The Ecstatic Quotidian

The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Ecstatic Quotidian
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05472-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    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 necessary innovation. The quotidian is that background in contrast to which new discoveries emerge and we are surprised; and more pointedly, it is a necessary condition for surprise, the regularity in contrast to which something new and unexpected occurs. Unfamiliarity...

  5. 1 The Quotidian and Literary-Phenomenological Departures from Everydayness
    (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.’’ The unfamiliar negates a previously intact state of things; unfamiliarity is felt in surprise (Wittgenstein 1965, 127). The surprising modification needed brings the everyday to notice arises with modern aesthetic and poetic treatment. Aesthetic ‘‘defamiliarization,’’ as Shklovsky describes it,...

  6. 2 Sources of Ecstasis in Childhood Experience
    (pp. 41-86)

    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 thought, but also recalls the classical idea of phenomenology as a philosophy of beginnings. Phenomenology attempts to describe the world as we experience it in its native originality, the way it might be first encountered by an awakening consciousness, how it comes to be constituted in experience....

  7. 3 Literary Phenomenology from the Natural Attitude to Recognition
    (pp. 87-122)

    In the first volume ofIdeen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie (Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and a Phenomenological 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 as a resource, in that the infinitely many eidetic phenomenological formations cannot be pursued alone through what is given in original intuition. Because of the need to reflect upon experience and to vary intuitions for the aim of discovering essences, the phenomenologist is required to operate in the realm...

  8. 4 The Mysterious and Poetry of the World’s Inner Horizons
    (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 the everyday in being other, unknown, incalculable. Everyday life seems to be altered when mystery is sensed, whether it emerges as a quality of atmosphere, of a perceived object, or as a presence of the unknown that cannot be explained...

  9. 5 The Painterly and the Poetic Image Between Rilke and Cézanne
    (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 break through to the essence of things. For a poet who is concerned with sheltering from transience things poetically recognized, through the transformation of things by a perception of the world’s inner space orWeltinnenraum, Cézanne provoked nothing less than a revolution in seeing, as his paintings captured the permanence of things along with their inextinguishable transience,...

  10. 6 The Silent Ecstasis of Vision
    (pp. 183-218)

    In the wake of Cézanne an exclusive emphasis on vision seems to have become characteristic of much of modern painting. Some early critics of Cézanne argued that the isolation of vision in the experience of his paintings alienates art from real worldly experience. What his form of modernism introduces, it has been charged, is not only a break from the ordinary experience of seeing, but is contrary to it. With Cézanne’s painting, it has been claimed, the ‘‘total absorption in the visual demands a mode of behavior which in life can only occur under certain very exceptional conditions’’ (Rishel 1996,...

  11. 7 Ecstatic Mimesis in Trompe l’Œil
    (pp. 219-242)

    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 Fischer, contains a double or opposed recognition: the object is seen both as blackboard and as painting. The incompatibility of this yields a strangeness so promoting of cognitive vitality. True trompe l’œil works cause these recognitions to collapse into a single moment and blot out...

  12. Epilogue
    (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. The observation that the quotidian quality of everyday life is suspended when it is noticed, and that this suspension leads to manifold and potentially endless reflections on the nature of being in the world by,...

  13. References
    (pp. 249-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-268)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)