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Title: Legacies of the sublime : constructions of autonomy and agency in selected modern literature and thought
Author: Kitson, Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 0909
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis claims that the sublime constitutes an influence on a variety of canonical works in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that Kant's theory of a sublime which reveals to the subject its capacity for autonomous action initiates a variety of discursive treatments regarding the relation of ambivalent feeling to agency. It therefore reads a range of post-Kantian philosophical or theoretical texts which make interventions in, and developments of, the discourse of the sublime alongside literary texts which reflect or otherwise interrogate these developments. The introduction describes the role of autonomy and of affective ambivalence in the aesthetics of the sublime and discusses these themes with reference to key texts by Kant and Lyotard. The first chapter argues that The Communist Manifesto is influenced by the sublime description of the industrial landscape in Thomas Carlyle's Chartism and that it enlists this in its revolutionary praxis by provoking the sense of agency which it requires of the communist worker. The second chapter concerns H.G. Wells's The Time Machine and Wells's non-fiction writings, arguing that the novel treats expanses of time in a way that is comparable to Kant's mathematical sublime and which stands in a complex but ultimately contradictory relationship to Wells's model of agency. The third chapter focuses on Joseph Conrad's ironic treatment of the sublime in The Secret Agent, arguing that the novel draws out the implications of Arthur Schopenhauer's theory and asserts an ironic agency comparable to Friedrich Nietzsche's Dionysiac. The final chapter reads Freud's "The 'Uncanny'" alongside the "Circe" episode of James Joyce's Ulysses, arguing that both these texts present the sublime object as signifier of the unconscious and encode a profound ambivalence towards the sense of agency.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available