Literature of uplift

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Literary uplift has tended to be associated with the sentimental view of literature as a resource of amelioration, consolation, or introspective repair. But contemporary writers are facilitating a somewhat different critical story about emotional stakes, formal variety, and political implications of literature that both conjures and contests uplift. Moving from fiction to memoir, from “Up Lit” to pathography, this chapter examines a range of twenty-first-century genres that repurpose the representation of ameliorative structures of feeling and that compel in turn a reconsideration of how professional criticism might accommodate affirmative affects. However, what would it mean to read for uplift in a literary work that is itself dark, a work that’s more ostensibly concerned with irremediable catastrophe than exemplary care, and whose devastating traumas would appear not only to solicit but to ratify negativity as criticism’s most condonable focus, thereby confirming D. J. Moores’s suspicion that “the concern for well-being manifests” in literary scholarship invariably “as a preoccupation with its absence”? Opting for something of a limit-case for this metacritical deliberation, the chapter considers Rebecca Loncraine’s Skybound, a posthumous 2018 memoir about her attempt to navigate the aftermath of breast cancer through an impulsive desire to learn how to fly gliders. What Loncraine shares with the otherwise distinct writers in this chapter is a concern with an aesthetic ecology of fraught amelioration, one that produces episodes of sentimental recess that refuse to slot into the parameters of what criticism typically finds politically useful when operating within the remits of eagle-eyed inquisition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterary Studies and Human Flourishing
EditorsJames F. English, Heather Love
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780197637265, 9780197637258 (epub)
ISBN (Print)9780197637227, 9780197637234
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2023

Publication series

NameThe Humanities and Human Flourishing
PublisherOxford University Press


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