The key issue, to me, is how these critics position the “aesthetic.”  Ferguson does a strange (fascinating) little dance around Kant and Burke.  The gist of it seems to be that Burke links “objects” and “mental objects” in a way that subverts his empiricist approach.  I feel slightly familiar with these terms thanks to Rei Terada’s Looking Away.  It’s not clear to me whether FF sees deconstruction (remember this was written in the early 90s) as a variety of phenomenology – and how that might clash with ’empiricism’.  I’m vaguely familiar with Deleuze’s critique of phenomenology – but I take him to be quite pro-empiricism. 

(If memory serves me, what Deleuze objected to in phenomenology is the notion of intention – or that objects have a meaning for the observer – a notion that doesn’t jar with ‘immanence’ because it presumes a transcendent consciousness somehow unitary and a priori).

For FF, Burke falls much closer to deconstruction than one might guess, because both complicate the difference between mental objects and objects.  (Does this make Burke a proto-phenomenologist?) FF thinks Kant’s ‘formalism’ saves the day, because it insists on formal categories.  (?)  Burke’s explanation of the sublime is that it is an experience of sensory overload that threatens to annihilate subjectivity – and on that basis makes one sense one’s subjectivity, or one’s isolate existence.  Kant’s explanation of the sublime is that it exceeds sensation (because it exceeds ‘image-ination’), facing us starkly with the gap between sensation and ideation, such that we grasp the pure fact (the autonomy?) of ideation.

FF seems highly skeptical of the immediacy of sensation.  She argues that one view (the Burkean view?) places too much emphasis on ‘affect’ – and seems to offer a cure for that.  I need to pinpoint how she defines affect.  

This emphasis on mediation is also pronounced in Jackson and Goodman.  For instance, Goodman writes: “But I would like to dilate and give a literary prehistory to the insight, lurking in the formulations of Williams, Liu, Jameson, as well as Simpson, that some sort of affect or cognitive dissonance registers those unfixed elements of history that elude or exceed the Lockean idea… however, I will study those affects, not as they emerge from some kind of immediate contact with the real (that infamous ‘lived experience’ that Williams was suspected of harboring a nostalgia for), but rather as they are produced in selected long poems of the later eighteenth century and Romantic periods when their verses compete and clash with rival media, or pathways of perception and communication” (Goodman 8). 

I take her to mean that these affects or cognitive dissonances were discomforts produced in actual, material, historical tensions – the tensions produced by competing media.

I still have to zero in on why these various critics prioritize the ‘aesthetic’.