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The Musicality of the Past: Sehnsucht, Trauma, and the Sublime

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This paper argues that the sublime feeling can only announce itself as a paradoxical mixture of pain and pleasure in an experience of a lost or irrevocable past. Presenting the typical evanescence and inevitable deferral of the past in musical terms, this paper rewrites the sublime feeling as a musical feeling: a suspended feeling wavering in-between apparently opposite intensities of tension and respite. This suspended feeling is analyzed through a juxtaposition of the sublime with Sehnsucht, or the potentially endless longing for an irretrievable past, and trauma, or the potentially endless rehearsal of an unforgettable past.

Affiliations: 1: Utrecht University, The Netherlands

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