Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Steinbock, Anthony


This dissertation interrogates the generation of novel sense and meaning in the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In taking up the theme of creative transformation prominent in his work, I show how the emergence of novel sense and the advent of meaning structures are made possible through the asymmetrical relation of adversity and cliché. While the scholarship focuses primarily on expression, institution, and reversibility as the three principal forms of creative transformation within the work of Merleau-Ponty, I maintain that this asymmetrical relation provides the originary ground on which these forms operate. To this end, this project consists primarily of the elucidation of three terms within the context of Merleau-Ponty’s thought – namely, novelty, cliché, and adversity – and the latter two notion’s roles in the generation of sense and meaning manifest in several fields of experience including perception, the aesthetic, and the political. The immediate import of this project is in its contribution to Merleau-Ponty scholarship through a description of the relation of adversity and cliché on the generation of sense and meaning which has received little attention to date. Subsequently, this project – like the inauguration of sense and meaning – institutes a trajectory for future research. This dissertation serves to describe a fertile field of interrogation both within and in relation to Merleau-Ponty’s work on adversity, cliché, and novelty.




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