Trans-Religious Dancing Dialogues: Michel Henry on Dionysus and the Crucified

Culture and Dialogue (forthcoming)
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Perhaps owing to frictions between his Christological worldview and the dominant secularism of contemporary French thought as taken up in the U.S., and persistent worries about a seeming solipsism in his phenomenology, Michel Henry's innovative contributions to aesthetics have received unfortunately little attention in English. The present investigation addresses both issues simultaneously with a new interpretation of his recently-translated 1996 interview, “Art and Phenomenology.” Inspired by this special issue’s theme, “French Thought in Dialogue,” it emphasizes four levels of dialogue in the interview, as follows: (1) the interview as such, with Brohm; (2) its titular dialogue between art and phenomenology; (3) what I term a “trans-religious” dialogue between Christianity’s Jesus and Nietzsche’s Dionysus; and (4) a related dialogue between painting (Henry’s favored genre) and dance that is “Dionysian” (in Nietzsche’s sense). It concludes with new phenomenological accounts of a literal and a figurative dance, namely the social Latin dance called bachata, and an improvised musical dialogue with the mockingbirds of my hometown. In sum, thanks to Henry’s engagement with various forms of dialogue, including with Brohm, the arts, paganism, and dance, one can find room in his transcendental subjectivity of Life for others, dancingly transcending even humanity.

Author's Profile

Joshua M. Hall
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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