Affective frames and intra-relational finites in Jorie Graham’s Sea Change

Dean Brink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article brings into conversation a Badiouian ethics and Karen Barad’s post-phenomenological relationality of “intra-actions” among the human and nonhuman so as to situate the environmentally and politically engaged poetry included in Jorie Graham’s Sea Change. Criticism has avoided exploring the interplay between stylistic choices and political dimensions in her poetry, which includes engagements with pressing environmental issues today (global warming, rising seas, and chaotic weather), preemptive wars, and questions of plausible poetic agency itself. Foregrounding a material dimension while still maintaining a sense of responsibility, this essay highlights Alain Badiou’s use of poetic configurations as “subjects” engaging in ethical world-recognitions that help situate an important underlying posthuman ethos evident in Graham’s poetry. Barad, in a discourse with roots in quantum physics, argues that we must rethink representation from an entirely different phenomenology of intra-actions, beginning with relations, not objects or Cartesian selves. Thus both Badiou and Barad, in radically different but complementary ways, situate ontological finites—poems and sites of intra-action—as means of overcoming Derridean différance, which remains one formal cornerstone of postmodern displacement evident in American mass media’s post-truth equalization of all positions without situating possibilities of coherent analysis or engagement. In conversation with the work of Judith Butler as well as Badiou and Barad, this essay intends to make a small contribution to feminist posthumanism and politics, and expand our sense of ethical and affective engagement in New Materialist criticism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-388
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Alain Badiou
  • Contemporary American poetry
  • Ecofeminism
  • Ecopoetics
  • Jorie Graham
  • Judith Butler
  • Karen Barad
  • Media affect
  • War in poetry

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