Sublimity and Skepticism in Montaigne and Milton. By David L. Sedley. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. viii + 208 pp. $65.00. The title of this fascinating book refers to its four central chapters on "the prehistory of the modern sublime" (134), but Sedley ranges from Longinus to Lyotard and even to Stephen Greenblatt, an "aesthete" who uses "skepticism to create a realm where the origin of literary sensation may remain unlocated and thereby inviolate" (7). Readers who might expect elaborate scholarship that holds everything together are warned in the introduction "that this book is not a survey of the history of the relations between sublimity and skepticism" but "an essay in comparative literature that proposes a model of reading" (16). And because Sedley is not concerned with "influence in the standard sense" (15), he pairs Montaigne and Milton without showing how Milton read Montaigne or even that he read him. In spite of such gaps, or perhaps because of them, there is a sense throughout that important things are being said about "the story of sublimity, the preeminent modern aesthetic category" (153). That Sedley presents himself as an essayist and admits the fragmentary character of his
Comparative Literature Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Dec 6, 2007
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