However, I'm also suspicious, particularly of [Morton's] reading of Longinus and the sublime. I'm just not sure this maps onto OOO very well, at least not without some poetic work on our parts to endow objects with intuitions and the possibility of being surprised or thrown out of synch. For Longinus, the sublime really boils down to language and taste
Tim Morton's essay "Sublime Objects" identifies two forms of the sublime that don't work for OOO and one that does (Morton also discuss object-oriented rhetoric there, but I don't want to get into that just yet).
Of the two dominant theories of the sublime, we have a choice between authority and freedom, between exteriority and interiority. Both choices are correlationist. That is, both theories of the sublime have to do with human subjective access to objects.In this regard, Morton speaks to Scot's uneasiness with the idea of the sublime. Morton continues:
Both sublimes [the Burkean and Kantian] assume that: (1) the world is specially or uniquely accessible to humans; (2) the sublime uniquely correlates the world to humans; and (3) what’s important about the sublime is a reaction in the subject. (217)This is a sublime that is all about what objects mean for us and not what they might be in and of themselves (or for other objects). The sublime as it works here is uniquely human and it's reactionary. What OOO requires of the sublime is a little less of both. A little later, Morton writes
What we require is an aesthetic experience of coexisting with 1+n other entities, living or nonliving. What speculative realism needs would be a sublime that grants a kind of intimacy with real entities. (219)
|Google Earth Building Maker for Saint Louis Arch. |
Morton argues that Google Earth counts as Longinian sublime:
"it transports us to real places" (227).
The building maker function within Google Earth is perhaps carpentry of the sublime.
But all of this isn't exactly an answer to all of Scot's question, which was also concerned with Morton's reading of Longinus. The timing of Scot's question is actually quite nice. Jim Brown will shortly be presenting at The Nonhuman Turn Conference, which looks amazing. The subject of his talk is rhetorical carpentry, and it begins with an explicit misreading of Thomas Farrell's definition of rhetoric in his essay "Sizing Things Up: Colloquial Rhetoric as Practical Wisdom": "Rhetoric is the art, the fine and useful art, of making things matter." We can easily imagine what Jim, and by extension object-oriented rhetoric, could do with this definition, which is not at all what Farrell does or would even want to do with this definition. As I was reading Jim's paper, I immediately thought of what Harman does with Heidegger: he deliberate mis-reads him, or at least reads Heidegger against Heidegger's own grain. I am wondering if we could grant much the same to Morton (I must admit I am not familiar enough with Longinus to assess Morton's reading of him): that is, could we see Morton's reading of Longinus as a productive mis-read?
And from there, we could go on to argue that mis-reading may very well be a key component of OOO, OOR, and carpentry. Farrell's definition of rhetoric, Heidegger's analysis of tool-being, and Longinus's sublime are all objects that most assuredly withdrawal from their authors as well as their readers. We are only ever working with their exhaust. Getting intimate with these definitions as objects that withdraw from us as objects might teach us valuable lessons about the withdrawnness of objects generally. For example, this kind of mis-reading might very well sync with Bennett's recommendation in "The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter": "I have also suggested that a playful, naive stance toward nonhuman things is a way for us to render more manifest a fugitive dimension of experience" (366). OOO's methods must bear some resemblance to it's lessons.