Volume 21, 2019
Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language
Stephen H. Watson
Proust’s Disenchantments, the “Repoetization” of Experience, and the Lineaments of the Visible
This paper investigates the role of literature and, in particular, Proust in Merleau-Ponty’s late works’ rehabilitation of the ontology of the sensible. First, I trace Proust’s role in Phenomenology of Percpetion, contrasting it with the somewhat more paradigmatic status as a model it plays in the late works. Second, I compare this with the role of the novel as partial myth in Schelling, who also played an essential role in Merleau-Ponty’s refiguration of the sensible. I briefly trace his examination of the historical or “sociological meaning” of literature through works of the fifties, beginning with his Collège de France candidacy proposal and continuing through his examination of the rationality of modern disenchantment (Entzauberung) or dépoétization in the Adventures of the Dialectic. Finally, discussing the late analysis of Proust against this backdrop, I conclude with considerations concerning the relevance of Merleau-Ponty’s overall analysis of Proust both in his thought and contemporary literary criticism and philosophy more generally.