International Journal of
English and Literature

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. English Lit.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2626
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJEL
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 273

Full Length Research Paper

“Tremulations on the ether”: The sublime and beauty in Graham Swift's humanist art

Nathalie Massoulier
  • Nathalie Massoulier
  • Paris 1 (English applied to the arts) Sorbonne University and Paris 13 University.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Accepted: 02 December 2013
  •  Published: 31 January 2014


This paper aims at investigating the interplay of the sublime and beauty in Graham Swift’s attempts at communicating humanly and vividly with readers about human experience. In the author's works, both the sublime and beauty convey a sense of order and destabilisation. Both can be construed as  enlightening transitions. Sublime patterns of human transgression trigger a quasi-divine sublime revenge and result in the unveiling of a new agnostic order. However, this new sublime-induced order is in turn irremediably damaged by the mutual erosion of art and reality created by sublime terrorism. As far as beauty is concerned, if characters do discover their integritas, the total fulfilment of their possibilities linking them to the universe and hence to the natural order at large, if erôs and philia have them progress towards greater truth, the novelist's aesthetic conceptions prove to be far from stable. Indeed, Graham Swift's sense of beauty incorporates contemporary anti-aesthetics, the elaboration of a beautiful realism as well as a critical distanciation on beauty.  
Key words: Graham Swift, contemporary British literature, beauty, sublime, aesthetics. 
The novel is the one bright book of life. Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble. (Lawrence, 1936: 535).