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I am a place: Aletheia as Aesthetic and Political Resistance in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2015 (English)In: Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, ISSN 2000-4214, E-ISSN 2000-4214, Vol. 7Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article investigates the aesthetic and political power of Margaret Atwood’s 1972 novel Surfacing. It argues that the novel’s perennial vitality is partly explained by Jacques Rancière’s theory about the aesthetic regime of art that highlights the tension between art for art’s sake and art as a political instrument. By means of phenomenological methodology and concepts, mainly derived from Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the examination uncovers an experiential aesthetics intimately intertwined with the protagonist’s perceptions throughout the narrative. These perceptions and impressions are permeated by a sense of semi-religious revelation. But here they are primarily seen from an epistemological perspective through the dominance of immediacy (denoted by the Greek aletheia) over verificational dimensions (denoted by the Roman veritas). These predominantly sensory aspects of Surfacing make up the aesthetic nerve that is linked to the political impact of the work. Aletheia functions as a promise of emancipation since it transcends the political division of the sensory, that is, art for art’s sake and art as life. But, Atwood’s work also upholds this separation since aletheia is ultimately autonomous, which in turn sustains the autonomy of the novel. It is claimed that the persistent status of Surfacing—and thereby its sustained political impact—is ultimately due to its aesthetic integrity. The novel’s more explicit political concerns of ecocriticism and feminism are secondary in relation to the force of aletheia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 7
Keyword [en]
phenomenology; epistemology; aesthetics; perception; enframing; Rancière; the flesh; Heidegger; Merleau-Ponty; ecocriticism
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
English; Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118898DOI: 10.3402/jac.v7.28020OAI: diva2:842419
Available from: 2015-07-20 Created: 2015-07-20 Last updated: 2015-10-29Bibliographically approved

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Wrethed, Joakim
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