Science fiction and the sublime

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] This thesis makes three assertions. The first is that the sublime is a principal pleasure of science fiction. The second is that the conditions for the emergence of both the sublime and science fiction lie in the modern developments of technology, mass economy and imperialism. Maritime and optical technologies; the imagination that accompanied imperialism; and the influence of capitalism furnished the cognition by which the pleasures of both science fiction and the sublime came into being. The third claim is that a historical conception of the sublime, one that changes according to the different circumstances in which it appears, offers privileged insights onto changes within the genre. To make such extensive claims it has been necessary to make a cognitive map of the development of both the sublime and science fiction. This map reaches from the Ancient Romans, Lucian and Longinus; to Thomas More, Jonathan Swift, Johannes Kepler, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant; to Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. This thesis then examines how the features of these fictions mutate in the twentieth-century fiction of A.E. van Vogt, Clifford Simak, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Ivan Yefremov, the Strugatsky brothers, J.G. Ballard, Pamela Zoline, Ursula Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Stephen Baxter, William Gibson, Ken MacLeod and Stanislaw Lem. These writers are considered in their own specific periods, and in their national contexts, as they create pleasures that are contingent upon changes to their own worlds. In representing these changes, their fictions defamiliarise the anxieties of the reading subject. They transcend the contradictions of their times with a sublime that betrays its own conditions of transcendence. The deployment of the sublime in these texts offers a moment of critical possibility, as it betrays the fantasies born of a subject's relation to their world
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2005


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