This project uses aesthetic concepts of the sublime as critical categories for exploring opinions and subjective responses to war as they are presented in selected soldiers' memoirs, literary theory, films, and public affairs-from World War I to the (ongoing) Gulf War. Representations of sublime force as well as sublime sacrifice and idealism permeate even "objective" journalistic accounts of warfare and inform the perspectives through which we engage with war in thought and feeling. The project argues that "opinion" is not merely a rationally measurable statistical phenomenon but an aesthetic problematic through which we experience ourselves in relation to the world. Soldiers' memoirs and public discourses narrate the trauma of war and express opinions that swing between and simultaneously uphold radically different positions: war as a sublime communal endeavor versus war as the destruction of social meaning. These opposing opinions reflect different aesthetic and narrative strategies: different ways of representing one's position in the world and of managing overpowering forces and emotions. Opinion itself is built and supported through our emotional narratives of sublime antagonism and/or sublime interest in the social world.
The critical thought of Hannah Arendt, J. Glenn Gray, Paul de Man, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, and Immanuel Kant are central to the analysis of sources throughout the project.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Major: Comparative Literature. Advisor: Thomas Pepper. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 290 pages.
Licht, Melissa Vera.
Warring opinions: an investigation into the sublime aesthetic narratives of contemporary warfare..
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