Feeling America Otherwise: Ground as an Earth That Quakes
The artists and writers of my dissertation -- Robert Smithson, Ed Roberson, Rodolfo Kusch, Alejandra Pizarnik, Nancy Holt, Lygia Clark, and Clarice Lispector -- teach us to feel the ground on which we stand as an earth that quakes, and this feeling implies a radical reconfiguration of our relation to the world, one which makes perception, language, art, and world otherwise. Against an aesthetics of representation, predicated on a regime of pleasurable feeling and form which neutralizes the world into an empty space filled with objects, and which I argue lingers as the hegemonic framework for the study of American literature, they offer an understanding art and literature as an embodied engagement with the weight of a world that presses in and pulls down. I call this feeling an aeisthesis of ground and offer it as a way to rethink the ethics of our relation to the world. From this trembling ground, these artists and writers struggle to make the world and our relation to it otherwise. In so doing, they contribute to the project of decolonizing the aesthetic imaginary of the Americas. They propose a different point of departure for the study of American literature, one which allows us to cultivate unlikely lines of kinship between authors and texts on both sides of the Rio Grande. Engaging the work of these authors and artists contributes to current work in the humanities which has turned to aesthetics as a way to rethink our human relation to the world in the face of our global ecological crisis. It, however, also radically departs from these efforts precisely in its point of departure, remaking this relation from the more unsteady ground of American art, letters, and life that these artists help us unfold.
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