Budick shows that if we cannot accomplish the cultural sublime, the act of tradition-making becomes impossible and the sublime degenerates into a pseudo-sublime. Thereafter, what claims to be tradition is no more than pure coercion that employs a pseudo-sublime as an instrument of victimization. By describing the terms and paradigms of the cultural sublime, Budick distinguishes tradition from pseudo-tradition and the structures of sublime representation from those of a pseudo-sublime. The making of tradition, he asserts, is always a struggle against the representations of a pseudo-sublime.
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This elegantly written book offers a new way to conceive of cultural tradition. Sanford Budick reveals an operative concept of Western cultures that has been only partially understood: according to this concept, the act of freely receiving and handing on cultural tradition and the act of achieving moral and aesthetic freedom in sublime representation are the same phenomenon. This dual phenomenon Budick calls the cultural sublime, and he traces it in literary, philosophical, and artistic works from Homer, Virgil, and the Bible to Rembrandt, Milton, Kant, Baudelaire, Freud, and Sarraute.