SINGING THE BODY ELECTRIC:
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Literary Language & the Theatre
Singing the Body Electric: Merleau-Ponty, Literary Language and Theatre offers readers a rendering of the relationship between the writer and the philosopher not as one of enemies, members of opposing and warring camps since time immemorial, but rather as accomplices, comrades in proverbial arms engaged in carrying out a common undertaking. “From now on,” writes Merleau-Ponty, in his “Metaphysics and the Novel,” “the tasks of literature and philosophy can no longer be separated.” This essay intends to reveal to the the reader how the aforementioned declaration ought not to be read as hyperbole but rather as an insightful and rigorous reorientation of the relationship between philosophy and literature.
Moreover, this essay will be the first to offer a robust Merleau-Pontian phenomenology of the theater, thereby extending and introducing his work on literary language into the realm of the dramatic arts, an aesthetic domain about which Merelau-Ponty wrote little. And yet, given his career-long commitment to thinking through and illuminating the embodied and gestural origins and dimensions of language, the miracles of perception, the paradoxes of expression and the linguistically transformative powers of literary language, theater (in both its textual and performative dimensions) presents itself as the ideal art form for a Merleau-Pontian interrogation and appreciation. Thus, while offering a comprehensive presentation of the themes central to Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of literary language, this dissertation will also work towards expanding Merleau-Ponty’s reach in the field of philosophical aesthetics.