Wild Geese Over the Mountains: Melodrama and the Sublime in the English Imaginary 1933–9 - Tate Research Repository
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Journal article

Wild Geese Over the Mountains: Melodrama and the Sublime in the English Imaginary 1933–9

2010

Abstract

The paper traces the frequency with which familiar tropes of the sublime are used in the writing and painting of the 1930s. Crowds, boundaries, mountains, theatricality and death carry a legacy of ideas of the sublime but tend to be treated allegorically rather than in their own right. Looking at paintings by Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash and Edward Burra, and written works by Stephen Spender and Rex Warner, among others, I argue that the way the idea of history is conceptualised in the urgent melodramatic politics of the decade creates a different sort of sublime, one in which the inexpressible, the void, is located within time itself. Time, allegorised under the pressure of the intensity of political anxiety, becomes an uncanny sublimation of the sublime.

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