Monstrous body: between alienness and ownness


  • Anna Alichniewicz



monstrosity; the monstrous; pairing; flesh; chiasm


Monstrosity has its recognized place in cultural narratives but in philosophical discourse it remains mostly untouched. In my paper I make an attempt at phenomenological inquiry into the experience of the Other’s monstrous body. I am beginning with some remarks concerning Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault, the philosophers who devoted some attention to the problem of monstrosity and the monstrous, but my analysis is mainly based on the works of Bernhard Waldenfels, Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Waldenfels emphasizes that the corporeal self is somehow perceived as alien, always somewhat distanced and not totally graspable. He also argues that the closer the Other, the stronger activation of the boundary between the spheres of the ownness and the alienness is caused. A promising framework for the analysis of the ambivalent reaction brought about by the encounter with a monstrous human body can be provided by Husserl’s phenomenological inquiry into the process of pairing, developed in his Cartesian meditations. It seems that in this experience the pairing process is frustrating and deranged because the process of apperception is disturbed by a cluster of untypical or quite unique characteristics of the monstrous body. In result, its sense remains unclear, puzzling and challenging. Interesting light on the experience of the Other’s monstrous body could shed Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, especially the ideas of flesh and chiasm outlined in his last work. The radical character of the monster, while does not render it something totally different from the own, elucidates, however, the contingency of the order under which the human corporeality is subsumed.