Although Merleau-Ponty and Blanchot both seek to undermine the classical subject of philosophical discourse as embodied in the self-transparent “I think”, their methodologies appear to be worlds apart. In his early work, Merleau-Ponty is engaged in a phenomenological rethinking of subjectivity via an elaboration of Husserl’s “I can”, whereas Blanchot seems to defer all subjectivity in his nomadic exploration of the space between literature, criticism, and theory. Rather than seeking to avoid this tension by focusing on Merleau-Ponty’s later work, this paper demonstrates the philosophical significance of reading Blanchot alongside Merleau-Ponty’s early work. This, I argue, reveals the radical nature of Merleau-Ponty’s early account of subjectivity (from the “I can” to the “I speak” to the violence of perception) as well as a certain phenomenological and ethical significance in Blanchot’s readings of the myths of the Sirens and of Orpheus and Eurydice.

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