The Aesthetics and Politics of Elemental Agency

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


The elements and the elemental have emerged as increasingly productive concepts at the intersection of media theory, ecocriticism, and environmental philosophy. The article builds on this scholarship to discuss the potentials of an elemental approach in literary and cultural studies. Against the backdrop of the climate crisis, it outlines the stakes of an elemental aesthetics capable of interrelating modes of sensory, epistemological, and artistic mediation of ecological relations. As a signifier of animated environments, specific material substances, figurative notions of place, and enabling infrastructures, the elements are key for understanding agency as always already compositional, situated, and distributed. Exploring methodologies of elemental analysis with a focus on American literature and culture, the article concludes by illustrating how an aesthetically grounded conceptualization of agency as elemental is particularly useful for addressing the politics of exposure, emplacement, and extraction in the Anthropocene.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages20
JournalZeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik : ZAA ; a quarterly of language, literature and culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2022

External IDs

Scopus 85127913956
WOS 000822762300002
ORCID /0000-0002-2612-5456/work/142250930


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • Aesthetics, Agency, Cultural studies, Ecocriticism, Elemental philosophy, Elements, Environmental humanities, Infrastructures, Literary studies