The sublime rests precariously on the edge of the abyss.'
This volume is a collaboration between wordsmith Olivia Fane and painter John B. Harris. Fane's first essay is on the philosophical understanding of the sublime. The sublime first became a subject of serious philosophical thought in the eighteenth century, thanks to Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant. Fane argues for an interpretation of the sublime as the radically other, and argues that its function is primarily epistemological, in that it reveals to us our own being and finitude. She goes on to show how this tallies with ideas of negative theology and post-modernism.
In her second chapter,'A Short Essay on Truth’, Fane suggests that societies and cultures suffer from a ‘hermeneutic circle of knowledge’ — in other words knowledge is based on agreement rather than authentic understanding. She shows how the function of art and religion at their best is to attempt to break through the circle, turning us from sleepwalkers into people who are alive to a truth which is, paradoxically, unknowable.
The third chapter, ‘Fear and Longing: A Symposium’ is named after the painting on the book’s cover and is a dialogue between Harris and Fane on the apprehension of the sublime, exploring the syzygy between images and words, intimation and explication.