Continental Philosophy | English Language and Literature


Merleau-Ponty’s Poets and Poetics offers detailed studies of the philosopher’s engagements with Proust, Claudel, Claude Simon, André Breton, Mallarmé, Francis Ponge, and more. From Proust, Merleau-Ponty developed his conception of “sensible ideas,” from Claudel, his conjoining of birth and knowledge as “co-naissance,” from Valéry came “implex” or the “animal of words” and the “chiasma of two destinies.” Thus also arise the questions of expression, metaphor, and truth and the meaning of a Merleau-Pontyan poetics. The poetic of Merleau-Ponty is, inseparably, a poetic of the flesh, a poetic of mystery, and a poetic of the visible in its relation to the invisible. This poetics is worked out across each co-author’s chapters in dialogue with Husserl, Walter Benjamin, Heidegger, and Sartre. A new optic proposes the conception of literature as a visual “apparatus” in relation to cinema and screens. Recent transcriptions of Merleau-Ponty’s first two 1953 courses at the Collège de France The Sensible World and the World of Expression and Research on the Literary Usage of Language, as well as the course of 1953-54, The Problem of Speech, lend timeliness, urgency and energy to this project. Our goal is to specify more precisely the delicate nature and properly philosophical function of literary works in Merleau-Ponty’s thought as the literary writer becomes a partner of the phenomenologist. Ultimately, theoretical figures or “figuratives” that appear at the threshold between philosophy and literature enable the possibility of a new ontology. What is at stake is the very meaning of philosophy itself and its mode of expression.



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