Comparing and Contrasting the Sublime

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Comparing and Contrasting the Sublime

What can be said about the sublime? Class discussion led to the definition of sublime as the element found in travel literature that is unexplainable. It is that part of travel literature where the writer is in awe of his or her surroundings, where nature can be dangerous or where nature reminds a human being of their mortality. The term "sublime" has been applied to travel texts studied in class and it is hard not to compare the sublime from texts earlier in the term to the texts in the later part of the term. Two texts that can be compared in terms of the sublime are A Tour in Switzerland by Helen Williams and History of a Six Weeks' Tour by Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. There are similarities and differences found in both texts concerning individual perspectives of travel and the sublime. The main focus of this commentary will be comparing and contrasting the perspectives of Williams and Shelley within their respective texts, the language of the sublime and the descriptions of the sublime.

Both Shelley and Williams write from a personal perspective. Both travel to and make observations on the area that interests them. Williams travels to Switzerland while Shelley travels through Geneva to Chamonix. In the introduction of Williams's text she immediately reveals the reason why she wishes to visit Switzerland while Shelley assumes that the reader recognizes that he is a traveler who wants to go from point A to point B. Williams's introduction reveals that she has already dreamed about what it would be like to visit Switzerland and she shares with her readers that 'I am going to gaze upon images of nature; images of which the idea has so often swelled my imagination, but whic...

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...ering more leeway to understanding the sublime. On a more personal note, comparing how Williams and Shelley write about the sublime has made the idea more clear in my mind on how to approach readings that contain the sublime, it is much easier to understand and furthermore, it offers more than one way of looking for and at the sublime.

Works cited

Extracts from:

"The Shelleys at Chamonix:1816." Mary Shelley and P. B. Shelley History of a Six Weeks' Tour. London: T. Hookham, 1817. Romanticism: The CD-ROM. Ed. By David Miall and Duncan Wu. Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1997.

Williams, Helen Maria. A Tour in Switzerland; or, A view of the present state of the Government and Manners of those Cantons: with comparative sketches of the present state of Paris. 2 Vols. London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1798. http://www.ualberta.ca/~dmiall/Travel/Coxe-Williams.htm.

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