In his important analysis of crowds, Elias Canetti links the experience of being part of a crowd to the sublime: ‘in the crowd,’; he writes, ‘the individual feels that he is transcending the limits of his own person’;.1 Eighteenth-century and romantic-period writing about the crowd reveals that being part of a mass of people can involve the loss of individuated identity, in a two-way process which parallels cotemporary models of the encounter with the sublime, and with the natural sublime in particular. This loss is both belittling for the individual, because of the mass of activity of people and minds all around, and also self-aggrandising, because the individual feels that they have become part of a greater whole. Observing or contemplating a crowd of which one is not a part can similarly be both frightening and exciting, awe-inspiring and exhilarating, as great numbers of humans become one mass, to threaten or inspire the onlooker, as befits the moment. Such experience can also elude representation, because its power and complexity transcends the normal experience of the individual.
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