Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Art and Art History

Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Pamela Fraser


Art, Sublime, Art Theory, Lyotard, Painting, Kant


The phenomenon of the sublime experience has been in existence since the days of the ancient Greeks and, for the last five centuries, has encountered fluctuating prominence within the Western artistic tradition. The sublime feeling has seen multiple incarnations; it has been described as strictly transcendental, as a feeling of terror followed by awe and as discomfort in confronting mental limits followed by elation upon overcoming them. Despite the differences between these historical conceptions, they are just variations on a common base feeling, that of being simultaneously overwhelmed and exalted. It is the feeling of confronting something that is new, unfamiliar and immense (either physically or conceptually).

This paper studies the history of the concept of the sublime in regards to its representation in the lexicon of art and proposes a new mode through which it can be achieved. It is organized into four main sections; an introduction followed by section two, which contains a brief synopsis of sublime theory, its relation to art history and case studies of specific artworks that exemplify the idea of the sublime in a given era. The third section explains why past artistic approaches to the sublime are outdated and how these five descriptions of the sublime can be reworked to find a new and more effective approach by utilizing text and humor within art making to evoke the sublime experience. The fourth, and final, section addresses my own artwork and how it functions to convey a textual sublime as I have described it.


The full contents of this thesis are available only in the Honors College office.
Some images have been omitted in this online version.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.