Longinus' On Sublimity expresses many viewpoints concerning the validity of applying the term great to a piece of literature that even today is a corrupting influence upon critical evaluation of the worth of a piece of writing. For instance, he writes that we should consider writing and creative works that are universally recognized as great by everybody, which pleases everybody at the same time should be considered genuinely as sublime. Anyone who has ever read a poem or a novel or seen a play or movie that has been held up by history as a superior piece of writing and come away unimpressed will appreciate the flaw of this reasoning. Likewise, how many works of art have been universally praised upon their publication only to be forgotten or considered completely worthless and without value a hundred years later? Commercial popularity should never be an indicator of critical worth although that is exactly what always seems to be the first line of reasoning no matter how much history has proved it otherwise.
The author also makes the very interesting assertion that the writing can?t help but be great is the idea behind it is great. How many times has this been proven to be fallacious? Millions if not billions or trillions of words have been wasted on weighty thoughts inartistically expressed. Similarly, so-called low thoughts have been raised to high art through masterful composition. Longinus is amazingly consistent in his misimpression that bigger is better. The Nile, Danube and Rhine are all singled out as being more worthy than a small stream, yet how many more poems have been inspired by local streams than by enormous rivers? Which is not to say that the Nile, Danube and Rhine haven't or couldn't be worthy of great inspiration. They certainly could be, but the point is that their size shouldn't matter.
Ultimately, in his examination of what makes something sublime, Longinus makes the exact same mistake that countless thousands of Academy Award voters have made over the years, that of equating bombast with importance and idea with execution. One suspects that Longinus would have been quite comfortable with the awarding of the Best Picture Oscar to Titanic.