Le mercredi 1er avril 2020 [Salle Gothot, Place du 20-Août, bât A1, de 9h à 18h]
The epoch of the Anthropocene — “a new phase of history in which nonhumans are no longer excluded or merely decorative features of [humans’] social, psychic, and philosophical space” (Morton 2013) — has posed the aesthetic “challenges of representing” abstract ecological disruptions, from air pollution to invisible toxicity and climate change (Kainulainen 2013). Originally an aesthetic or rhetorical concept, the sublime can serve as a politically-driven critical lens which “might allow us to describe human agency as a geophysical force” (Boes and Marshall 2014) and help reframe humans in a more sustainable and inclusive relationship with their changing environment. Indeed, the sublime encompasses several affects, from awe and terror to disgust and wonder, which makes it suitable for describing unfamiliar, irruptive and/or intangible “hyperobjects”, namely “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” such as global warming itself (Morton 2013, 1). Other recent perspectives on the sublime have related the sublime to adjacent aesthetic categories (i.e., the weird, the gothic, the beautiful, the stuplime), which have also been used to describe ecological disruption. More generally, the sublime and other aesthetic categories have been used as “aesthetico-political” concepts (Massumi 2011) to identify and criticize the political forces which cause ecological disruption, thus contributing to the premise of “stuplimity” in its “effort of thinking the aesthetic and political together” (Ngai 2005).
This conference will engage in a discussion on the affordances and limits of the sublime as a concept which could be used to both illustrate and critically interrogate the new political reality of the Anthropocene. Participants will also refer to recent theories in New Materialism (and material ecocriticism), object-oriented ontology, (critical) posthumanism and affect theory inasmuch as they have elaborated a materialist account of affect and the sublime adapted to the reality of climate change or, more largely, the Anthropocene. Lastly, they will draw on recent versions of the sublime, from the “organic” (Outka 2011) to the “toxic” (Peeples 2011) and “poetic apocalyptic sublime” (Salmose 2018), and evaluate their potential as ecocritical tropes in the study of the Anthropocene. For the concluding seminar, participants will be asked to ponder on the “afterlife” of the sublime as well as its relevance and utility in literary criticism and ecocriticism.