Cover of Sublime Historical Experience by Frank Ankersmit
Sublime Historical Experience
Frank Ankersmit

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2005
504 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804749350
Paper ISBN: 9780804749367

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Why are we interested in history at all? Why do we feel the need to distinguish between past and present? In this book, the author argues that the past originates from an experience of rupture separating past and present. Think of the radical rupture with Europe's past that was effected by the French and the Industrial Revolutions. Sublime Historical Experience investigates how the notion of sublime historical experience complicates and challenges existing conceptions of language, truth, and knowledge. These experiences of rupture are paradoxical since they involve both the separation of past and present and, at the same time, the effort to overcome this separation in terms of historical knowledge. The experience unites feelings of loss/pain with those of love/satisfaction, and thus is in agreement with how sublime experience is ordinarily defined. The experience is also precognitive since it precedes (the possibility of) historical knowledge. As such it is a challenge to traditional conceptions of the relationship between experience and truth or language. It compels us to disconnect the notions of experience and truth.

About the author

Frank Ankersmit is Professor of History at the University of Groningen. Stanford University Press has published three of his previous books: Aesthetic Politics (1996), Historical Representation (2002), and Political Representation (2002).