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The Cosmic ViewpointA Study of Seneca's Natural Questions$
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Gareth D. Williams

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199731589

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731589.001.0001

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Earthquakes, Consolation and the Senecan Sublime

Earthquakes, Consolation and the Senecan Sublime

Chapter:
(p.213) 6 Earthquakes, Consolation and the Senecan Sublime
Source:
The Cosmic Viewpoint
Author(s):

Gareth Williams

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731589.003.0007

Book 6 of the Natural Questions is allegedly precipitated by Seneca's learning of the devastation wrought by the earthquake which struck Campania in early 62 CE. Rhetorical consolation is here combined with scientific rationalization in Seneca's systematic treatment of earthquakes and theories of their causation (whether by fire, earth, water or air, the latter his favoured cause). This chapter argues that, in his rationalizing process, Seneca applies a technique of intellectual control over nature that fortifies us against the sublime awe induced by the spectacle of natural disaster. The passive sublimity of submission to nature's majesty is thus offset by a positive sublimity (with Kantian overtones), thereby allowing us to see the effects of the Campanian earthquake in an alleviating perspective.

Keywords:   earthquake, sublime, consolation, Pompeii

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