Longinus, like Horace, takes a pragmatic position in his literary theory. His central question is, what is good writing, and how may it be achieved? His first answer is that good writing partakes of what he calls the "sublime". In the classical historical tradition, the sublime implies that man can, in emotions and in language; transcend the limits of the human condition. According to Longinus sublime is a blend of art and nature. Sublimity consists of excellence and distinction in expression. The effect of elevated language is not to persuade others but to entrance them. The effect of persuading the audience is on the artist's hand. Irresistible force and mastery as well as the control of the hearer should be all in the poet's sphere. In Longinus' words "
a well timed stroke of sublimity scatters everything before it like a thunderbolt, and in a flash reveals the full power of the speaker." An excellent work will uplift our soul. It feels as if the work of art is of our own creation.
Longinus first brings out the defects some poets tend to make when they write poetry. He advice poets to avoid such imperfections like tumidity (Pompous style), puerility (silly) and parenthyrsus (misplaces emotions). Tumidity means pomposity in style of writing. He accuses many poets like Gorgias, Callisthenes and Amphicrates for using high flown expressions and confused imagery such as " Xerxes the Zeus of the Persians " or "vultures, animated sepulchers" . Puerility is another flaw of poets. This makes the poets write in an ignoble way. There is another mistake some poets make which is parenthyrsus or false sentiment. Writers sometimes get carried away by plots and "outbursts of emotions which are not relevant to the matter in hand".
Longinus goes on to identify five elements of the sublime: 1) "the power of forming great conceptions"; 2) "vehement and inspired passion"; 3) "the due formation of figures"; 4) "noble diction"; 5) "dignified and elevated...