The sublime in Rothko, Newman and Still
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An important body of literature has accumulated (both primary and secondary sources) which necessitates that Rothko, Newman and Still be placed in the tradition of the sublime. In attempting this task, a background is established by a detailed summary of classical theory of the sublime in Longinus, Burke, Kant, and Nietzsche, followed by detailed summaries of major recent sublimist theory by Weiskel, Crowther, Lyotard, and Ferguson. Also, key ideas of Sartre and Jung are treated in order to round out the proper ideational context for a sublimicist analysis of these three painters. From this foundation, a working theory of the sublime is developed. Next, the painters’ crucial theoretic statement are analysed for their relevance to the sublime, and their programs and specific works are characterized in relation to theory of the sublime, and in relation to their treatments in criticism. The last two chapters treat two crucial contexts in which Rothko, Newman and Still are situated: The historically accumulated American tradition of the sublime in art and literature; and the general European context of modernism and postmodernism. Throughout the study, it is argued that various kinds of transcendence validate a set of various major modes of the sublime: The ideational, religious, moral, Burkean-Gothic, Kantian, Nietzschean, romantic, existential, Jungian-mythic, ontological, noble, and the sublime of light/color, along with negatives modes such as the comic, the ironic, the counter, the mock, and the merely rhetorical. It is argued, finally, that sublimicism will continue to be attractive for conservative, moderate, and radical points of view, that theory of the sublime has on-going power and validity into the future, and that between positive and negative modes, the positive will probably continue to dominate
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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