The Flesh of Words > Derma[uto]graphic drifts

Dermographisme [aka dermographism, dermatographismm or “skin writing] – Démence précoce catatonique, from Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, Paris, 1904.

“Language is understood by Merleau-Ponty according to the self enfolding of the flesh. Language is not dependent on any voice but is what gives voice to the world itself. He writes that “language is everything since it is the voice of no-one, since it is the very voice of the things, the waves and the forests.” Language, in short, is the result of or is made possible by the dehiscence or folding back of the flesh of the world. [Invagination?]. In this sense language too is ‘another flesh’, another ‘wild being.’

The flesh is that elementary, precommunicative domain out of which both subject and object, in their mutual interactions develop. The subject can no longer be conceived as an enclosed nucleus identity or as an empty tabula rasa* [my words] ready to take in the contents provided by objects. […] The subject and object are inherently open to each other, for they are constituted in one stroke dividing the flesh into its various modalities. They are interlaced one with the other, not through their reversibility and exchangeability […] Things solicit the flesh just as the flesh beckons to and as an object to things. Perception is the flesh’s reversibility, the flesh touching, seeing, perceiving itself, one fold (provisionally) catching the other in its own self-embrace.”

* “Psychoanalysis does not engage the problematic of the body as always/already a field of language, but rather posits it as something that precedes and then enters the field of language […] This is borne out in Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad, his analogy for the workings of the psyche and the receptive innocence of the writing surface prior to inscription.”

Text quoted from Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies, Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana University Press, 1994 p.102/103 Image reproduced from

For further reading about Merleau-Ponty’s concept of Flesh see the The Visible and the Invisible, The Intertwining – The Chiasm. * Vicky Kirby, Telling Flesh, The Substance of the Corporeal, Routledge, NY, London:pp.77/78, see Corpus Delecti, The Body as the Scene of Writing.