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Title: The post/colonial sublime : aesthetics and politics in Conrad, Forster and Rhys
Author: Giles, Jana María
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores the nexus between the aesthetics of the sublime and the politics of post/colonial contexts in the novels of Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster and Jean Rhys. Until now, the sublime has not been sufficiently problematised in terms of its relevance to the post/colonial scene. I discuss theories of the sublime in Longinus, Burke, Kant and Lyotard, and other relevant thinkers. I then explore representations of the sublime in Heart of Darkness, A Passage to India, and Wide Sargasso Sea. Each novel features scenes in which typically sublime encounters with the landscape are conflated by the perceiving protagonist with perceptions of the human element along socio-political lines, most commonly according to race, class, gender, colonial status, or some other subaltern classification. Thus encounters with the sublime become unconscious metaphors for destructive socio-political relations. From Longinus to Hegel the “true” sublime was defined only by negating the “other” and by reliance on a Hebraic divine. Kant argues for a “disinterested” universal aesthetics, but fails to provide proof of freedom of the will, or the purity of reason, on which his definition of the sublime relies. Conrad, Forster and Rhys deploy the post/colonial sublime to interrogate this tradition of Western aesthetics and metaphysics, denying totalizing hermeneutics and resisting the aesthetic and literal domestication of the colonial landscape and its people through their representation of the sublime as that which cannot be fully represented. Following Lyotard, I argue that Conrad, Forster and Rhys engage the post/colonial sublime as a means of enabling a liberatory politics by asking us to witness the differend of the colonized. They deploy the post/colonial sublime to detonate the disinterestedness of their metropolitan readership by representing the differend of colonial politics in representing the differend of its aesthetics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral