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See detailToward a Speculative-Pragmatic Sublime: A Narratological Analysis of the Toxic Sublime and the Unnarrated in Contemporary U.S. Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

in AM: Art + Media (2020), (23),

This paper provides a close narratological analysis of Rachel Carson’s short story “A Fable for Tomorrow” (1962) and Susanne Antonetta’s memoir Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir (2001), which both ... [more ▼]

This paper provides a close narratological analysis of Rachel Carson’s short story “A Fable for Tomorrow” (1962) and Susanne Antonetta’s memoir Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir (2001), which both highlight the pragmatic potential of literature as a source of cultural responses to the Anthropocene challenge. Engaging in a critical dialogue with Brian Massumi’s concept of speculative pragmatism as presented in his Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (2011) and, more precisely, its aesthetic-political approach, the literary readings in this article build on other notions such as the unnarrated and the toxic sublime which complicate and enrich the literary discourse on environmental disruption. The two literary works of environmental (non)fiction studied offer examples of how literature negotiates the (in)visibility, (un)representability, and (non)narratability of forms of environmental pollution through the use of the trope of the sublime as well as of olfactory and gustatory perception while they both portray the authors’ evident rhetorical intention to foster ecological awareness and responsibility. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Imaginative Challenges of the Anthropocenes: A Rhetorical and Narratological Analysis of the Sublime in Contemporary U.S. Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2020, June 19)

In this paper, the sublime is used as the critical lens through which I conduct a rhetorical and narratological analysis of a series of contemporary U.S. literary texts. More specifically, with the aim of ... [more ▼]

In this paper, the sublime is used as the critical lens through which I conduct a rhetorical and narratological analysis of a series of contemporary U.S. literary texts. More specifically, with the aim of exploring new ways of analyzing environmental disruption or “wounds”, this paper examines the limits and affordances of using the “toxic sublime” (Peeples 2011), a redefinition of the notion of the sublime which emphasizes the tensions between appreciating awe-inspiring materialities and recognizing their toxic and life-threatening potential, but also other recent reappropriations of the sublime and approaches such as speculative pragmatism (Massumi 2011), in the study of literature and culture. Special attention is given to contemporary works such as Rachel Carson’s short story “A Fable for Tomorrow” (1962), Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise (1985), Susanne Antonetta’s Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir (2001) and Maureen McHugh’s short story collection After the Apocalypse (2011), which revisit in various but related ways the relationship humans maintain with the nonhuman and with natural resources in the context of radical environmental change. Such analysis highlights new imaginative methods of representing materialities in the world we inhabit while providing cultural responses to the concepts of the Anthropocene and Capitalocene. [less ▲]

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See detailReading the Sublime: Or, What can Rhetoric Mobilizations of the Sublime Do for Narrative (Identity) and Ecocriticism
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2020, January 22)

In their introduction to a collection on “Ecocriticism and Narrative Theory”, Erin James and Eric Morel shed a light on perspectives in narrative theory which could significantly expand the scope of ... [more ▼]

In their introduction to a collection on “Ecocriticism and Narrative Theory”, Erin James and Eric Morel shed a light on perspectives in narrative theory which could significantly expand the scope of considerations — but have yet remained underexploited (if not unexploited) — in the field of ecocriticism. Among these leads, the critics mention feminist narrative theorist Robyn Warhol’s take on Gerald Prince’s concept of the “disnarrated” — “those passages in a narrative that consider what did not or does not take place” (Prince 1988, 1) — and her derivatives, the “unnarrated” and the “neonarrative”. Warhol describes the “unnarrated” as referring to “those passages that explicitly do not tell what is supposed to have happened, foregrounding the narrator’s refusal to narrate”, and the “neonarrative” as the successful attempt of these passages as “narratorial strategies” in “making narrative genres new” (Warhol 2005, 221). More interestingly, James and Morel relate these terms to answer the question of “why more contemporary narratives don’t give attention to toxic waste” (James and Morel 2018, 360). In this paper, I will address this question through a rhetorical analysis of applications of the sublime as means of representing toxicity (or, more largely, ecological disruption) in several passages from U.S. novels and nonfiction books. Adopting James Phelan’s view of “narrative as rhetoric”, in which the author has “the purpose of communicating knowledge, feelings, values, and beliefs [to the reader]” (Phelan 1996, 18), I will argue that rhetorical mobilizations of the sublime in narratives inform the reader about the “unnarrated” political forces which cause toxicity and, consequently, lead him/her to develop a more ecologically responsible sense of self or identity. For example, I will examine how Rachel Carson’s apocalyptic “Fable for Tomorrow” introduces, through the use of the “toxic sublime” (Peeples 2011) and the “poetic apocalyptic sublime” (Salmose 2018), a global framework of ecological urgency in which natural sublimity is pervaded with the “evil spell” (Carson 1962, 21) of “unnarrated” anthropogenic toxicity (e.g., pesticides and fuel oil). I will show that the sublime is an appropriate trope or rhetorical strategy for describing these forms of ecological disruption that generally “can’t”, “shouldn’t” or “wouldn’t be told” (Warhol 2005, 222) in narratives, while they actually shape humans’ understanding of self, and I will therefore present the texts analyzed as “neonarratives” which highlight humans’ new possible ways of relating to the nonhuman in an anthropogenic context. [less ▲]

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See detailBook Review of The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

in The Trumpeter (2020)

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See detailThe Toxic Sublime in US Literature: Self, Senses and Environment
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2019, October 19)

In this paper, the “toxic sublime” (which Jennifer Peeples describes as “the tensions that arise from recognizing the toxicity of a place, object or situation, while simultaneously appreciating its ... [more ▼]

In this paper, the “toxic sublime” (which Jennifer Peeples describes as “the tensions that arise from recognizing the toxicity of a place, object or situation, while simultaneously appreciating its mystery, magnificence and ability to inspire awe” [Peeples 2011]), will be used as the lens through which I will analyse the material manifestations of how technology operates as a reframing device in conceptualizations and representations of nature in works of US (non)fiction (Heise 2016). Special attention will be given to Henry Thoreau's literary and philosophical legacy: Walden (1854) will be considered as a foundational matrix for a tradition of nonfiction writing with an interest in reframing the relationship between humans and their techno-natural environment by means of sensorial perception, a project which has been prolonged and extended by countless (non-)fiction works over the last half century, from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) to Ken Ilgunas’s Walden on Wheels (2013). Essential to this approach will be (1) the redefinition of the self as related to the environment in the paradigms studied (industrial revolution, nuclear era, mass production, the Anthropocene), (2) the focus on the human sensorium as a vector of identity and meaning in the Anthropocene, (3) the global nature of the problematic relationships between self and environment examined in the context of specific ecological, cultural, socio-economic or political issues. [less ▲]

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See detailTechno-Thoreau: Aesthetics, Ecology and the Capitalocene
Lombard, David ULiege

Book published by Quodlibet (2019)

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See detailL’écocritique à l’âge de l’anthropocène
Lombard, David ULiege

Article for general public (2019)

À la lumière de la crise environnementale et des récents efforts citoyens destinés à valoriser une prise de conscience écologique générale, la littérature aide considérablement à façonner et changer nos ... [more ▼]

À la lumière de la crise environnementale et des récents efforts citoyens destinés à valoriser une prise de conscience écologique générale, la littérature aide considérablement à façonner et changer nos modes de pensées. [less ▲]

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See detailBeat Generation. La simplicité involontaire
Lombard, David ULiege

in Acta Fabula: Revue des Parutions en Théorie Littéraire (2019), 20(5),

Beat Generation. L’inservitude volontaire propose comme postulat de départ que la Beat Generation est obscurcie par une pléthore de « clichés » qui la réduirait à une « Sainte Trinité Ginsberg-Burroughs ... [more ▼]

Beat Generation. L’inservitude volontaire propose comme postulat de départ que la Beat Generation est obscurcie par une pléthore de « clichés » qui la réduirait à une « Sainte Trinité Ginsberg-Burroughs-Kerouac », bohémienne au sens péjoratif du terme et dénuée d’engagement politique concret (p. 10). Ambitieux et diversifié, cet ouvrage collectif laisse apparaître trois axes critiques fondamentaux, qui visent premièrement à étendre le spectre du mouvement en incluant un nombre beaucoup plus important d’auteur(e)s moins reconnus, ensuite à déconstruire une réputation stylistique de « simplicité » insignifiante par rapport aux littératures avant-gardistes, et enfin à (re)valoriser le combat écologico-politique de certains auteurs, bien trop souvent réduits au statut réducteur d’anticonformistes. [less ▲]

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See detailDavid Lombard / PhD student-researcher (WeChangeForLife Testimony)
Lombard, David ULiege

Diverse speeche and writing (2019)

Although the Anthropocene and climate change are widely known as scientific issues, they are also significant cultural problems. In literary criticism and ecocriticism, the main challenges are to steer ... [more ▼]

Although the Anthropocene and climate change are widely known as scientific issues, they are also significant cultural problems. In literary criticism and ecocriticism, the main challenges are to steer criticism toward a redefinition of the factors that define contemporary culture, namely any “toxic” value, belief, practice or ideology (e.g., unfettered capitalism or consumerism). As literary scholars, we need to develop new constructive ways to critically interrogate representations of natural and technological landscapes, situations and objects — as well as issues such as climate change — in contemporary culture to continue to foster more ecologically responsible behaviors. Recently, I have started to redefine all my actions and choices as intrinsically political. For example, I have come to consider consumption but also political leanings and social behaviors as having wide and significant societal impacts. I have therefore been writing ecocritical academic and general-audience articles (for Etopia or Eclosio) that seek to emphasize the political dimension of academic research and to promote ecological responsibility. In addition, I often engage in debates and conferences that aim at changing unecological behaviors and attitudes on a — if not global — local scale. Generally speaking, our very conception of social life itself is problematic. In other words, I would argue that any stressful, excessively work-oriented and profit-driven ethos makes it very difficult for people to lower their ecological footprint. For instance, they would constantly need to use their car to be faster, send many emails for work and eat processed food that would be rapidly consumed to become more efficient. Our “toxic” relationships with work, people and life itself have tremendously adverse effects on our relationship with the environment. I believe that one of the main challenges we are facing is to evolve toward healthier lifestyle and way of living that would eventually allow us to realize that improving the current environmental situation is a terrifying urgence. Finally, I think that Belgium should become an international example at the political level with respect to climate change and global warming. We need to promote politics that would help citizens and governments stop viewing ecological responsibility as an obstacle but rather as an essential and rewarding goal. [less ▲]

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See detailThoreau and the Capitalocene
Lombard, David ULiege

in Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory (2018), 4(2), 20-34

This essay will serve the double purpose of investigating the esthetic dimensions of Thoreau’s environmental philosophy as depicted in his classic memoir Walden (1854) while examining the philosophical ... [more ▼]

This essay will serve the double purpose of investigating the esthetic dimensions of Thoreau’s environmental philosophy as depicted in his classic memoir Walden (1854) while examining the philosophical and political implications of its tendency to break down the boundaries between the natural and the technological landscape. Although critics have tended to identify Thoreau as deeply rooted in an Emersonian transcendentalist and idealist tradition viewing nature as an organized and holistic “whole”, I will argue that Thoreau’s ecophilosophy seeks to reconcile the idealistic with the empirical pole and highlight the tensions between natural and technological objects and situations. I will start by studying how Thoreau approaches man-made technologies and develops a proto-ecocritical form of the sublime. I will also argue that a reconsideration of Thoreau’s poetics sheds a new light on the goals of environmental (non)fiction and urges us to redefine the concept of the Anthropocene as the Capitalocene. [less ▲]

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See detailUS Literature and the Toxic Sublime: Technology in the Pastoral Garden
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2018, September 29)

As Aldo Leopold writes, the modern man is a “trophy-hunter”, a “motorized ant who swarms the continents before learning to see his own back yard, who consumes but never creates outdoor satisfactions”, and ... [more ▼]

As Aldo Leopold writes, the modern man is a “trophy-hunter”, a “motorized ant who swarms the continents before learning to see his own back yard, who consumes but never creates outdoor satisfactions”, and ultimately “dilutes wilderness and artificializes its trophies in the fond belief that he is rendering a public service” (Leopold, 1949). One of the main issues raised in Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac is that our perception has been altered by modern technologies such as mechanization, which has deprived the wilderness of its “wildness”, its spatial and ecological meaning. To refocus his/her perception, the viewer must first “learn[ ] to see his own back yard”, understand the ecological complexity of his garden, before hastening to visit remote and over-touristic places. For example, the viewer in national parks tends to consume “sublime landscape[s]” as “series of picturesque scenes” or “object[s] of artistic consumption” and thus devoid of any spatial or ecological meaning (Byerly, 1996). In this presentation, I will analyze representations of the pastoral garden and other natural landscapes in US (non-)fiction—from Henry David Thoreau to Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Don DeLillo and Susanne Antonetta—using a redefinition of the “toxic sublime” as a trope. I will also build on this notion (which Jennifer Peeples describes as “the tensions that arise from recognizing the toxicity of a place, object or situation, while simultaneously appreciating its mystery, magnificence and ability to inspire awe” [Peeples, 2011]) to critically interrogate “intrusions” of technological changes in the pastoral landscape and to determine its dangers and causes, whether they are apparent or metaphorical, technological (mechanization, digitalization), toxic ([nuclear] waste, pesticides, and other chemicals), or ideological (pastoral idealization, capitalism, consumerism). Finally, such analysis will allow me to argue that the garden may involve an ecological aesthetics which avoids the trap of “pastoral idealization” (i.e. the representation of the realm of nature as pristine, separate from humans) while creating sustainable senses of self and place. [less ▲]

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See detailQue nous apprend la littérature à l'âge de l'anthropocène ?
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference given outside the academic context (2018)

Nous vivons dans l’âge de l’anthropocène, cette nouvelle ère dans laquelle l’être humain a un impact à l’échelle géologique. Dans cette époque où les frontières entre l’environnement naturel et l’humain ... [more ▼]

Nous vivons dans l’âge de l’anthropocène, cette nouvelle ère dans laquelle l’être humain a un impact à l’échelle géologique. Dans cette époque où les frontières entre l’environnement naturel et l’humain n’existent plus, comment la littérature parvient-elle à la fois à nous aider à comprendre les relations complexes que nous entretenons avec le monde naturel et à encourager la prise de conscience écologique ? À l’aide de théories récentes telles que l’écocritique et l’écopoétique, nous analyserons comment des oeuvres littéraires nord-américaines peuvent nous inspirer une forme d’esthétique écologique — le “sublime toxique”. Cette forme d’esthétique nous permettra également de redéfinir les liens entre paysages naturels et technologiques. [less ▲]

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See detailDwelling on Dwelling: Home and Nature in (Native) American Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2017, November 16)

As Greg Garrard stresses, “[i]nterpretation and critique of the various inflections of dwelling is a major task for ecocritics interested in a predominantly political, rather than moral or spiritual ... [more ▼]

As Greg Garrard stresses, “[i]nterpretation and critique of the various inflections of dwelling is a major task for ecocritics interested in a predominantly political, rather than moral or spiritual, project of cultural critique that can take us beyond pastoral and nature writing, from the landscapes of leisure to the uneven terrain of real work” (2012). In this paper, I will examine American literary texts dealing with representations of dwelling or “home” as a refuge from the “tensions” or problems caused by modern civilisation and technology. Starting with Thoreau’s Walden (1854), I will focus on the relationships between such refuges, the natural environment, and socio-political critique. Indeed, Thoreau’s work displays a philosophy on nature and dwelling that has influenced other writers to ponder on the negative effects that modern technologies, capitalism and consumerism have had on the human self and, more largely, on our physical environment. Adopting an ecocritical perspective, I will therefore consider Thoreau’s stay in Walden Pond as well as Edward Abbey’s house trailer (Desert Solitaire, 1968), Christopher McCandless’s “magic bus” as depicted in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (1992) or Ken Ilgunas’s “vandwelling” (Walden on Wheels, 2013) to study the socio-political and environmental concerns raised by dwelling experiences in such peculiar or isolated “homes”. Finally, I will also briefly discuss the Native American perspective through an analysis of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977) as an example of the Laguna Pueblo’s perception of nature or the “land” as “home”. [less ▲]

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See detailLa nature, une nécessité symbolique et vitale
Lombard, David ULiege

Article for general public (2017)

L’environnement est une préoccupation majeure de notre société, pourtant nombreux sont encore les indécis et trop peu nombreux sont ceux qui sont prêts à agir et à changer leurs habitudes pour améliorer ... [more ▼]

L’environnement est une préoccupation majeure de notre société, pourtant nombreux sont encore les indécis et trop peu nombreux sont ceux qui sont prêts à agir et à changer leurs habitudes pour améliorer la situation critique actuelle. Dans le présent article, j’aborderai, en utilisant le modèle nord-américain comme principale référence, l’évolution d’une représentation de la nature. D’abord vue comme nécessaire car symbolisant à la fois un nouveau continent et une nouvelle identité ensuite vue comme consommable, artificielle et enfin vue comme facultative. Afin de pallier cette dernière conception, parfois inconsciente, de la nature comme « accessoire », dont on pourrait se passer, et favoriser un mode de vie et une consommation écologiquement responsables, je terminerai par donner une série de pistes d’action exerçables aux niveaux individuel, collectif et sur les pouvoirs publics. [less ▲]

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See detailUS (Post-)Pastoral Non-Fiction and the Toxic Sublime
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2017, April 20)

As Frank O’Hara mentions, “[i]n past times there was nature and there was human nature; because of the ferocity of modern life, man and nature have become one” (1971). However, this statement is wrong as ... [more ▼]

As Frank O’Hara mentions, “[i]n past times there was nature and there was human nature; because of the ferocity of modern life, man and nature have become one” (1971). However, this statement is wrong as nature has, in fact, never been ‘neutral’, independent of human influence but has instead always been depicted and defined by humans. In the age of the Anthropocene, numerous are the ways of reconsidering our relationship with our physical environment and reframing the pastoral mode so that it would best illustrate the interconnectedness between the human and the non-human. For example, Joshua Corey recently proposed an analysis of “postmodern pastoral poetry” in order to “enter this [very] zone of the pastoral”, meaning “the vision of humanity undivided from nature” (2012). Nevertheless, Corey is himself with several other famous literary critics, or more specifically ecocritics, “part of this [ ] movement that seeks to define a pastoral that has avoided the traps of idealisation [or pastoral sentimentalism] in seeking a discourse that can both celebrate and take some responsibility for nature without false consciousness” or, in other words, a more ecocentric repossession of pastoral that Terry Gifford defines as “post-pastoral”. In this paper, my purpose is to analyse US post-pastoral non-fiction, mainly memoirs and essays that include a pastoral retreat in the natural landscape, to demonstrate the importance of relating humans to the natural landscape but also to the technological and toxic landscapes. In order to do so, I intend to use the concept of the toxic sublime and to revalue it as a new perspective in the study of the relationship between American literature and our physical environment. [less ▲]

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See detailPlanned Obsolescence, Nature and the Self in American Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2016, December 08)

On the cusp of the 1980s, when it became increasingly apparent that humanity had left its mark on every inch of the surface of the earth and altered its atmosphere, the idea of a strictly natural world ... [more ▼]

On the cusp of the 1980s, when it became increasingly apparent that humanity had left its mark on every inch of the surface of the earth and altered its atmosphere, the idea of a strictly natural world became obsolete and needed to be reimagined. As a result, American environmentalist Bill McKibben presented in his essay The End of Nature (1989) the hypothesis of a postnatural world, a world in which nature has ended ‘both as a discrete biophysical entity and as a meaningful concept’ (McKibben, 1989). This presentation will aim at demonstrating how American civilisation ‘planned’ the obsolescence of both nature and the self through its yearning for progress, production and for the accumulation of manufactured products and wealth. Besides commenting on McKibben’s essay, I will draw parallels between other works such as Henry David Thoreau’s memoir Walden (1854) and Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise (1985) in order to illustrate how the evolution of the American process of self-realisation that was originally connected to the natural landscape led to the fragmentation of the self in the postmodern landscape as expressed, for instance, in Fredric Jameson’s book Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). I will also argue that Thoreau anticipated the notion that a construction of an identity based on a transcendental relationship with sublime nature was soon to be replaced by a transcendental experience with objects of consumption¬—or waste—or, more largely, with the postmodern sublime landscape. I will show that American literature may be at odds with Bernard London’s representation of consumer capitalism and with his description of planned obsolescence as a means of ‘salvation’ for the American people (London, 1932). [less ▲]

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See detailFrom Silenced Nature to Worldness in American Literature
Lombard, David ULiege

Conference (2016, December 02)

As Christopher Manes writes, ‘[n]ature is silent in our culture […] in the sense that the status of being a speaking subject is jealously guarded as an exclusively human prerogative’ (Manes, 1996 ... [more ▼]

As Christopher Manes writes, ‘[n]ature is silent in our culture […] in the sense that the status of being a speaking subject is jealously guarded as an exclusively human prerogative’ (Manes, 1996). According to this view, nature is less silent than silenced, the difference lying in a refusal to have a relationship with the natural world because of the lack of adequate language to describe our relationship with our natural environment. Human faculties promoted by the Enlightenment have led humans to believe that our language ‘ha[s] no analogues in the natural world’. I will show that American authors such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold or Edward Abbey accounted for a multi-sensorial experience of nature that betrays an attempt to find a form of language that would relate humans to natural elements. Although nature does not ‘speak’, I will argue that humans were provided with their sensory perception that allows them to appreciate worldness and to develop a harmonious relationship with the rest of the world. I will also stress that our alienation from the natural world is as much a cultural problem as it is a consequence of Western consumer capitalism and supermodernity, as suggested, for example, in Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985). Adopting an ecocritical approach, I will examine the ways in which we tend to perceive worldness as silent and how literary texts may revive worldness and world as essential concepts in the study of the relationship between literature and our physical environment. [less ▲]

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See detailBreaking Barriers Between Arts: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize
Lombard, David ULiege

Article for general public (2016)

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See detailTranscendentalism and Sublime (Post)Nature in American Literature: From Self-Discovery to Self-Destruction
Lombard, David ULiege

Master's dissertation (2016)

Using the philosophy of Transcendentalism and the aesthetics of the sublime as comparative elements, this master thesis provides a diachronical analysis of a delimited corpus of (Native) American ... [more ▼]

Using the philosophy of Transcendentalism and the aesthetics of the sublime as comparative elements, this master thesis provides a diachronical analysis of a delimited corpus of (Native) American literature, which discusses representations of the (post)natural world and the self, aimed at drawing ecocritical conclusions. The author considers literary works from various genres—travelogues, essays, memoirs, novels, poems and non-fiction works—that were written by authors coming from significantly different periods. [less ▲]

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