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The Aesthetics and Politics of Elemental Agency

Authors
  • Ingwersen, Moritz1
  • Müller, Timo2
  • 1 Institute of English and American Studies, TU Dresden, Wiener Str. 48, 01219 , (Germany)
  • 2 American Studies, University of Konstanz, Fach 166, 78457 , (Germany)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Mar 18, 2022
Volume
70
Issue
1
Pages
3–22
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/zaa-2022-2046
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
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Abstract

The elements and the elemental have emerged as increasingly productive concepts at the intersection of media theory, ecocriticism, and environmental philosophy. The article builds on this scholarship to discuss the potentials of an elemental approach in literary and cultural studies. Against the backdrop of the climate crisis, it outlines the stakes of an elemental aesthetics capable of interrelating modes of sensory, epistemological, and artistic mediation of ecological relations. As a signifier of animated environments, specific material substances, figurative notions of place, and enabling infrastructures, the elements are key for understanding agency as always already compositional, situated, and distributed. Exploring methodologies of elemental analysis with a focus on American literature and culture, the article concludes by illustrating how an aesthetically grounded conceptualization of agency as elemental is particularly useful for addressing the politics of exposure, emplacement, and extraction in the Anthropocene.

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