The Epic Mode and Territory

This is a question I received that I can’t answer – anyone reading this have a sense of whether this has been done, is possible, or plausible? The request comes from Joel Gladd ( but do please reply through comments. The initial request said:

I gathered – from the posts on The Birth of Territory – that you would know of an explicit connection between the traditional epic mode (e.g., as articulated by Hegel in his Lectures on Aesthetics) and techniques of territoriality.

When I confessed I didn’t know, I asked for a further elaboration before posting here:

My dissertation chapters are structured around historical novels in the American Naturalist tradition (roughly, 1890s-1920s).  Part of the conceptual labor involves a genealogy of the American historical novel, and the historical novel more generally.  Lukács famously appropriates Hegel’s dialectical reading of the epic mode (e.g., from the collected Lectures on Aesthetics, Vol. II of the Harris translation) for his Marxist interpretation of the historical novel, but I prefer to borrow from Hegel more directly, rather than through the Frankfurt School.  
The recent Lefebvre- & Foucault-inspired understanding of territoriality in Geography Studies (rigorously delimited by you) seems to provide some of the concepts for handling a Hegelian reading of the epic mode and its genealogical link with the historical novel, esp. in how Hegel connects a centered national consciousness with a specific area carved out of Nature.  In fact this seems so obvious that I assume there must be something already published that specifically links ‘territoriality’ with the epic mode.  This is somewhat outside of my field, however, and I was hoping you might have suggestions for where to look?    
You may include my name & email if this request is posted.  
This entry was posted in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Territory, The Birth of Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Epic Mode and Territory

  1. deanbond says:

    Dear Joel (and whoever else is reading),

    I’m working through the connections between Hegel’s understanding of history and geography right now. However, I haven’t thought about how ‘techniques of territoriality’ fit into this story, since, as far as I know, Hegel doesn’t explicitly talk about “territory” or “territoriality” in the material I’m looking at (i.e. the _Lectures on the philosophy of history_ and the _Philosophy of right_). Thus far, I’m finding that the links between history, geography and “Nature” are not really straightforward, so I would be hesitant to introduce something like ‘techniques of territoriality’ into the discussion. I haven’t been working with the lectures on aesthetics, but I’ll take a look now that you have posed this question.

    • Joel says:

      thank you for the reply, Dean: If you find any useful connections between your other Hegel research and his Lectures on Aesthetics, I would certainly appreciate an update.

    • Joel says:

      Additional context: by ‘techniques of territoriality’ I have in mind Hegel’s dialectical analysis of a nation’s early consciousness insofar as it involves both a negative relation to Nature and another People; though perhaps this isn’t rigorous enough to compare with Elden’s deployment. In any case the connection I’m making with the epic mode is how art functions as a supplement to those nation-building techniques: the artist molds multiple cultural origins into a single narrative that is in turn situated on terra firma, including rich particularity (food habits, dwelling materials, etc.). For Hegel, art tends to play a mediating role, and the epic mode seems to provide the symbols necessary for suturing the national consciousness.

  2. stuartelden says:

    thanks Dean – this is helpful. It is notable just how few of the key theorists of the tradition use the term ‘territory’. That said, by Hegel’s time the term was much more common, so that it isn’t in the Philosophy of Right is, in a sense, quite surprising. Territoriality – as the active sense of behaviour in, or shaping, territory; as opposed to the older sense of the condition of territory – postdates Hegel, so that is less surprising.

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