Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Called Sublimity...

... and I'd suggest you look into it, Ms. Solnit, lest you think you're the first who thought of it.

For those of you who don't know, Rebecca Solnit is the author of A Paradise Built in Hell, which is described thusly in The New York Times:

"'What is this feeling that crops up during so many disasters?' Ms. Solnit asks. She describes it as 'an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive,' worth studying because it provides 'an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility.' Our response to disaster gives us nothing less than 'a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become.' Her overarching thesis can probably be boiled down to this sentence: 'The recovery of this purpose and closeness without crisis or pressure' — without disaster, that is — 'is the great contemporary task of being human.'"

(To give her her due, she seems to focus more on the heroism that rises in the face of disaster, but still. Some could argue that this heroism is in response to the feeling of sublimity, which was perhaps the biggest catchphrase of the Romantic era--what I mean is, the willingness to sacrifice oneself arises simply because one is swamped by the feeling of being tiny in a world so large. I'll stop here, however, because I haven't actually read the book.)

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