That which "has no name in philosophy": Merleau-Ponty and the language of literature

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In this paper I address some related aspects of Merleau-Ponty's unfinished texts, The Visible and the Invisible and The Prose of the World. The point of departure for my reading of these works is the sense of philosophical disillusionment which underlies and motivates them, and which, I argue, leads Merleau-Ponty towards an engagement with art in general and with literature in particular. I suggest that Merleau-Ponty's emerging conception of ethics-premised on the paradox of a "universal singularity" and concerned with the concrete experience of the individual subject, rather than with abstractions and formal categories-can best be articulated through the formalist concept of "defamiliarization," the fundamental performativity of all literature, and the dialogic relations which, though inherent in all discourse, become most powerfully evident in the dynamics of reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-409
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Chiasm
  • Defamiliarization
  • Ethics
  • Flesh
  • Literariness
  • Perception
  • Performativity
  • Phenomenology
  • Speech
  • Subjectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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