Document Type

Journal Article


David Publishing Company


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




Ryan, J. C. (2011). An unlikely marriage: Theorizing the corporeality of language at the crossroads of Thoreau, Heidegger and the botanical world. Philosophy Study, 1(2), 139-149. Journal website available here


This paper examines the relationship between language, particularly language that expresses aesthetic experiences of plant life, and corporeality. The theorisation of language is a keystone towards conceptualising participatory relationships between people and the botanical world. A comparative reading of the works of Henry David Thoreau and Martin Heidegger provides a framework for approaching language as embodied participation. Despite political differences, Thoreau and Heidegger shared a mutual conviction about the generative powers of language. Thoreau’s literary practice partly involved immersion in places such as swamps and forests. Fittingly, Heidegger’s explication of Rilke’s concept of “the Open” mirrors the participatory aesthetics of Thoreau. Both thinkers looked towards the capacities of poetics to galvanise the evolution of language. In response to the increasing dissection offered by contemporaneous theories of linguistics, Thoreau and Heidegger held the notion of language as a body in itself, one brought to life through immanence between sensuous bodies in the world. For each theorist, language was both bodily and a body. Their works evidence that multi-sensorial encounters with the natural world can be captured in language. The body of language may be engaged with as a whole living phenomenon rather than a dissected corpse as this comparative reading of Thoreau and Heidegger will intimate.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License