Writing in the “second person plural”: Ben Lerner, ambient esthetics, and problems of scale

Ivry, H. (2021) Writing in the “second person plural”: Ben Lerner, ambient esthetics, and problems of scale. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 62(2), pp. 123-136. (doi: 10.1080/00111619.2020.1787321)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


In this paper, I examine the way that Ben Lerner confronts what I describe as the Anthropocene’s problematic of scale. While the use of “scale” has become commonplace in recent environmental criticism, what scale actually means in terms of literary critique has been less clear. This article looks at three different ways that scale has been taken up by recent environmental critique, as a spatial, temporal, and esthetic term. I then argue that Ben Lerner’s novels approach these three different valences of scale through the use of ambience, creating texts that are able to move across scales. It isn’t that Lerner’s work prioritizes any one scale, whether that is geologic or esthetic. Lerner’s ambient writing, in effect, is able to understand how the large and the small work together co-constitutionally to create a literature for the Anthropocene.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ivry, Dr Henry
Authors: Ivry, H.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1939-9138
Published Online:02 July 2020

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record