Volume 21, 2019
Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language
William D. Adams
A Sense of Place
Cézanne and Merleau-Ponty in Le Tholonet
Merleau-Ponty spent the summer of 1960 in the small French village of Le Tholonet writing Eye and Mind. His choice of location was no accident. Le Tholonet was the physical and emotional epicenter of Paul Cezanne’s late painting, the ultimate proving ground of his relentless quest to reveal the truth of landscape in art.
It makes perfect sense that Merleau-Ponty wrote Eye and Mind in Le Tholonet. The essay is a philosophical meditation on vision and painting. But it also is a meditation on place, in the deeply saturated sense that encompasses the landscape, its natural and human history, and the history of the painter who brought this part of Provence to universal visibility in his art. Le Tholonet is the terroir of Eye and Mind, the site and soil of this final, extraordinary expression of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking.