From the sublime to duende: a cross-cultural study on the aesthetics of artistic transcendence

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Authors
Cooke, Patricia K.
Advisors
Waters, Mary A.
Issue Date
2008-05
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Thesis
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Abstract

For centuries, artists have used their works as a means of communication. Such communication can, at times, connect artist and audience in a unique experience which defies barriers of both language and culture. Although artists have written about this experience--referred to here as “artistic transcendence” or “artistic transport”--since classical times, no word seemed able to encompass its meaning until Longinus used the word “sublime” to describe it. The concept has since undergone several reinterpretations, beginning with the additions by Joseph Addison in the eighteenth century, and continuing to the present day in which the word remains subjective and its uses diverse. Consequently, the notion of artistic transport now requires a new definition--one which embraces both the classical and eighteenth-century notions, yet also incorporates a contemporary understanding of the concept. This thesis submits that the Spanish word duende not only fulfills, but exceeds these requirements. Both the sublime and duende contain elements of a struggle between artist and art, an ability to elevate both artist and audience to a higher realm, and shared roots in the classical notion of artistic transport. Using primary texts from Gorgias’ “Encomium of Helen” to Lorca’s “Play and Theory of the Duende,” this thesis establishes a connection between the classical notion of artistic transport, the eighteenth-century understanding of the sublime, and the twentieth-century concept of duende. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrates how duende, which contains both historical and contemporary connotations, represents the modern sublime both in works of art as well as in the artistic process itself.

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Thesis [M.A.] - Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Science, Dept. of English
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Wichita State University
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