The Poetics of Phenomenology

Date: 3rd - 5th December 2020 (Thursday - Saturday)

The University of Tübingen

Guest Speakers

Hayden Kee (University of Windsor)

Glen Mazis (Penn State Harrisburg)

Kristina Mendicino (Brown University)

Michael O'Sullivan (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Veronika Reichl (Scholar and Artist)

Christoph Reinfandt (University of Tübingen)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in his working notes of The Visible and The Invisible, proposes that both philosophy and literature deploy the creative use of language to express human existence: “philosophy as supreme art: for art and philosophy together are […] contact with Being precisely as creations. Being is what requires creation of us for us to experience it” (p. 197, emphases original). Heidegger, a votary of Hölderlin, writes, “Poetry is what first brings man onto the earth, making him belong to it, thus brings him into dwelling” (Poetry, Language, and Thought, p. 216). With regard to this shared concern of philosophy and literature about existence, the workshop “The Poetics of Phenomenology” aims to create a dialogue between scholars from both disciplines. While literary scholars are not unfamiliar with deconstruction and reader-response theories, which have their roots in phenomenology, philosophy, as Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger point out, also has its own literariness. The workshop therefore not only proposes the application of phenomenological concepts to textual analysis but also suggests an understanding of phenomenology and literature in light of each other by considering two main aspects: phenomenology as a practice in literary studies and reading phenomenology as a literary practice.

This workshop intends to create a more in-depth conversation between researchers informed about both phenomenology and literature. While disciplinary conferences are good occasions to exchange ideas and promote recent research, an interdisciplinary dialogue calls for the awareness of the methodologies of both disciplines. In order to elicit more constructive feedback and suggestion, this workshop is targeted at an audience that is interested in the phenomenological tradition and concepts such as “the transcendental subject,” “phenomenological reduction,” “intentionality,” and “embodiment”. While the influence of phenomenology is present in literary theories, a return to their tradition can help grasp the essential philosophical concerns from which the theories derive. In doing so, literary studies can go beyond the interpretation of individual texts and delve into ontological questions about human existence, aesthetic experience, language, and intersubjectivity. On the other hand, poets have inspired philosophers, such as Hölderlin teaching Heidegger Dasein, and Mallarmé demonstrating to Merleau-Ponty the silence in expression. Husserl, in explaining eidetic clarification, also suggests that “Extraordinary profit can be drawn from the offerings of history, in even more abundant measure from those of art, and especially poetry” (Ideas I, §70). For philosophers practicing phenomenology, it is therefore also important to take Husserl’s motto “back to the things themselves” (zurück zu den Sachen selbst) as a cue to return to poetry to understand the poetical thinking in philosophy.


David Lo, PhD Candidate, The Department of English, The University of Tübingen,

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Baden- Württemberg Ministry of Science as part of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments