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Sublime Transactions. The Gestures of Poetry and Criticism with Anne Carson, the Scholar-Poet


  • Edda Ahrent

Summary, in Swedish

The 20th century, as well as the 21st, is ripe with hermeneutic anxiety concerning the survival of the object of interpretation and the right way to study literature. In this thesis, the Canadian scholar-poet Anne Carson is studied as a framework to an understanding of how poetry and literary criticism – the event of hermeneutics – co-occur, converge, and diverge. Specifically, it studies Carson’s poetic and essayistic work, with specific focus on Plainwater (1995), Economy of the Unlost (1999), The Beauty of the Husband (2002) and Decreation (2005). Split in three sections, titled ”Survival”, ”Resurrection”, and ”Vitality” it suggests a chronology of the poem and the interpreter which is based not on temporal trajectory but on a continuum of the sublime wherein affect is key. Criticism, it concludes, is inherently poetic and affective while poetry has the capacity of establishing and transferring knowledge.

Under ”Survival”, this thesis establishes the affective nature of both poetry and literary criticism with the help of Julia Kristeva’s Intertextuality, Stephen Greenblatt’s New Historicism, and Brian Massumi’s theories on play. ”Resurrection” performs close readings of several of Carson’s texts in order to investigate the complex relationship between interpreter and object of interpretation, revealing it to be ripe with anxiety, impossibly subjective, and acutely necessary. Further, it discusses problems of truth and knowledge, as well as the nature of the connection between words and the thing in itself. Finally, ”Vitality” offers a reading of the continuum of poetry and criticism as centered on vitality, as well as reads it according to the rules of a gift-economy in which the deadly stroke of an interpretive dagger is transformed into a mutual cut resulting in profit.


  • Master's Programme: Literature - Culture - Media

Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Anne Carson
  • hermeneutics
  • Massumi
  • Kristeva
  • Greenblatt
  • literary criticism
  • poetry
  • affect
  • play
  • intertextuality


  • Daniel Möller