In the history of ideas, the aesthetic categories of the sublime and the grotesque have exerted a powerful force over the cultural imagination. Ambiguous Subjects is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between these concepts. Tracing the history of the sublime from the eighteenth century through Burke and Kant, Wawrzinek illustrates the ways in which the sublime has traditionally been privileged as an inherently masculine and imperialist mode of experience that polices and abjects the grotesque to the margins of acceptable discourse, and the way in which twentieth-century reconfigurations of the sublime increasingly enable the productive situating of these concepts within a dialogic relation as a means of instating an ethical relation to others.
This book examines the articulations of both the sublime and the grotesque in three postmodern texts. Looking at novels by Nicole Brossard and Morgan Yasbincek, and the performance work of The Women's Circus, Wawrzinek illuminates the ways in which these writers and performers restructure the spatial and temporal parameters of the sublime in order to allow various forms of highly contingent transcendence that always necessarily remain in relation to the grotesque body. Ambiguous Subjects illustrates how the sublime and the grotesque can co-exist in a manner where each depends on and is inflected through the other, thus enabling a notion of individuality and of community as contingent, but nevertheless very real, moments in time.
Ambiguous Subjects is essential reading for anyone interested in aesthetics, continental philosophy, gender studies, literary theory, sociology and politics.