Empty Signs and the Burkean Sublime

Kiene Brillenburg Wurth

in Musically Sublime

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230631
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235452 | DOI:
Empty Signs and the Burkean             Sublime

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This chapter analyzes “musicality” in 18th-century British critical theories. Basically, “musicality” here comes to connote and perform indeterminacy: an indeterminate mediation that would obstruct mental seeing and specifying. According to contemporary theorists, this mode was gestured by the empty sign attributed to instrumental music. This was a sign that constantly deferred its signified, hence also constantly delaying a fixed signification. One could say that this sign functioned as a ruin. All it presented was a trace of something that could never be entirely revealed—although precisely because of this, it allowed for a constant reinvention.

Keywords: musicality; indeterminacy; British critical theories; sublime

Chapter.  10545 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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