Towards a Grotesque Phenomenology of Ethical Eroticism

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Over the course of this article, the author argues that ethics and the erotic are interrelated. The author also contends that the way subjectivities are constructed has a strong impact on the development of the ethical and the erotic character of these same subjectivities. Against this backdrop, the author postulates that envisioning or creating oneself as a grotesque subject promises to facilitate one's own development into a moral and erotic human being by triggering a process of inner estrangement that enables one to recognize the otherness within oneself. This analysis is based mainly on Mikhail Bakhtin's grotesque as presented in his Rabelais and His World (1965). This self-introspection serves as the basis for an ethical eroticism through which one shall transform oneself into a fully fledged moral and sensual subject. In formulating this argument, the author draws on Simone de Beauvoir's own attempt to link the erotic to the ethical. As will be seen, the same principle that stands at the heart of a phenomenological ethics also steers the author's phenomenological conception of the erotic. The principle in question is carnal intersubjectivity-bodies that penetrate one another and merge, yet never lose themselves in the other's carnality. Put differently, they remain non-objectified subjects. The grotesque subject is presented as a figuration that helps shed light on the way the subject has been conceived by, above all, phenomenological and postmodern theorists. The author then explores some of the ethical ramifications of this conceptualization. Drawing on these insights, the author fashions an ethical eroticism that derives from a grotesque subjectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Bakhtin
  • Sade
  • de Beauvoir
  • embodiment
  • eroticism
  • ethics
  • grotesque
  • phenomenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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