CFP Jan 17, 2014

Lias journal, issue: The Sublime in Humanist Art Theory

ERC starting grant Elevated Minds, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
Deadline: May 1, 2014

Stijn Bussels

Special Issue Lias: The Sublime in Humanist Art Theory

For this special issue of Lias we welcome proposals that focus on the
appropriation of the Longinian sublime in theories of art,
architecture and theatrical performances in the period prior to Burke
and Kant. In contrast with previous studies on the visual sublime in
Early Modernity, our primary focus will not be put on the analysis of
works of art, but on the studia humanitatis and the new understandings
of how artists could move their audience maximally. Already in
sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, the treatise Peri hupsous
(On the Sublime) by pseudo-Longinus was a crucial text to form
humanist ideas on the overpowering effect of visual media. Thus the
special issue of Lias addresses the earliest theories on the
overwhelming agency of these visual media since Antiquity.

This project is part of the ERC starting grant program ‘Elevated
Minds. The Sublime in the Public Arts in Seventeenth-Century Paris and
Amsterdam’ (

Aims of the Special Issue
Since Nicolas Boileau’s canonical French translation of Peri hupsous
in 1674 the sublime was for decades increasingly related to
literature. However, prior to Boileau, Longinus’s treatise was
appropriated in a broader field. For example, recent studies on the
widely influential De pictura veterum by Franciscus Junius F.F.
(Amsterdam, 1637) have indicated the importance of Longinus for the
Early Modern conceptualization of the breathtaking and awe-inspiring
effect of painting. However, we currently lack insight to what extent
Longinus’s treatise was used before Junius, e.g. in Italian art
theory, or in the decades after Junius.

Humanists, such as Lorenzo Giacomini, explicitly discussed Longinus’s
use of the term phantasia (or mental image) to get a grasp on the
overwhelming effect of art. They learned from Longinus that poets and
orators need to use phantasiai to make their subject present. Thus the
poets and orators should become witnesses of the events themselves and
can put these events into vivid words. In turn, the audience gets
phantasiai thanks to the vividness of the sublime text or speech.
However, we do not exclusively look at the Early Modern appropriation
of Longinus’s phantasia: other elements from the Peri hupsous can be
taken into regard as well, such as Longinus’s use of enthousiasmos
(pointing at the state of total possession of the artist in the
process of creation) or ekstasis and ekplexis (both defining the
overwhelming effect on the audience), as well as the Longinian
discussion on ‘greatness of mind’ and the juxtaposition of ‘flawless
mediocrity’ versus ‘erratic genius’.

Since many other ancient authors also used these terms, it is not only
necessary to assess to what extent humanists relied on the particular
conceptualization of Longinus, but also how these humanists combined
the ideas from the Peri hupsous with insights on overwhelming art from
other ancient sources. Moreover, we have to clarify how humanists
combined Longinus’s ideas on the sublime with neighboring concepts
from Antiquity dealing with overwhelming art, such as Aristotle’s
thaumaston, Plato’s mania, or Quintilian’s enargeia.

Lias is devoted to primary sources which concern the history of
learning and education in the broadest sense: the artes liberales, the
studia humanitatis, philosophy, etc.
LIAS). Starting from this interest, the special issue on the sublime
in humanist art theory also places the primary sources at the center
of attention. We will not primarily deal with the analysis of works of
art, but start from an unpublished source or a neglected printed
source that sheds more light on humanist thought on overwhelming art
and the influence of the Longinian sublime and/or related concepts.
The source will be published (according to its length, entirely or in
part) and thoroughly discussed.

We invite scholars to send an abstract of c. 300 words before May 1th,
2014 to This abstract will be
discussed by the guest editors and the board of Lias. Remarks and
comments will be sent to the contributors in July 2014. The deadline
for an advanced draft of the contribution will be December 15th, 2014.
This draft will be distributed among all other contributors and
discussed during an interactive workshop in March 2015. A revised
version, to be submitted by September 1st, 2015, will be commented on
by the guest editors, the board of Lias and the anonymous reviewers.
The deadline for the final version will be February 1st, 2016, after
which the guest editors, the board and reviewers will give their final
approval. The special issue of Lias will be published in Winter 2016.

CFP: Lias journal, issue: The Sublime in Humanist Art Theory. In:, Jan 17, 2014 (accessed Apr 22, 2021), <>.