Phenomenology of the Body
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 importancepersonally and sociallyof 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:
- Elizabeth Behnke, creator of The Study Project in the Phenomenology of the Body. Elizabeth has taken on the challenge outlined by Husserl to get back to the things themselves. She has created an extraordinary cross-over network between academic phenomenological studies and practitioners of methods that reveal various regions of bodily experience. contact.
- Eugene Gendlin, the creator of Focusing, a method for helping people remain in their own experience of a problem, question, difficulty. . ., long enough so that fresh words come as solutions, instead of rushing to ready-made, ineffective formulations.
- David Kleinberg Levin, author of a magisterial Talmudic series of texts on the profound implications of sorting through the intricacies of bodily experience: The Body's Recollection of Being; The Opening of Vision; The Listening Self.
- David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous
- Evan Thompson, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind.
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.
Subjectivity Research Center, Denmark
Journal of Practical Phenomenology
- A familiarity with a range of strategies for accessing realms of direct experience of reality sedimented within mental, social, cultural, and emotional layers.
- How to use these strategies to enhance one's professional life as a teacher, therapist, scholar, etc.
- An introductory familiarity with the living tradition of phenomenology.
- 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
- Quality of participation in weekly seminars, 20%
- Papers during the course, 50%
- 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.
- Lecture 20%
- Experiential 20%
- Seminar, discussion 60%
to be posted in December
Towards a Phenomenology of the Body,
with special emphasis on….
with reference to….
Examples of possible ….s:
- The practice of aikido, yoga, vipassana, rock-climbing
- Relation to gravity
- Relation to others: intimates vs strangers
- Eros, sensuality, sexuality
- Physical difficulties, illnesses, accidents, trauma
- World events
- Cultural displacements and disjunctions
- The basic substance of your work should embody how you have engaged the materials of this course, and all of us, in moving yourself along your journey.
- Each of you will have 30 minutes. If you are working in a team, multiply by your team members, e.g., 3 will have 90 minutes.
- The aim of your time will be to share with us your discoveries derived from engaging the materials of this course, their themes, and what people in this class have been bringing up. You can use image, music, movement in addition to language. The only caveat here is an experiential process can eat up most of your time slot. This is your opportunity to share what you are engaging with in these materials.
- Allow yourself to work in fragments: crystalline notes, photos, theoretical insights, personal stories. Don't worry about academic standards of coherence.