Shakespeare’s Sublime Pathos: Person, Audience, Language breaks new ground in providing a sustained, demystifying treatment of its subject and looking for answers to basic questions regarding the creation, experience, aesthetics and philosophy of Shakespearean sublimity. More specifically, it explores how Shakespeare generates experiences of sublime pathos, for which audiences have been prepared by the sublime ethos described in the companion volume, Shakespeare’s Sublime Ethos. To do so, it examines Shakespeare’s model of mutualistic character, in which "entangled" language brokers a psychic communion between fictive persons and real-life audiences and readers. In the process, Sublime Critical platitudes regarding Shakespeare’s liberating ambiguity and invention of the human are challenged, while the sympathetic imagination is reinstated as the linchpin of the playwright’s sublime effects. As the argument develops, the Shakespearean sublime emerges as an emotional state of vulnerable exhilaration leading to an ethically uplifting openness towards others and an epistemologically bracing awareness of human unknowability. Taken together, Shakespeare’s Sublime Pathos and Shakespeare’s Sublime Ethos show how Shakespearean drama integrates matter and spirit on hierarchical planes of cognition and argue that, ultimately, his is an immanent sublimity of the here-and-now enfolding a transcendence which may be imagined, simulated or evoked, but never achieved.
Table of Contents
Aims and "ethos"
Plan of the work
Chapter 1. The Conundrum of Character, the Sublime Mistook
Ambiguity, realism, sublimity
Ambiguity, freedom, sublimity
Chapter 2. Hollow Men
Liberal humanist character
The moral core
Freedom of choice?
Chapter 3. Sympathetic Imagination
Sympathy and imagination
Psychology and phantasia
Chapter 4. Language of Passion
Cause and effect
Thought in progress
Entangled, obscure, baroque
Chapter 5. The Mutualist’s Dividend
Going mad with Shakespeare
"The sticking place"
The Shakespearean sublime
Letting in the daylight
Jonathan P. A. Sell is Professor of English Literature at the Universidad de Alcalá, Spain. He holds degrees from the universities of Oxford, London and Alcalá, and his main fields of research are early modern and contemporary literature. He has written numerous articles and several books, including Rhetoric and Wonder in English Travel Writing, 1560–1613 (2006), Allusion, Identity and Community (2012) and Conocer a Shakespeare (Getting to Know Shakespeare, (2012).
"Complex, far-ranging, at times dazzling, there is nothing really comparable to the sweep of this work"
--Clark Hulse, University of Illinois at Chicago
"This is a magnum opus in every sense of the word […] A thorough, indeed breath-takingly thorough knowledge of Shakespearean writing is everywhere in evidence"
--Andrew Hiscock, Bangor University
"Taken together, then, these two works on Shakespeare’s sublime [Shakespeare’s Sublime Ethos and Shakespeare’s Sublime Pathos] represent an outstanding contribution not only to Shakespeare studies, but more broadly to intellectual history. In seeking to make intelligible the seemingly inexplicable, Sell has succeeded in revealing the secrets of the apparent magic of the sublime."
--Rocío G. Sumillera, Universidad de Granada