“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
American Anthropocene Sublimes: Rhetorics and Narrations of Self and Environment in the Contemporary Ecobiographical Memoir (2020–2024)
Funded by the Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.–FNRS)
This PhD project explores the affordances and limits of the sublime for figuring modes of materiality and non/human agency in contemporary American ecobiographical memoirs.
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 and the frontier, and technology (e.g., agricultural machinery, atomic power, and oil), this project offers rhetorical and narratological analyses which critically interrogate representations of Anthropocene landscapes that deploy the rhetoric and/or aesthetic of the sublime.
Situated at the intersection of the fields of American literary studies, environmental humanities, life writing studies, narratology, and rhetorical theory, it intends to develop an updated multifaceted understanding of the (American) sublime in the Anthropocene.
More specifically, by systematically drawing on recent reconceptualizations of the sublime (e.g., the stuplime, the haptic sublime, the toxic sublime, …) and confronting these notions with contiguous categories (e.g., the weird, the gothic, …) 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