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Rewriting Anthropocene Aesthetics: A Rhetorical and Narratological Analysis of the Sublime in Contemporary U.S. Literature

The main goal of this project is to explore the rhetorical and aesthetic affordances and limits of the sublime for figuring modes of materiality and (non-)human agency in contemporary U.S. literature. Because the sublime has a particularly contested literary and cultural history in the USA, where the “American Sublime” has been entangled with problematic notions such as the wilderness, the frontier, and technology, this project offers close rhetorical and narratological analyses of a corpus of contemporary U.S. texts. The rhetorical and aesthetic analysis of the contemporary literary discourse of the sublime in the USA will make a fundamental contribution to American literary studies, the study of the relation between literature and the environment (in the fields of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities) and to narrative theory. More specifically, this project will develop an updated multifaceted understanding of the sublime which will serve as an effective critical concept and heuristic lens in American literary studies and ecocriticism. By systematically drawing on recent reconceptualizations of the sublime (such as the 'toxic sublime' [2011] or the 'poetic apocalyptic sublime' [2018]) and confronting the notion with contiguous notions (such as the 'weird' or the 'stuplime'), this project will articulate the sublime as a key aesthetic procedure for representing non-human agency and Anthropocene entanglements.

Date:1 Oct 2020  →  Today
Keywords:literature, american, Thoreau, sublime, aesthetics, philosophy, new materialism, sensorium, phenomenology, ontology, object-oriented, ecology, environment, ecocriticism, anthropocene, capitalocene, landscape, nature, technology, toxicity, environmental humanities, rhetoric, narratology
Disciplines:Literary criticism, Rhetoric, Narratology, Literatures in English, Contemporary literature, Comparative literature studies, Modern literature, Environmental philosophy
Project type:PhD project