Sounds Like Now: Form-Contrariness, Romanticism, and the Postmodern 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:
Sounds Like Now:             Form-Contrariness, Romanticism, and the Postmodern Sublime

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Though a typically Hegelian concept, this chapter adopts form-contrariness (as the possibility of form undoing itself) to read Jean-François Lyotard's postmodern sublime musically. It suggests that form-contrariness cuts both ways in the romantic and postmodern “directions” of the aesthetics of the sublime. This concept can operate as a suggestion of excess that cannot be heard but is felt as being “there” nonetheless, and as an interruption of form per se—the coming forth of matter itself without a beyond being thought in the background. Focusing on both romantic and (post)modern musical practices, the chapter shows that Lyotard's binary distinction between the romantic and postmodern sublime is finally untenable. Despite their obvious differences, both directions are nevertheless also reflexively inversed in their shared, “form-contrary” engagement with the matter of sound. The chapter also explores the pattern of Lyotard's postmodern sublime feeling as a feeling that is “monochromatic,” so to speak, in its insistence in the sphere of sensibility. It is a critical feeling that refuses or indeed precludes a turning from imagination to reason—as the Kantian model has dictated for so long—and in this respect would seem to question implicitly the narrative frame of the sublime feeling.

Keywords: Jean-François Lyotard; form-contrariness; musically sublime; postmodern sublime; romantic sublime

Chapter.  15493 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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