TABLE OF CONTENTS

INVOCATIONS OF THE SURGE PROTECTOR, DOUG HALL

MIDWAY IN A PHILOSOPHICAL ENQUIRY into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Edmund Burke identifies power as an essential component of sublimity by a rhetorical double negative: “I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power.” Sublimity’s sensory or ideational lift is characterized by a murky flow of negatives. Besides his “nothing . . . which is not,” Burke lists such “general privations” as vacuity, darkness, solitude, silence.1 Negativity is as convenient a source of astonishment and awe as any display of positive excess.

Nowadays, to assert the sublime, with its associations of epiphenomenal grandeur compelling an abject piety, might appear unlikely and, more to the point, insufferable. Residual notions of transcendence have been tailored to the present’s loose fit of skepticism and chastened nostalgia. When high-minded artists like Philip Taaffe

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