Colloquium: Mar 9th 18

Speaker: Dr. Marie-Eve Morin, University of Alberta

Title: Flesh and Écart in Maurice Merleau-Ponty et Jean-Luc Nancy

Friday, March 9th at 2:30pm CLE A303


In Corpus, Jean-Luc Nancy is critical of the phenomenologies of the lived body because of the way in which they conceive of my self-sensing body in terms of propriety and unity. In this talk, I want to see whether this criticism still applies to Merleau-Ponty’s later ontology of the flesh. In the first section, I follow some of Merleau-Ponty’s discussions of the flesh and the chiasm in The Visible and the Invisible—focusing on passages where Merleau-Ponty speaks of my flesh as a coiling over of the self, as a divergence (écart), and of the two leaves of my body and the hiatus between them—to see whether they allow us to reconceive the embodied self as radically opened or exposed. In the second section, I show that even though here Merleau-Ponty is very close to Nancy (who also speaks of écart), Merleau-Ponty does not conceive of the dehiscence of the flesh that is my body as an ontological cut or void, but rather as a hiatus that is already “spanned by the total being of my body, and by that of the world”. Nancy would likely argue that we find here the same return to a primary interiority as in Merleau-Ponty’s early works. At the same time, this allows Merleau-Ponty to speak of an encroachment or overlapping between my body touching and my body touched, as well as between my body and the world, so that “the things pass into us as well as we into the things”. I conclude by suggesting that this “promiscuity” is a strength of Merleau-Ponty’s account insofar as it speaks of the flesh as the movement of desire.