The Spirit Wanders with Things: A Literary Post-Phenomenology

Jonathan Bratt


This essay articulates a post-phenomenology of literary production. I draw on the hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur to give an account of the emergence of literature from a world of experience, while transforming this hermeneutics from a phenomenological one to a post-phenomenological one. I join Ricoeur in seeking to reconstruct the ‘entire arc of operations by which practical experience provides itself with works, authors, and readers’ (1990: 53). I diverge from Ricoeur, however, in imagining authors and readers not primarily as interpreters of texts and the worlds that prefigure them, but as bound up with texts and worlds through rhythmic encounters and immersions. In this account, authors write and readers read ‘with’ texts, and, in the acts of writing and reading, texts impel responses, so that author, reader, and work undergo mutual transformation. This literary post-phenomenology thus joins critiques of modernism that seek to displace author and reader as absolute determinants of textual meaning; at the same time, it accounts for subjects as embodied and affective rather than narrowly cognitive and interpretive, and expands the pre-subjective conditions of literature’s emergence from the social and the cultural to the more-than-human and the cosmic. To enact this literary post-phenomenology I draw on a variety of sources, including a number of early Chinese-language texts on literary theory, whose ideas I argue are strongly evocative of contemporary post-phenomenology.


literature; posthumanism; postphenomenology; production; rhythm; subjectivity

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Copyright (c) 2016 Jonathan Bratt