Lin Atnip

Lin Atnip 150 150 Tom Carlson
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Postdoctoral Scholar, Santa Barbara



Lin Atnip

In my work, I theorize and demonstrate how reading and reflecting on modern literature (and other forms of art) can educate us to the modern conditions of human life. In my dissertation I adapted Michael Polanyi’s theory of the essential role of tacit and “personal” knowledge in scientific discovery to argue that literature evokes and challenges our own tacit intimations of these conditions, which are not just empirical and material but normative, narrative, and historically changing. I outlined a Polanyian practice of reading aimed at grasping these conditions and performed this kind of reading with works by Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens, Norman Maclean, and Cormac McCarthy—works which in their literary forms reflect and confront the “apocalyptic sublime,” the sense that human history is driven not toward a human end but toward inhumanity and destruction. At the same time, they refer us to a radically different ground of intelligibility, which suggests the need for what might be called an ethics of consciousness. Currently I am continuing to work out the Polanyian theory and practice of reading, as well as developing the idea of the modern apocalyptic mode in relation to the current ecological crisis; my project includes works that directly treat global warming and other existential threats, as well as earlier works like Moby-Dick which show an emergent apocalyptic consciousness.

I received my Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 2019; I also completed the Master’s Program in the Social Sciences at Chicago where I wrote my thesis on the role of culture in the Frankfurt School’s and Habermas’s critiques of modernity.


“The Ambivalence of Nature: Moby-Dick and the Naturalistic Sublime.” Literary Imagination, under review.

“From ‘Meaning’ to Reality: Toward a Polanyian Cognitive Theory of Literature.” Forthcoming in Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Journal, Feb. 2020.

“Review: Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique.” Tradition and Discovery: The Polanyi Society Journal, Feb. 2019.

“Anselm Kiefer and the Reality of Myth.” The Point, Nov/Dec 2017.