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Litteratur och erfarenhet i Merleau-Pontys läsning av Proust, Valéry och Stendhal / Literature and experience in Merleau-Ponty's reading of Proust, Valéry and Stendhal

  • Andén, Lovisa
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2017
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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The aim of this thesis is to explore the relation between literary expression and experience in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy. The principal focus is Merleau-Ponty’s investigations into literature, in two of his first courses at Collège de France, 1953- 1954: Sur le problème de la parole (On the Problem of Speech) and Recherches sur l’usage littéraire du langage (Research on the Literary Use of Language). While the former remains unpublished, the latter was finally published in 2013. At the time of his premature death, Merleau-Ponty left thousands of pages of working notes. They were supposed to contribute to a major philosophical work, the planned title of which was Être et monde (Being and world). Merleau-Ponty had planned to undertake an extensive examination of language in the last part of the work. However, in the absence of this text, the courses on literary language afford us the possibility of sketching the direction that this research might have taken. The examination of literary language use is, for Merleau-Ponty, made possible by an understanding of language found in Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics. Merleau-Ponty’s interpretation of Saussurean linguistics anticipates the structuralist reading that was later to dominate the intellectual scene. Instead of reading the linguistics of Saussure in opposition to phenomenology, he finds in the former an ally that allows him to think Husserlian phenomenology further. In the course notes, Merleau-Ponty explores the relation between sensible experience and linguistic expressions through close readings of Proust, Valéry and Stendhal. In the writing of Marcel Proust, he finds a writer that perpetually examines his experience, searching for expressions that are capable of bringing it forth. In Stendhal’s writing, Merleau-Ponty finds a literary method that makes the world appear through the “small true facts” that describe it. Finally, in Paul Valéry’s poetic writing he finds a writer superimposing words over other words, in order to create new significations. In their literary writing he finds a capacity to seize the world anew, beyond our habitual preconceptions of it, thus bringing us closer to the experience we already perceive.

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