The Sublime Moment: Confrontation, Colonization, and the Modern Irish Novel
In this dissertation, I argue that the subjective position of the sublime, dating back to the eighteenth-century writings of Edmund Burke, has always been fragile in its designation as a category of exclusion, and I investigate its relationship to the defamiliarizing experience of colonialism in Ireland. That fragility has at times undermined the subjectivity of the sublime by exposing the subject as a reflection of the historical violence that created his position. At other times, it is the violence of the sublime that renders fragile those outside of subjectivity, those who do not have the privilege of the sublime distance that preserves the life of the subject. Often this violence takes the form of an aesthetic, historical, or physical confrontation that unsettles the sublime moment, disassociating it from subjectivity entirely. In this dissertation I explore four versions of Irish subjectivity written both during and after British colonization, paying close attention to the different forms of confrontation characterizing the sublime within those narratives. The primary texts in this study are Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and Samuel Beckett's Molloy.
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