Ethical Issues in Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty/Normalizing Bodies
Professor Gail Weiss
Ethical Ambiguities in Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty: Though the concept of ambiguity is central in both Beauvoir’s and Merleau-Ponty’s work, the connections between their respective views of ambiguity have not been sufficiently attended to in existing literature on both scholars. I am especially intrigued by the intersections in their work concerning how experiences of ambiguity affect not only ethics but meaning, freedom, intersubjectivity, politics, language, culture, nature, and the body. While numerous monographs and edited volumes have been published over the last few years on Beauvoir as well as on Merleau-Ponty (fueled in part by the 2008 centennials of their births), there are no significant monographs published on both philosophers despite the fact that they read each other’s work on an ongoing basis and cited one another regularly. Most of the comparative analyses have instead focused on the better-known (and all too often sensationalized) intellectual and personal relationship between Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. So this book will mark a distinctive intervention in existing scholarship on Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty.
Normalizing Bodies: This monograph focuses on the often taken-for-granted standards of normalcy, normativity, and naturalness that work together to define which types of bodies are most highly valued by a given society. By focusing on cases of “abnormal” embodiment that challenge conventional expectations, this book seeks to identify and dismantle oppressive norms of embodiment and expand the range of acceptable body types and behaviors. Ultimately, I argue against dualistic conceptions of normal/abnormal, natural/unnatural, and normative/non-normative forms of embodiment, and advocate a more continuous and complex model that acknowledges that what is considered to be normal, natural, and/or normative is always a function of a particular social and historical context, and is therefore capable of being altered.
Research Assistant Tasks: I am seeking a research assistant for Fall 2014 to aid me in completing the following projects:
1) Uploading my CV, published articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, etc. to two Philosophy and Academic databases so that a complete, up-to-date profile appears under my name when scholars are using these sites to access my work: Philpapers and Academia.edu Copies of all of my publications are in my office and can be scanned using our dept. copier if electronic copies are not available. My dept. website should also be updated with a list of my most recent publications (and perhaps electronic copies of them if my colleagues have done this too)
2) Create bibliographies for the two monographs I am completing: 1) Ethical Ambiguities in Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty: a book that focuses on shared philosophical themes in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s and Simone de Beauvoir’s work and their ethical implications; 2) Normalizing Bodies: a book that critically examines conventional distinctions between normal and abnormal bodies. Since many of the chapters I’ve written for both books have been presented as papers at professional conferences and/or published, some of this work will involve combining existing bibliographies from these separate pieces into a single list of references. I would also like the assistant to locate and get copies through our library (or Consortium) of new journal issues, articles, books, and book chapters directly related to these two projects that are not yet in the bibliography but that should perhaps be incorporated into the book.
Time Commitment: 1-3 hours per week
Credit Hour Option: 1
Application Requirements: An unofficial transcript and a short statement indicating their philosophical relevant background for or interest in this project as well as their prior research experience.
Contact Email: email@example.com