Dylan Trigg

"Bachelard and the Sublime Atmosphere of Nostalgia"

Friday, December 15 // 16.45h // JGU Fakultätssaal Philosophicum


This paper considers the relation between nostalgia and sublimation through the figure of Gaston Bachelard and the American artist, Joel Sternfeld. In the thought of Bachelard, time is subjected to a process of sublimation, such that past ceases to be inactive and instead becomes the ground of perceptual experience more broadly. Nostalgia is one such affective state which is central to Bachelard and which presents us with a vivid sense of how pastness is manifest in and through the present rather than being consigned to an archive. Yet Bachelard’s account of time as an “epiphanic instant” does not entirely capture the way temporal sublimation often entails an incomplete transformation, in the process producing a series of fragments that resist incorporation into the present. To explore these tensions, I consider the work of the American photographer, Joel Sternfeld, focusing especially on his American Prospects series from 1979. In doing so, I argue that an atmospheric approach to nostalgia and sublimation allows us to grasp the manifold ways in which past and present join and disjoin in the same measure.

Dylan Trigg is an FWF Lise Meitner Senior Fellow at University of Vienna, Department of Philosophy. He has previously held research and teaching positions at the University of Memphis, University College Dublin, and Husserl Archives, École Normale Supérieure. He earned is PhD at the University of Sussex (2009), MA at the University of Sussex (2005), and BA at the University of London, Birkbeck College (2004). Trigg is the author of several books, including: Topophobia: a Phenomenology of Anxiety (2016); The Thing: a Phenomenology of Horror (2014); and The Memory of Place: a Phenomenology of the Uncanny (2012). With Dorothée Legrand, he is co-editor of Unconsciousness Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis (2017). Trigg’s books have been translated into French and Russian. His research concerns phenomenology and existentialism; philosophies of subjectivity and embodiment; aesthetics and philosophies of art; and philosophies of space and place. He is currently working on two projects: on one the issues of atmospheric anxiety and another on the aesthetics of nostalgia.