In many areas of common discourse, the word “sublime” has become as vacuous as “awesome.” Yet, unlike the latter word, “sublime” carries with it significant meaning not only as an aspect of aesthetics in general but also as a characteristic of engagement with the natural world. It has a long intellectual history as a theoretical construct, and various contemporary environmental literary critics, such as Christopher Hitt and Timothy Morton, have sought to revise it to signify a particular kind of reverence for intense embodied experience. Yet this alleged universal quality of experiencing natural beauty has had a strong masculinist bias. Such a bias works against incorporating the sublime into any ecological ethic that hopes to be egalitarian and ecocentric. That limitation raises questions about its usefulness for a progressive environmental rhetoric.

Its use in Western European aesthetics and literary theory, and more recently in postcolonial analyses (e.g., DeLoughrey and Handley …

This essay may be found on page 183 of the printed volume.

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