LONGINUS AS A CRITIC








Dr. Hareshwar Roy
INTRODUCTION: Longinus is one of the greatest Greek critics. His position is only next to Aristotle. His 'On the Sublime' is an immortal critical document of great worth and significance. It deals with the principle of sublimity in the world of writing. He was the first European Critic who emphasised the importance of style. He made the use of both the historical and comparative methods in literary criticism.


CONTROVERSY: In regard to his contribution the critics are divided in their opinions. Scott James hails him as the first romantic critic whereas prof. Atkins admires him as a great classical critic. In fact, Longinus is a classicist in taste, romantic in temper and an idealist at heart. He anticipated much that is modern in critical world.


AS A ROMANTIC: Longinus is a romanticist in temper. For him literature is not a mechanical work but a thing of the spirit of imagination, of feeling and the gift of communication. Again and again he directs attention from the technical to the more illusive and spiritual side of literature. He insists upon passion, ecstasy, beauty, transport, imagination, intensity, inspiration, exaltation, subjectivity and emotion. His love for beauty, for art, for violating the rules of the ancients makes him a romantic critic. He is really a romantic critic because he believes in the romantic function of literature and discards the moral function of literature. It is he who sowed the seeds of romanticism. He can be called a pioneer in the field of aesthetic appreciation of literature. It would not be an exaggeration in calling him the grandfather of romanticism. Thus Scott James is right when he says that he was the first to expound the doctrines upon which romanticism rests.


AS A CLASSICIST: Longinus is a classicist in taste. The classical qualities of Longinus as a critic are quite obvious. He likes inspiration but does not ignore perspiration. He shows a great reverence for the ancient Greek models, for tradition and advocates imitation. He laid emphasis on order and grandeur of thought and language. He believes in rules and regulations. As a classicist he stands for restrain, fitness, correctness, selection and balance. He stands for the use of refined and cultivated poetic style. All these affinities show that he is one of the greatest classical critics of ancient times. Prof. Atkins admires him as a great classical critic. He disagrees with Scott James and designates him as an exponent of the real classicism.


AS A MODERN CRITIC: Longinus is a great critic. He is not only a romanticist or classicist, but he is something more than this. He is not only the last of the classical critics but also the first critic who anticipates much that is modern in outlook. His theory of aestheticism, his emphasis on imagination, his practical criticism and his wide outlook make him a modern critic. His chief claim to modernity rests on his conception of inspiration and ecstasy. He is very much modern when he says that 'the aim of literature or art is to instruct, to delight and to persuade'.


CONCLUSION: Thus Longinus maintains a fantastic balance between classicism, romanticism and modernism. In fact, the fusion of the romantic, classical and the modern strains in Longinus is the real key to his greatness, originality and relevance.



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