Longinus

Longinean /lon jin"ee euhn/, adj.
/lon juy"neuhs/, n.
Dionysius Cassius /kash"euhs/, A.D. 213?-273, Greek philosopher and rhetorician.

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▪ Greek literary critic
also called  Dionysius Longinus  or  Pseudo-Longinus 
flourished 1st century AD

      name sometimes assigned to the author of On the Sublime (Greek Peri Hypsous), one of the great seminal works of literary criticism. The earliest surviving manuscript, from the 10th century, first printed in 1554, ascribes it to Dionysius Longinus. Later it was noticed that the index to the manuscript read “Dionysius or Longinus.” The problem of authorship embroiled scholars for centuries, attempts being made to identify him with Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Cassius Longinus, Plutarch, and others. The solution has been to name him Pseudo-Longinus.

      On the Sublime apparently dates from the 1st century AD, because it was a response to a work of that period by Caecilius of Calacte, a Sicilian rhetorician. About a third of the manuscript is lost. Longinus defines sublimity (Greek hypsos) in literature as “the echo of greatness of spirit,” that is, the moral and imaginative power of the writer that pervades a work. Thus, for the first time greatness in literature is ascribed to qualities innate in the writer rather than in the art.

      The author suggests that greatness of thought, if not inborn, may be acquired by emulating great authors such as his models (chief among them Homer, Demosthenes, and Plato). Quotations that were chosen to illustrate the sublime and its opposite occasionally also preserve work that would otherwise now be lost—e.g., one of Sappho's odes. Longinus is one of the first Greeks to cite a passage from the Bible (Genesis 1:3–9). See also sublime.

Additional Reading
Longinus's On the Sublime, ed. and trans. by W.H. Fyfe, rev. by Donald Russell, 2nd ed. (1995), published with several other works in The Loeb Classical Library, vol. 199, provides Greek and English text. Penelope Murray and T.S. Dorsch (trans.), Classical Literary Criticism (2000), includes a valuable introduction and translation. T.R. Henn, Longinus and English Criticism (1934), remains the standard secondary work. Richard Macksey, “Longinus Reconsidered,” MLN, 108(5):913–934 (December 1993), takes a fresh look at this often-cited ancient critic.

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Universalium. 2010.

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