandine 13 Crystallized Satchel 3 Almandine Sturgeon Amber Goby 38 Amber 16 Bloody Snapdragon 20 Apatite Bulrush 33 Azurite Cattail 31 Bloodstone Chalcedony Craylet 28 Celestine 11 Unhatched Arcane Egg Clearwater Oracle Contaminate Shroud Cicada 38 Chrysoberyl 16 Unhatched Earth Egg Crystalhide Jester Contuse Crystalplate Wasp 35 Emerald 12 Unhatched Fire Egg Crystalplate Stinger 12 Unhatched Ice Egg Hawksbill Goliath Flatback Sea Turtle Materials 4 Foo's Eye Flurry Flyer 31 Kunzite Jade Peacock 45 Moonstone Leatherback Sea turtle 7 Morganite Battle Items Results Blazing Slash Rune Slash Total Seafood Amber Gulper Blinding Slash Sear Total Meat 9 Apatite Fisher Bright Bolt 4 Arctic Hippalectryon 14 Chalcedony Snipper 7 Unhatched Light Egg Hippalectryon Boulder Bolt 1 Congeal 1 Disorient Dark Bolt 1 Drown 12 Unhatched Lightning Egg Maren Warlock Enamor 12 Unhatched Nature Egg Moonbeam Crayfish Enfeeble 1 Shock 132 85 Total Insects 129 Total Plants 102 Thunder Slash Total Crystal Poll Materials 191 Vile Bolt Total Chests 3 Ward Total Battle Items 5 Wave Slash Total Familiars 3 Zephyr Bolt Total Eggs 0 Shock Bolt Shred Total Runestones 0 Madame Snapdragon 18 Onyx 19 Unhatched Plague Egg Rhodochrosite Crane Envenom Anticipate Total Items 650 Onyx Craylet 34 Pink Chalcedony 11 Unhatched Shadow Egg Sparkling Stinger Flame Bolt Discipline Sparkling Wasp 25 Prehnite 19 Unhatched Water Egg Stonewatch Prince Fossilize Health Potion Sublime Peacock 29 Rhodochrosite 4 Unhatched Wind Egg Windcarve Fugitive Freezing Slash Seafood taken (90%) Frigid Bolt Meat taken (50%) Discount 4 118 42 Arcane Runestone Gust Slash Earth Runestone Hydro Bolt Fire Runestone Jungle Slash Ice Runestone Leaf Bolt Original Price Lightning Runestone Mana Bolt Discount -9600 Nature Runestone Mist Slash Price with discount (24%) 30400 Plague Runestone Pestilent Slash Shadow Runestone Rock Slash Water Runestone Wind Runestone Total Items Taken (nb &
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Il sublime ènel che soggetto contempla Ha fatto le sue armi suoi dio Quando le sue armi vincono viene sconfitto se stesso.
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