“We all live in the sublime. Where else can we live? That is the only place of life.”
― Maurice Maeterlinck, The Treasure of the Humble
The Rhetorics and Narratologies of the Sublime in the Contemporary American Environmental Novel and Memoir (2020 – 2024)
The main goal of my current PhD project is to explore the affordances and limits of the sublime for figuring modes of materiality and non/human agency in contemporary American memoirs and novels which question the nature/culture divide.
Because the sublime has a particularly contested literary and cultural history in the USA, where the “American sublime” has been conflated with problematic notions such as the wilderness, the frontier, and technology, my project offers rhetorical and narratological analyses which critically interrogate representations of nature as a separate, untouched or infinite realm while shedding light on diverse environmental crises and issues.
Situated at the intersection of the fields of American literary studies, environmental humanities, narratology, and rhetorical theory, my project intends to develop an updated multifaceted understanding of the sublime which will serve as a critical concept and heuristic lens in literary studies and ecocriticism.
While helping interpret the readers’ emotional engagement with mobilizations of the sublime, rhetorical and cognitive econarratology are instrumental to fit sublime moments in the overarching textual strategies that literary texts adopt to rhetorically alert readers to an ethics of care for non/human others.
By systematically drawing on recent reconceptualizations of the sublime and confronting these notions with contiguous categories in its comparative textual analysis, this project articulates the sublime as a key procedure for representing and apprehending non/human agency and Anthropocene entanglements.
“All through his life, he swung between the ridiculous and the sublime.”
― Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects