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The Ecstatic Quotidian

Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

Publication Year: 2007

Fascination with quotidian experience in modern art, literature, and philosophy promotes ecstatic forms of reflection on the very structure of the everyday world. Gosetti-Ferencei examines the ways in which modern art and literature enable a study of how we experience quotidian life. She shows that modernism, while exhibiting many strands of development, can be understood by investigating how its attentions to perception and expectation, to the common quality of things, or to childhood play gives way to experiences of ecstasis—the stepping outside of the ordinary familiarity of the world. While phenomenology grounds this study (through Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Bachelard), what makes this book more than a treatise on phenomenological aesthetics is the way in which modernity itself is examined in its relation to the quotidian. Through the works of artists and writers such as Benjamin, Cézanne, Frost, Klee, Newman, Pollock, Ponge, Proust, Rilke, Robbe-Grillet, Rothko, Sartre, and Twombly, the world of quotidian life can be seen to harbor a latent ecstasis. The breakdown of the quotidian through and after modernism then becomes an urgent question for understanding art and literature in its capacity to further human experience, and it points to the limits of phenomenological explications of the everyday.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Literature and Philosophy


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

The author would like to thank some people who helped to bring this book into being. Michael Richards at The Pennsylvania State University Press first drew editorial support for this book in an enthusiastic and careful reading. Sandy Thatcher, the director of the Press, gave helpful advice. Material for some chapters appeared in earlier formulation in articles in the following journals...

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pp. 1-11

This book is devoted to an examination, through art, literature, and phenomenology, of that which is, by definition, the most ordinary and habitually unnoticed. The ‘‘quotidian’’ is the sense of life built up in daily experience, by everyday habits, by the sedimentation of ordinary expectations of the world, but also by the tensions between the regularity of the familiar and...

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1. The Quotidian and Literary-Phenomenological Departures from Everydayness

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pp. 13-40

In ordinary life, the familiarity of things, by its very nature, does not come to our notice. Only when we are surprised, when things are not as we expected, do we become aware of our expectations explicitly. Such awareness modifies everydayness. Because of this modification, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has written, ‘‘unfamiliarity is much more of an experience than familiarity...

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2. Sources of Ecstasis in Childhood Experience

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pp. 41-85

A proto-ecstatic latency underlying everyday experience is not merely the region of literary phenomena but also belongs to the structure of childhood experience. Maurice Merleau-Ponty declared that all his philosophical endeavors amounted to an attempt to recapture the experience of childhood. This declaration not only reflects a tone of wonder typical of Merleau-Ponty’s...

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3. Literary Phenomenology from the Natural Attitude to Recognition

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pp. 87-121

In the first volume of Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie (Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and a Phenomeno-logical Philosophy), Husserl grants fiction—the fictional presentation of forms and their imaginative variation—a special relevance for the philosopher. Originary givenness is, while ordinarily primary for the phenomenologist, limited...

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4. The Mysterious and Poetry of the World’s Inner Horizons

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pp. 123-150

While the world is not inherently mysterious for one who adheres to the strict scientific description of its essential structures, modern poetry seems in part devoted to defending the margins of unknowability that surround the horizons of the known. The mysterious suggests what is beyond the reach of everydayness, beyond the quotidian realm. It is opposed to the familiarity of...

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5. The Painterly and the Poetic Image Between Rilke and C

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pp. 151-182

There is an implicit phenomenology in Rilke’s fascination with visual works of art, particularly paintings by Cézanne. Rilke found in Cézanne’s paintings an ecstatic transport from everyday perception, as they render strange, original, startlingly fresh perception of the familiar world and seem to breakthrough to the essence of things. For a poet who is concerned with sheltering...

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6. The Silent Ecstasis of Vision

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pp. 183-218

In the wake of C

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7. Ecstatic Mimesis in Trompe l’Œil

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pp. 219-241

Cy Twombly’s blackboard painting (Untitled, 1970) afforded an occasion to consider the experience of visual art as an event between linguistic expression and the strange muteness of seeing. Another aspect of this painting is its simulation of trompe l’œil, a technique that fools the eye by presenting perceptual objects with disconcerting verisimilitude. Twombly’s painting, said...

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pp. 243-248

The aim of these reflections was not a critique or ethics of the quotidian, such as in the tradition of sociological and Marxist literature, nor were they meant to establish a philosophy of ordinary life. Rather, what has been presented here is an examination of the persistence of reflection on quotidian life as an interimplicating and driving theme in modern art, literature, and in phenomenology...


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pp. 249-258


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pp. 259-268

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053059
E-ISBN-10: 0271053054
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271032283
Print-ISBN-10: 0271032286

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Literature and Philosophy