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The challenge of the sublimeFrom Burke's Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art$
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Hélène Ibata

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526117397

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526117397.001.0001

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Frames, edges and ‘unlimitation’

Frames, edges and ‘unlimitation’

(p.169) 6 Frames, edges and ‘unlimitation’
The challenge of the sublime

Hélène Ibata

Manchester University Press

This analysis looks at attempts to unlimit visual representation at its edges in the ‘minor’ media of book illustrations and landscape sketches. The unprecedented interest of Romantic artists for these marginal forms of visual expression allowed them to explore the liminal space between representation and its absence, in which were articulated the essential tensions of the sublime: the encounter between images of sense and the supersensible that exceeds them, as well as the transition from the beautiful to the sublime. Postmodern theory, especially through Jacques Derrida’s notion of parergonality and Jean-Luc Nancy’s definition of sublime ‘unlimitation’, makes it possible to see these transitional and unstable spaces as significant places of visual exploration, and to explain in what way they can be seen as a response to the challenge of the sublime. The argument first focuses on the enthusiasm of Romantic artists for book illustrations, which were used as a means to structure the work of art from within rather than from its edges, and further examples of ‘unlimitation’ are then provided by changing compositional practices in landscape painting, in connection with plein air sketching and the use of watercolour.

Keywords:   Parergon, Unlimitation, illustrations, Vignettes, Sketches, Turner, Blake, Derrida

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