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Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime

, 192 pages
May 2012


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Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime

In the past ten years, theorists from Elaine Scarry to Roger Scruton have devoted renewed attention to the aesthetic of beauty. Part of their discussions claim that beauty—because it arises from a sense of proportion, symmetry, or reciprocity—provides a model for justice. Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime makes a significant departure from this mode of thinking.

Mark Canuel argues that the emphasis on beauty unwittingly reinforces, in the name of justice, the constraints of uniformity and conventionality. He calls for a more flexible and inclusive connection between aesthetics and justice, one founded on the Kantian concept of the sublime. The sublime captures the roles that asymmetry, complaint, and disagreement play in a complete understanding of a just society—a point, the author maintains, that was appreciated by a number of Romantic writers, including Mary Shelley.

Canuel draws interesting connections between the debate about beauty and justice and issues in cosmopolitanism, queer theory, and animal studies.

Mark Canuel is professor and the head of the English department at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of The Shadow of Death: Romanticism, Literature, and the Subject of Punishment.

" Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime sits at the intersection of literary studies and political theory. This alone makes it an important contribution to several interrelated discussions. This book makes a powerful argument for the importance of Romanticism in contemporary thinking."

"Articulated by a careful, sensitive, and provocative writer, this critique is refreshing and valuable."

" Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime remains instructive in its portrayal of the various ways that theories inevitably relapse back into what they attempt to undo. In addition, interspersed throughout the chapters, Canuel offers convincing and powerful readings of major romantic texts."

"Mark Canuel's provocative, lucid, and intelligent Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime challenges the dominant critical trend in the discourse of the sublime."

"Subtly written, thought-provoking."

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