MASTER AND APPRENTICESHIP IN LONGINUS' ON THE SUBLIME



MASTER AND APPRENTICESHIP IN LONGINUS’ “ON THE SUBLIME”.

INTRODUCTION
Dramatic theories have undergone different stages over the years. Each era, from Plato in book X and Ion, in which he enunciates his emphatic discountenance for certain poets and poetry, tending towards the inspired poets as against the imitators;  to Aristotle in his Poetics, where poetry and drama witnessed total embrace when he brings to the fore mimesis or mimetic nature of creative expressions and setting a guideline for tragedy, comedy and other creative sub-genres – which are core of drama; moving to Horace whose expectations and directive on class distinction through language in performances spell profound additions to the evolution of creative effusions, one finds that the dynamics of drama have been products of intellectual outpourings, critical thinking, imaginative explorations upon which much of the current productions hinge.
The historical juncture that produced Longinus had before it an era, where several positions were held on account of creative expressions. These positions swung between, imitation or mimesis, imagination, critical thinking, elevated as well as appropriate language amongst others.
Longinus however concerns himself with expressions that exude sublimity. It is however not just churning out works that feature the sublime, but how creative medium and its products can attain the level of unquestionably sublime status.  This is the focus of this paper and further thoughts are here-under expatiated.
MASTER AND APPRENTICESHIP: INTERPRETIVE DEDUCTIONS FROM “ON THE SUBLIME”
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Sublime is defined thus:
“A lofty, grand, or exalted in thought, expression, or manner”
“Of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth”
“Tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendence excellence”
These definitions are to put in perspective the probable divergences of thought crooned by Longinus before his letter to his friend Postumius Terentianus. He writes about the literature that gives him great pleasure, quoting those passages which seem to possess high literary excellence. In the course of his write-up, he explains the elements which make those passages excellent. Longinus was interested in particular passages that struck him with rare awe, leaving him to soar unto sublime levels.
On page 48, treatise 1 Longinus posits:
Sublimity is always an eminence and excellence in Language; and that from this and this alone, the greatest poets and writers of prose have always clothed have attained the first place and have clothed their fame with immortality
The above excerpt has clarified the pathway to the sublime. Besides touching on Language as the key to grandeur in expression, he dwells on what could be a possible joker for literati to be referred to, canonical writers. It can then be inferred, that Longinus exalts the highest level of literary productions that has the quality of outliving the creator.
The second part of his 44 segment missive has this:
“... It is only from Art that we can LEARN the very facts ....”
Emphasis on learn is another pointer to what Longinus stands for. He makes use of this point as important when writing, indicating that learning is a sine qua non, even as one takes needful cue from nature. As an aside, taking a cue means that one borrows from. Aristotle is credited with the mimetic feature of literary creation and in unequivocal terms, Longinus corroborates his predecessor’s stand point.
He goes further to state in chapters 6 and 7 of his piece:
“Judgement of style is the ripest fruit of much experience.... For it is a fact of Nature that the soul is raised by true sublimity, it gains a proud step upwards, it is filled with joy and exultation, as if itself has produced what it hears”
This is to reinforce the many laudable sides of sublime poetry and prose, to which one could arrive from “much experience”. Experiential knowledge is basically occasioned by doing something repeatedly whilst gaining the ability to perfect such after a period of consistency. He even expresses himself way ahead of how the Metaphysical Poets do when they are at their literary best. He says nature would feel elated should sublime outpouring be ensured. Delving into such meant he has personified his referent, giving life that was not to it in the eyes of many.
STEPS TO THE SUBLIME
Having established what sublimity is and its importance as recorded by Longinus, it will only be ideal that one also delves into steps which will help one achieve the sublime. Notably is, the master first becoming an apprentice or the apprentice’s tutelage towards attaining the mastery of his craft. Reference is not made to the rigours of classroom sessions, but, a devotion to learning the ropes from those who have attained the zenith of sublime writings and as such take a cue on how to move up the tough ladder of transfixing one’s recipients when they consume such works.
There are five steps noted by Longinus through which writers are to course through to sublimity. He noted, that out of the five, two are nature’s bequeathing while the last three are consciously attained through learning. In chapter eight of his cerebral piece, he states:
“...first and most potent is the faculty of grasping great conceptions...second comes passion strong and impetuous. These two constituents of sublimity are in most cases native born, those who now follow through come as art, the proper handling of figures, ... figures of thoughts and figures of diction; then noble phraseology, with its subdivisions, choice of words, and use of tropes and of elaboration; and fifthly ... dignified and spirited composition”.
It is no gainsaying that Longinus had his work cut out for him with these carefully identified ingredients. These clearly defined requirements can only be administered by someone who has attained the zenith of his literary exposure and expression. He goes further to lend credence to his highlights.
The first of nature’s free gifts according to Longinus is
“The Power of grasping nature’s great conceptions”.
This according to the classical theorist is the first and rare ability of innate perception and deep analysis of complex issues. It is, according to Longinus’ treatise, a gift rather than anything else. Looking further, one may realize that Longinus by this has given credit to those who have bias for high cerebral dispositions amongst other tendencies.  He lends credence to this explanation when he says in IX that, “Sublimity is the note which rings from a great mind
On a second note, he revealed that Passion Strong and Impetuous happens to occupy another important position amongst the five ingredients with which the meal of sublimity is cooked. Important to note is that this is also a natural gift. The meaning it elicits is that passion propels the wheel towards excellence in literary cogitations.
Longinus’ posits further in VII thus:
I should feel confident in maintaining that nothing reaches great eloquence surely as genuine passion in the right place; it breathes the vehemence of frenzy and divine possession, and makes the very word inspired”
By implication, the right kind of enthusiasm is the premise for sublime expressions. A person could possess enviable intellect, but the absence of commensurate spur would mean jeopardy to such lofty natural endowments. This position held by Longinus is in making clear to his friend Terentianus, the error of notion observed when a certain Caecilus said he does not think that passion ever contributes to sublimity. 
At the juncture of the third out of the five steps, Longinus moves away and begins a plethora of details on the nature of what one obtains by nurture. By implication, he exposes his perceived orator to the imitative desiderata of poetry and prose. Permit me state, that the genres earlier mentioned are very well featured in drama because a playwright would craft and has his dialogue reflect both rhythm and continual expression.
In XIII:
Imitation and emulation of great writers and poets who have been before us.... For many are borne along inspired by a breath which comes before them.... even so from the great genius of the men of old streams pass off to the souls of those who emulate them
The above is an attempt, to usher in other important aspects of learning the ropes so as to attain excellence. Imitation according to Longinus is a form of apprenticeship because it enables the neophyte of sort to have appreciation for how to become better in the acts of the art. In positive retrospect, he agrees with Aristotle about the quality of imitation as an integral of the creative process.
The proper handling of figures which again seem to fall under two heads, figures thought and figures of diction”.
This is third in line en route to anticipated sublime juncture for the apprentice. As much as attaining mastery is the laurel in sight, the path to walk for the work to be adjudged top notch must be trod; for Longinus is not a man to harbour “watery” evocations in the name of literary expressions. He believes in the appropriateness of thought and diction. By implication, he can attests to the effect of proper imagistic impression achieved from the ideal collocation of words. 
In XV and XVII
Weight, grandeur, and energy of speaking are further produced in very high degree, young friend, by appeals to imagination, called by some image making”
“For passionate language is more attractive when it seems to be born of the occasion, rather than deliberately adopted by the speaker....”
The ability of an apprentice to conjure what takes the listener to a realm of the supra-creative is the import of these lines. If an individual must produce what will be seen in the light of highly commendable effusion, appealing to the mind’s eyes is very important.
Advocacy for relevance and accompanying passion have also received attention here. A moment of creative impulse must reflect immediacy so as not to be lost in the abyss of timeless junctures. Passion is demonstrably spontaneous when it is featured by figurative language that strikes the cords of imagination. 
In XXIV and XXV Longinus’ exhortation continues:
“...contraction from plural to singular produces an effect conspicuously sublime.... Where separate individuals are compressed into unity, the notion of a single body is produced”.
Again, where you introduce things past as happening in the actual present, you will make your account no longer a narrative but a living action”
The slimy pit of verbosity must be avoided, whilst poignancy can be realised through minimalist tendencies. Coherence forms an important part of creativity and must not be lost to the tempting mirage of a sun burnt tar. The master realizes that such pitfalls could brush and bruise creative aspirants and their works, as such the need to embrace an alternative which results in commendation from contractions. 
Tense has also been thrust on the front burner. An individual who is on course the sublime road could not be expected to make a trifle piece of this, because the quality of the on-going and the fact of the present immerse the recipients of one’s art, thus making them participants in the implications therewith intended.  The quality of make-belief is thoroughly established when liveliness permeates every thread as this is what its terminus-in part- should be.
Longinus goes a step further with a view to ensure that an apprentice who hopes to become a master gets down to serious business. Having given three, he moves on to the fourth.
Then noble Phraseology, with its subdivisions, choice of words and use of tropes and of elaboration”
History reveals that the premium placed on scholarly expressions in ancient Greece and Rome was high, particularly amongst highly respected philosophers of yore. Words account for the very air which sustains their nostrils’ breath and as such the quality of life it possess. Since sophistry was germane to their daily activities, it becomes important to sound convincing in the delivery of thoughts and arguments.
Longinus appears abreast of it all and as such his emphasis on the need to employ all the tools of literary production. Nobility is very nucleic to the Greeks and Romans, as this is what the master expects the apprentice to stay aware of. It means vulgar utterances have no place. Choice of words is consciously and carefully arrived, while devices that aid colouration and amplification, which he calls tropes enable elaboration.
The elucidation continues in XXXII:
Yet further in speeches about commonplaces and in set descriptions, nothing is so expressive as continued and successive tropes. It is by means of these that in Xenophon the anatomy of man’s bodily tabernacle is painted with so much magnificence, and still more admirably in Plato”
Our perception is immediately in sync with the end product when these tropes are put to use. The above is a reference to how the titanic literati of the classical era put the said tool to use in achieving sublimity. Plato is no doubt the earliest literary theorist who propounds profound postulations “In the Republic” regarding what constitutes literature, having exiled the poets; while Xenophone is credited with naming each part of the human anatomy in registers that sparkle and exude grandeur.
Longinus has not only walked the talk of an apprentice who learns from a master and has also set precedents to follow from reading between the lines the exemplary strides of long gone great personas.
Notably, creators of creative arts are not perfect. It has been said time and again that perfection is the exclusive preserve of the gods, while fallibility is second nature to man. As much as these flaws are true, it is absolutely negative to delight in errors committed. These words in XXXIII tell us more.
“... Genius of surpassing greatness has always the least clear record.... I have myself brought forward not a few failures in Homer and in others of the very greatest, yet never take pleasure in their slips, which i do not call voluntary mistakes... haphazard carelessness of great genius...”
Truth remains that masters have flaws, but when one quantifies their added value, it completely overrides the nuisance that many others constitute to this noble cause of the humanities. The relevant substance that they bring to bear far outweighs whatever the apprentice, perhaps, observes as flaws. Longinus no doubt was an apprentice, whose thirst having been quenched from the fountains of the masters’ satiating flow recommends that a genius remains amongst earth’s revered pantheon and by extension a rich reference resort.
“Dignified and spirited composition” occupies the fifth position as one of what Longinus puts forth being the ingredient of sublimity. If an apprentice adheres to all the earlier recommendations, but discountenances this, it may be the little fox that spoils the vine. The Greeks and Romans as previously stated do not associate with less than the best, so if the finesse and enthusiasm needed is lacking in the final output, then an apprentice has put paid to all the work and by extension disappointed on the side of high expectation.

Coasting home on the constituents of sublimity, Longinus states in XL, XLII and XLIII thus:
Language is made grand in the highest degree by that which corresponds to the collocation…, yet all in combination produce a perfect structure”
“Another means of lowering sublimity is excessive conciseness of expression; a grand phrase is maimed when it is gathered into too short a compass… contraction stunts the sense”
For we ought not in sublime passages to stoop to mean and discredited terms…; but it would be proper even in words to keep to those which sound worthy of the subject
The dignity of expression emanates as a result of the type of language employed. Such language is featured by appropriateness in the choice of words that co-occur. The word “row” and “navigate” are collocates of “boat” and “waterways”, the same way “detached” would be collocate of “house” and other instances of similar nature. When a writer or speaker is aiming for sublime effusions, the intelligence needed to compose correctly cannot be over-emphasized
One could say so much in little words, but unbridled brevity of expression could limit the fullness of the message that should have impact. Except in instances where it is most needful, grand compositions are to be fully arrayed in their glory. The beauty of the sun is at best when it is brightest, while the rainbow would be less described if its full colours are not all over the sky. It is the same with clever write-ups where one expects it to exude creative zest.
Longinus has a sense of dignity as a literary theorist and as such makes a clarion call to others who are great cogitators like himself. He hammers on the need to be lofty in thought and not to be haughty in undignified vocations, because according to him, it will mean “to stoop to mean and discredited terms”. Believability is what it means to have credit; otherwise it will be as the tastelessness of an unsavoury meal. Whatever is part of the core of one’s discourse should be retained.
The master’s mastery of this master class reveals itself, when he brings every apprentice to a momentary terminus in this letter to his dignified friend and philosopher Postumius Terentianius. The zenith of this is found in XLIV, when he bemoans the ill fate of literature thus:
In our age we have men whose genius is persuasive and statesman-like in the extreme, keen and versatile; but minds of a high order of sublimity and greatness are no longer produced, or quite exceptionally , such is the worldwide barrenness of literature that now pervades our life”
Lamentably so, Longinus sees the lack of silver lining the cloud. He is pained by the lack of devotion to the dignity and devotion that makes literature basks in endless euphoria. He finds lacking, the enthusiasm and competition which characterizes literary devotee appalling; and to bring it home it appears true, where people in their numbers believe that money and power are guarantees that one qualifies as a writer or the mere ability to produce alliterations and assonances. This great theorist commands the highest respect for his true prophecies and has set out his guidelines in clear terms.  He opines that the apprentice’s inabilities have been made lamer by the slave-master known as pecuniary passion -money and pleasure. He buttresses this point when he refers to Homer:

Half that man’s virtue doth Zeus take away
Whom he surrenders to the servile day”

His displeasure over lack of scholarship is further made bare in the following words:
Men admire their mortal parts and fail to improve the immortal”
CONCLUSION
Sublimity in literary expressions is a heritage that remains incorruptible. It transcends the time of the creator and remains the very fountain that quenches the thirst and cleanses the dirt of the unborn. The failure of contemporary literati in general and dramatists in particular to explore transcendent issues happen to be the bane of sublime literary musings.
Although full of disappointment in the current trend, his is a treatise of hope because the privilege of access to his very rich resource gives indefinite reason to be elated. 
Longinus closes his master session to his apprentices this way in XLIV:
“I gave the general explanation that what eats up our modern characters is the indolence in which with few exceptions, we all now live, never working or undertaking work save for the sake of praise or of pleasure, instead of that assistance to others which is a thing worthy of emulation and of honour”.
Every apprentice who hopes to leave imprints on the sands of time must, as a matter of compulsion learn the dutiful ropes so as to become a master, with the noble and selfless intent of adding value to humanity.










                                                      Works Cited
Criticism, Major Statements, Fourth Edition. Copyright @ 2000 by Bedford/St. Martin.
A Comprehensive Grammar of Literary Studies. Copyright @ 1999 by S.A. Ogunpitan.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.