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Steve Tomasula’s Work of Wonder


Arguably, an aesthetic of wonder unites all of Tomasula’s work, accounting for the kind of pulsing, positive energy that animates his texts even as his subjects and themes are so often troubling or simply pessimistic. Despite the catalogue of horrors and dangers his books narrate (eugenics, violence, failures of communication), their evocation is of “a world which would seem to have been conjured up by magic and thriving on the supremacy of its distinct order, of divine origins or at least suggesting some mysterious otherness.” Tissut contextualizes Tomasula in a tradition of wonder that runs through American literature, and she argues that “while the writers of wonder deny the benefits of education and even refuse it, calling for a continued state of naivety or a return to such state, Tomasula would seem to stand closer to Rousseau, who celebrated the child’s virgin gaze as but a first step towards knowledge, a prime condition that needs to be overcome.” She thus connects him to an alternative tradition of wonder, “ranging from Plato’s Theoetetus to François Cheng’s Five Meditations on Beauty.” Wonder here has a kind of theological dimension, not one evoking a god but instead summoning an awe of the diversifying world of nature, human creation, and inquiry that Tomasula conjures on the page for his readers. For Tissut, Tomasula’s work of wonder thus creates a humanism that produces a “clearsighted vision relying on the strength of a continued faith in people despite a sometimes bitter clairvoyance. The thought-provoking aesthetics of his work are likely to arouse in readers an intense curiosity indefectibly bound to the respect of otherness, and a propensity to cultivate humility in the acute awareness of our finitude.”
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hal-03789470 , version 1 (04-10-2022)



Anne-Laure Tissut. Steve Tomasula’s Work of Wonder. David Banash. Steve Tomasula - The Art and Science of New Media Fiction, Bloomsbury, pp.273-284, 2015, 978-1-6289-2368-1. ⟨10.5040/⟩. ⟨hal-03789470⟩
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