In the Enquiry, Burke gives voice to a traumatic cultural symptom—an inaccessible yet necessary sublimity—that is bound to his dual role as English and Irish and his understanding of the many versions of subjectivity in eighteenth-century aesthetics. Burke gives further articulation to conventional notions of sympathy by positing the sympathetic sublime as a possible mediator of inflicted and symptomatic traumas—traumas that cannot be reduced or generalized as a unified, theoretical “trauma” but instead remain individual regardless of Burke’s desire to make them part of a transcendental aesthetic. The necessary distance presupposed by a sublime experience is counteracted by the intimacy of the imagination—we must make a painful experience a personal one in order to sympathize with it—and this intimacy occurs when the subject is confronted by both the gender and language of an other. Such confrontation reconfigures notions of the self and its position within the economy of modern imperialism.
"The Eye of the Other in Edmund Burke’s Enquiry: Language, Confrontation, and the (Subjective) Body of the Sublime,"
Criticism: Vol. 63
, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol63/iss3/2