Ligon's Hands; or, querying Frank's Sublime


Jason Frank’s The Democratic Sublime (2021) is a fascinating and compelling account of the aesthetic-political stakes of popular sovereignty and manifestation as it emerges in the age of democratic revolutions. Frank shows us how, in the age of democratic revolutions, the staging of the People was equally – indeed, more fundamentally – an aesthetic problem. It is a question always of appearance, manifestation and demonstration. The Sublime is central to Frank’s argument for precisely this reason. It becomes the aesthetic category par excellence to mark the experience of that which is excessive to all sensuous apprehension but is nonetheless rendered sensually. The democratic sublime, more directly, marks the aporetic moment constitutive of popular manifestation. Yet, as much as these Sublime aporias are developed in the direction of a productive tension in Frank’s account, they also mark a process or operation that – as decolonial critiques have shown – grounds a whole orchestration of bodies. The sublime is that category by which and in which such an elemental differentiation is at work. Sublime experience is that operation in which the boundaries of subject and object, body and flesh, sense and sentience – in a word a boundary of the proper – are first instituted. The very aporias in which Frank wants to locate the appearance of a radical excess, of the part of no part, are those in which that supplement is tamed and brought to its knees, dominated and captured. And it isn’t clear how far a democratic augment to the Sublime can move us away from this colonial-anthropologising operation. Which is to say, holding open that aporetic terrain between representation and impossibility, resisting identification, subjectivation and recognition appears to be already and constitutively a differentiation of the proper subject and its others.<br/

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    Southampton (e-Prints Soton)

    Last time updated on 06/11/2023

    This paper was published in Southampton (e-Prints Soton).

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