“A New Persistent Cough”: The Coronavirus, Hyperobjects, and the Pandemic Aesthetic

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


The scale of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact is difficult to conceptualize, however tools do exist to frame this hugely disruptive global crisis – aesthetically, if not medically – and to determine how creative practitioners can best respond to it. One of these tools is the near science fictional concept of hyperobjects introduced by Timothy Morton to refer to “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” (Morton 2013). Viewed through Morton’s lens, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 offers a real-time model of how our society responds to hyperobjects. This article takes that as a starting point to examine how our present viral reality converges with science fictional narratives, language, and imagery, and in the process responds to recent calls for a way of “thinking with and through the pandemic” (Banerjee and Vint 2020). The manner by which SARS-CoV-2 satisfies the definition of a hyperobject is explored in detail and is then used to argue for science fiction as ‘the pandemic aesthetic," a necessary imaginative inoculation for contemporary writers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Specialist publicationsymplokē
PublisherUniversity of Nebraska Press
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Covid-19
  • Coronavirus
  • hyperobjects
  • Science Fiction
  • Contemporary Literature


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