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Reclaiming Wonder

After the Sublime

Genevieve Lloyd

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A philosophical exploration of wonder: its history, its present condition and its future potential

Genevieve Lloyd illuminates and challenges some perplexing aspects of contemporary attitudes to wonder. Central to her argument is the claim that wonder has come to be largely eclipsed by the allure of the notion of the Sublime – a concept closely associated with Romantic Idealism.

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1. Pause for Thought: Plato and Aristotle on Wonder

2. Passion or Distraction? Descartes and Spinoza on Wonder

3. Burke and Kant on the Sublime

4. Romanticism and the Allure of the Sublime

5. Wonder and Stupidity: Flaubert on Romanticism

6. Reconnecting with Socratic Wonder: Heidegger and Arendt

7. Derrida on Aporia, Time and Mortality

8. Political Wonder and Social Critique

9. Wonder and Transcendence

Conclusion: The Future of Wonder


About the Author

Genevieve Lloyd is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, Australia. She is a graduate of the University of Sydney, and holds graduate degrees from the University of Oxford. In 1987, she was appointed to the chair of philosophy at UNSW, making her the first female professor of philosophy appointed in Australia. Her research has been mainly in history of philosophy – especially 17th and 18th century philosophy, feminist philosophy and the relations between philosophy and literature.


In this wide-ranging exploration of wonder – its philosophic history, its psychological manifestations, its political implications – Lloyd reclaims its ancient connection to the liberating activities of the imagination. She traces the transformation of Platonic and Aristotelian wonder as the beginning of inquiry to Flaubert’s evocation of its stupefaction and Arendt's solemn attentiveness. The book concludes with a sensitive account of the role of wonder in facing the impasses of political dogmas as well as in prompting their imaginative re-visions. Lloyd uses her reclamation of wonder to illuminate our bewilderment, despair… and inventiveness in the face of radical Otherness. 

- Amélie Rorty, Harvard Medical School and Tufts University

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