Phenomenology of the Body

Edmund Husserl

Don Hanlon Johnson, Ph.D., e-mail, 575-6237; SOM 6709, Winter/Spring 2011; T 11:45-2:45. This course is designed to be suitable for doctoral students as well as masters level.

current update: May 12, 2010

In this seminar, we will study and ourselves develop the heritage of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty who made clear the crucial importance—personally and socially—of a turn towards direct bodily experience. We will take seriously the primal invitation offered by Edmund Husserl in the face of the impending tragedies of the 20th Century "to return to the things themselves;" in our case to "the experienced body." For textual underpinnings for our investigations, we will examine selected texts from Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and use the work of these contemporary scholars, who have devoted their lives both to intellectual and experiential studies:

The work of these scholars is a powerful adjunct to the various practical methods of investigating body experience: martial arts, somatics, meditation practices. Together, these theoretical and practical works form a powerful corrective to the anti-body and anti-cosmos forces that are ravaging the planet.

Each of you will be asked to engage in your own phenomenological investigations, taking cues from the readings in relation to areas of particular interest to you, converging upon some theme. The periodic and final papers will be accounts of those experiments and your provisional conclusions. Please note that the course will be largely a series of seminars discussing dense reading material, requiring a great deal of self-initiated study to understand this difficult material and ferret out its experiential applicability to your own interests.

Other Resources

Embodiment website

Subjectivity Research Center, Denmark

Journal of Practical Phenomenology

Phenomenology Online

Course Objectives

  1. A familiarity with a range of strategies for accessing realms of direct experience of reality sedimented within mental, social, cultural, and emotional layers.
  2. How to use these strategies to enhance one's professional life as a teacher, therapist, scholar, etc.
  3. An introductory familiarity with the living tradition of phenomenology.
  4. How to write textured communicative intellectual investigations, grounded in immediate experience in keeping with the spirit of getting back to the things themselves, that illuminate a theme of special importance to you.

Criteria for Evaluation

  1. Quality of participation in weekly seminars, 20%
  2. Papers during the course, 50%
  3. Qualilty of final seminar presentation, 30%

    The final seminar will be based on your sharing with the class the results of your experiential investigations of a realm of personal importance—e.g., an illness or chronic difficulty; a specific bodily practice of meditation, martial arts, sport, dance, yoga, etc.; the intricacies of love and sex, etc.

Teaching/Learning Modalities

  1. Lecture 20%
  2. Experiential 20%
  3. Seminar, discussion 60%

Class Schedule

to be posted in December

Final Projects:

Towards a Phenomenology of the Body,
with special emphasis on….
with reference to….

Examples of possible ….s: