Overwriting the body: Saint-Exupéry, Merleau-Ponty, Nancy

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In this paper I examine two limit cases in which the body is threatened: the experience of emergency as described by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Flight to Arras, and the experience of illness as described by Jean-Luc Nancy in his autobiographical essay The Intruder. In the first case, the everyday relationship to the body is revealed to be illusionary; the body becomes a powerful yet obedient machine. In the second case, the everyday relationship to the body is also suspended, but this time in favor of a weak and objectified body. I argue that these apparently opposite experiences actually presuppose a similar notion of the everyday body, which I further conceptualize, through Merleau-Ponty and his analysis of the body, as deficient and therefore inherently repressed. The paper concludes with the suggestion that writing about one’s own body may be seen as a way to fight the everyday tendency towards repression, and I propose overwriting as a term that can capture this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-308
Number of pages16
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Body
  • Death
  • Emergency
  • Illness
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • Nancy
  • Saint-Exupéry
  • Writing


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