My book, Madness in Experience and History, is published!

My book has been published! You can order it now through Routledge and Amazon.

Title: Madness in Experience and History: Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology and Foucault’s Archaeology

Back of the Book Blurb:

Madness in Experience and History brings together experience and history to show their impact on madness or mental illness. 

Drawing on the writings of two 20th century French philosophers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault, the author pairs a phenomenological approach with an archaeological approach to present a new perspective on mental illness as an experience that arises out of common behavioral patterns and shared historical structures. Many today feel frustrated with the medical model because of its deficiencies in explaining mental illness. In response, the author argues that we must integrate human experiences of mental disorders with the history of mental disorders to have a full account of mental health and to make possible a more holistic care.

Scholars in the humanities and mental health practitioners will appreciate how such an analysis not only offers a greater understanding of mental health, but also a fresh take on discovering value in diverse human experiences.

New Course Next Semester: Introduction to Phenomenology

I’m excited that I will be teaching a new course here at the University of Mary next semester (Spring 2022) called the Introduction to Phenomenology. Here is the blurb.

Introduction to Phenomenology (Dr. Venable), Spring 2022

Are you interested in studying philosophy from the ground up? Do you want to test how much you can learn about the human and the world just by reflecting on everyday experiences? Are you curious about the philosophy behind the theology of the body movement? 

This course will explore the roots, the approach and the application of the philosophical movement of phenomenology. To uncover its roots, we will begin by looking at the pre-phenomenological themes in Aristotle’s Metaphysics and by gaining an overview of transcendental phenomenology found in Husserl. Next, we will learn about the approach by testing it out ourselves! Each student will choose a specific personal experience (such as driving a car, brushing one’s teeth, or playing an instrument) and reflect phenomenologically on it. Paired with this project, we will consider key writings on phenomenological approaches (including Engelland, Sokolowski, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger). Lastly, we will turn to applications of phenomenology as seen in the themes of the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II and in other works of modern ethicists.

Book Sent to Press: Madness in Experience and History

My book has been sent to press! You can actually pre-order it now through Routledge and even Amazon. It is so exciting to see this come to fruition!

Title: Madness in Experience and History: Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology and Foucault’s Archaeology

Back of the Book Blurb:

Madness in Experience and History brings together experience and history to show their impact on madness or mental illness. 

Drawing on the writings of two 20th century French philosophers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault, the author pairs a phenomenological approach with an archaeological approach to present a new perspective on mental illness as an experience that arises out of common behavioral patterns and shared historical structures. Many today feel frustrated with the medical model because of its deficiencies in explaining mental illness. In response, the author argues that we must integrate human experiences of mental disorders with the history of mental disorders to have a full account of mental health and to make possible a more holistic care.

Scholars in the humanities and mental health practitioners will appreciate how such an analysis not only offers a greater understanding of mental health, but also a fresh take on discovering value in diverse human experiences.

Summer Update 2021

I made a summer research update last year (see here) and thought I would continue the tradition this year. It helps me see what I have accomplished this past year and what things I have in progress.

Recently Published

Article: “The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology,” Foucault Studies 30 (June 2021).

Article: “The Weight of Bodily Presence in Art and Liturgy.” Religions 12, no. 3: 164 (2021): 1-14. Invited article for special issue entitled “Phenomenology and Liturgical Practice.”

Upcoming Publications

Chapter in Edited Book: “The Need for Merleau-Ponty in Foucault’s Account of the Abnormal.” In Normality, Abnormality, and Pathology in Merleau-Ponty, edited by Talia Welsh and Susan Bredlau, SUNY Press. Abstract. All revisions have been finalized and it should be published very soon.

My Book! Madness in Experience and History: Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology and Foucault’s Archaeology. Forthcoming December 2021 with Routledge. Part of the Psychology and the Other Book Series. The full manuscript has been submitted and it is currently in the production phase. This summer, I will be doing the final edits and compiling the index.

Currently Working On

Article: No title yet. Something on Foucault’s unreason (déraison) and Victor Hugo’s display of madness in Les Miserables.

Joint Book Project with Dr. Mark Allen. Tentative title: Art and the Flourishing of the Ordinary. Our goals for the summer are to write a joint abstract and start contacting some publishers. Related to Mark’s dissertation on art and philosophy and my master’s thesis on existential aesthetics.

Joint Article with Dr. Mary Schwarz. Tentative title: “Reclaiming our Lost Identity with Marcel: A Response to Suicide and Other Acts of Self-Harm.” Planning on submitting this to the journal Marcel Studies.

Future Work

Article. No title yet. Something on disability as a way of accessing the world but also a mode of suffering in the world.

Future Big Project. Something on the phenomenology of suffering and pain.

Article Published: The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology

I am happy to announce that my article “The Carnival of the Mad: Foucault’s Window into the Origin of Psychology” has just been published in the journal Foucault Studies. This article was extremely time intensive due to the research required, including translating sections of books and articles from French to English. It was also challenging because I had to obtain permission to use the rare photos of Foucault at the carnival in the article. I am so happy that it has been completed! You can see the official post here (where you can read it online or download it). Or you can also download it from my profile on academia.

If you have felt concern about the motivations and goals of modern psychology, this is for you! It also gives you a glimpse into the history behind the use of some mental health medications. Here is the abstract:

Foucault’s participation in the 1954 carnival of the mad at an asylum in Switzerland marked the beginning of his critical reflections on the origins of psychology. The event revealed a paradox at the heart of psychology to Foucault, for here was an asylum known for its progressive method and groundbreaking scientific research that was somehow still exhibiting traces of a medieval conception of madness. Using the cultural expression of this carnival as a starting place, this paper goes beyond carnival costumes to uncover the historical structures underneath the discipline of modern psychology. Drawing on Foucault’s earliest works in psychology, his 1954 Mental Illness and Personality, his 1954 “Dream, Existence and Imagination,” his 1957 “Scientific Research and Psychology” and briefly his 1961 History of Madness, I will describe the discrepancy between the theory of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the methods of modern science, and the practice of modern psychology, which finds its heritage in the classical age. I will argue that this division helps make sense of unexplained psychological phenomena, as seen in general practices related to artistic expression, and individual experiences, as seen in the presence of guilt and the resistance to medical diagnosis in patients.