This is the 17th volume in the "Aesthetics Lexicon" series inaugurated in 1995 under the direction of Remo Bodei. The series includes three sections respectively dedicated to the various arts, the history of aesthetics, and its key concepts. This new entry on the sublime is part of the section on key concepts, which already includes volumes by Bodei on beauty, Ferraris on imagination, Ceserani on the fantastic, Bozal on taste, and Moretti on genius. The history of the sublime is almost as ancient as the history of thought and involves many philosophical disciplines: aesthetics, philosophy of art, political philosophy, ethics, anthropology. Although it arose in the domain of rhetoric, the sublime spread in due course to every type of artistic creation and was ultimately applied to major natural phenomena, science, individuals' and civilisations' destinies. A principle of both knowledge and metamorphosis, the sublime undermines, on the one hand, the values of beauty, truth and good and highlights limits to their fields of action; on the other hand, it transcends the subject and "sublimes" it, in the general sense in which sublimation means overcoming the ego. The author describes the principal stages on the history of this concept, from the ancient classic era though the Middle Ages up to contemporary times; she restores to the sublime the role it deserves, i.e., that of introducing vital breath among spheres of knowledge that otherwise would remain formal and incomplete.
Baldine Saint Girons teaches Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art at the University of Paris X at Nanterres.