Damien Hirst, Colley Cibber and the bathos of the commercialised sublime.

White, Luke (2007) Damien Hirst, Colley Cibber and the bathos of the commercialised sublime. In: Taste, vision, transcendence: sublimity 1700-1900., 5th January 2007, University of Sussex. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Research Questions • In what ways is the discourse of the sublime implicated in commercialised culture as well as high art? How can this be traced in its longer histories? • What are the forms of historical resemblance and repetition in which Damien Hirst’s work is caught up, and in what ways is the history of the sublime involved in these? Research Context • There is a burgeoning and interdisciplinary discourse on the sublime, but this primarily focuses on high art. • Whilst most accounts of the sublime focus on the Romantic period, this essay looks at the early eighteenth century, and the early development of notions of the sublime. Research Methods • Alexander Pope is indentified as a somewhat neglected theorist of the sublime. His satirical works “Peri Bathous” and the Dunciad use Longionian notions of the sublime (and its inverses, Dulness and bathos) to critique the commodification of culture. The paper takes as a hypothesis that this is itself because of the take-up of Longinain rhetorics within the rapidly commercialising literary culture if the time. Pope thus offers me a guide to and a critique of this tendency. • I examine in particular Colley Cibber, the primary satirical target of the Dunciad. A series of parallels between Cibber and Hirst (as commercially-oriented and déclassé cultural producers) are explored. • I trace Cibber’s commodified Longinianism this in his stagecraft, especially as evidenced in Steele’s Spectator 546, which recounts a visit to Cibber rehearsing at Drury Lane. Findings Hirst’s and Cibber’s orientations toward the sublime are complex and ambivalent. The sublime provides a rhetorical technology through which to compel and overwhelm a paying audience. It is thus a mode through which they both muster great economic success in their cultural production. However, it also places them, as artistic subjects compromised by economic imperatives, in a complexly alienated and ironised position which repeatedly plunges their productions into the bathetic rather than achieving a sublimity which is barred to them as classed outsiders.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords (uncontrolled):Damien Hirst; Colley Cibber; sublime; sublimity; bathos; sinking; artistic and rhetorical failure and success; celebrity; commodification; commercialisation of culture; capitalist culture; eighteenth-century; twentieth-century; contemporary art; eighteenth-century stage; Drury Lane; David Garrick; gesture; theatricality; Longinus; Edmund Burke; Henry Fielding; Alexander Pope; Dulness; Dunces; Dunciad; Spectator; Richard Steele; affect; form; theatricality.
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Diasporas
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Visual Culture and Curating cluster
ID Code:4388
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Deposited On:08 Mar 2010 13:21
Last Modified:04 Dec 2014 12:34

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