Course Introduction to Classical and Critical Phenomenology


Course leader: Thomas Schwarz Wentzer

Language: English

Graduate school: Faculty of Arts

Course fee: 0.00 DKK

Status: Course is finished

Semester: Spring 2024

Application deadline: 05/05/2024

Cancellation deadline: 05/05/2024

Start date: 06/06/2024

Administrator: Marianne Hoffmeister


When registering in the application facility, you will automatically be placed on a waiting list for a seat on the course. As soon as possible after the application deadline, seats will be allocated and all applicants will be notified whether or not they have been accepted the course.

Registration is binding

If you are offered a seat on the course, please note that your registration is binding. Cancellation is only accepted in special cases such as illness.


The course introduces the students to the basic concepts in classical and critical phenomenology. The course is interdisciplinary in nature drawing mainly from the philosophical and anthropological developments in classical and critical phenomenology, and it is open to all students who work phenomenologically. The course is hence an introductory course and not an advanced course in phenomenology.

The course consists of two full days of teaching and a follow-up online session with student presentations.

The course will be organized in four themes, which all engage both classical and critical phemomenology:

1) The Basics: In this session, we cover the main concepts of classical phenomenology, such as Husserl’s intentionality and reduction, Heidegger’s Dasein and being-in-the-world, and Waldenfels’s responsiveness, etc. Based on this, we draw up the main lines of development in critical phenomenology in both anthropology and philosophy. A main concern here, will be to show the differences between classical and critical phenomenology and ask how critical phenomenology is “critical”. In this context, we will also consider the role of experience (e.g. ethnography) in the project of critical phenomenology.

2) World: In this session, we focus on the notion of world and its various inflections; being-in-the-world, lifeworld, worldbuilding, care for the world. We will take our point in departure in Heidegger’s analyses of world and move toward a notion of existence as world-forming or world-building. Following Heidegger, we also find some philosophical anthropological distinction between the human as world-building and animals as poor in world. In Zigon’s critical hermeneutics, we find a creative development of the notions of dwelling and world-building that teases out their critical potential in the contexts of the global war on drugs and the climate crisis. Finally, we consider how generationality and generational being factors into the possibility of dwelling in shared world. In both classical and critical phenomenology, the world is that which lies “between us”. A critical question is how this between is constituted and who is included and excluded in this generative process.

3) Intersubjectivity: In this session, we turn to intersubjectivity. First, we sketch the manifold ways intersubjectivity has been at issue in phenomenology broadly speaking. Secondly, we examine how intersubjectivity was developed in classical phenomenology as, on the one hand, the transcendental condition of objectivity, and, on the other hand, as the dynamic of the encounter with the Other (e.g. empathy). Thirdly, we turn to notions of intersubjectivity in recent critical phenomenology. Here we focus on Guenther’s critique of Husserl’s notion of transcendental subjectivity and her exploration of the constitutive role of intersubjectivity in the context of solitary confinement.

4) Embodiment: In this final session, we focus on the body and notably embodiment or corporeality. First, we make it clear how the question of the body is intimately interwoven with the preceding themes; hence, the body and worldliness are constitutive intertwined, since the body is the “pivot of my world”, and the question of corporeality necessarily entails also a question of intercorporeality, since bodies are generatively entangled (for instance in birth). Secondly, we focus on Merleau-Ponty’s elaboration of the corporeal schema and its constitutive relationship with the world and the opening of “situational spaces” in which concrete possibilities present themselves. Thirdly, we move to the proto-critical phenomenologies of Beauvoir and Fanon. In Beauvoir the gendered body is analyzed as the “situation” of the woman. In Fanon, the racialized body is analyzed – notably with the notion of the epidermal schema – as the situation of the “black man.” At the heart of these discussion lies the question of what difference a body makes. This question of corporeal difference opens onto a larger question about the a priori and the transcendental vis-à-vis the historical and empirical: a question that lies at the heart of the current debates in critical phenomenology.

Beside these four thematic lectures, there will be an online lecture on critical phenomenology and the role of experience by Prof. Cheryl Mattingly



-                        Knowledge of the basic concepts in classical phenomenology

-                        Knowledge of the basic concepts in critical phenomenology

-                        Knowledge of the development of critical phenomenology in both philosophy and anthropology

-                        Knowledge of the fault lines between classical and critical phenomenology

-                        Skills for reading and interpreting the primary literature

-                        Skills for doing phenomenological analysis on own material

-                        Competencies for developing a phenomenology approach in own project.




    1. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “preface” in Phenomenology of Perception, Taylor & Francis Group, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, (15 pages)
    2. Bernhard Waldenfels, Waldenfels, et al. Excerpt in Phenomenology of the Alien: Basic Concepts. 1st ed., Northwestern University Press, 2011. (30 pages)
    3. Mattingly, Cheryl. “Defrosting Concepts, Destabilizing Doxa: Critical Phenomenology and the Perplexing Particular.” Anthropological Theory, vol. 19, no. 4, 2019, pp. 415–39 (24 pages)
    4. Desjarlais, Robert R. . Excerpts in Shelter Blues: Sanity and Selfhood Among the Homeless. 1st ed., University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc, 1997 (10 pages)
    5. Guenther, Lisa. 2021. Six Senses of Critique for Critical Phenomenology. Puncta vol. (19 pages)

Supplementary readings

    1. Schnegg, M. 2023. Phenomenological Anthropology: Philosophical Concepts for Ethnographic Use. Zeitschrift Für Ethnologie/ Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology.
    2. Zigon, Jarrett, and Jason Throop. (2021) 2023. “Phenomenology”. In The Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Felix Stein. Facsimile of the first edition in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology.


    1. Heidegger, Martin. 1962 (Sein und Zeit, 1927). Excerpt: §9, §§14-18 in Being and Time. Transl. Macquarrie & Robinson. Blackwell Publishers. (40 p)
    2. Arendt, Hannah, et al. 2018 (1958). Excerpts from chapter 5 in The Human Condition. 2. ed., Sixtieth anniversary edition., The University of Chicago Press (20 p.)
    3. Zigon, Jarrett. “How Is It between Us? Relational Ethics and Transcendence.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 27, no. 2, 2021, pp. 384–401, (18 pages)
    4. Zigon. Jarett. Excerpt in Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding. Fordham University Press, 2017 (30 pages)
    5. O’Byrne, Anne. 2016 “Amery, Arendt and the Future of the World.” Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 24(3): 128-139. (12 pages)


    1. Husserl, E. 1989. Excerpt: pp. 82-95 in: Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy, Second book. Transl. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. (13 pages)
    2. Stein, E. 1989. Excerpt in On the Problem of Empathy, CWES 3. Trans. Waltraut Stein. Washington: ICS Publications (30 pages)
    3. Guenther, Lisa. 2016. Excerpt in Solitary Confinement : Social Death and Its Afterlives. University of Minnesota Press. (50 pages)
    4. Throop, Jason and Zahavi, Dan. 2020. “Dark and Bright Empathy: Phenomenologica and Anthropological Reflections.” Current Anthropology 61(3) (21 pages)

Supplementary readings

    1. Zahavi, Dan. 2023. Excerpt: chapter 3 in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Stanford University Press. (19 pages)


    1. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2002. Excerpts on corporeal schema in Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. London: Routledge. (30 p.)
    2. Beauvoir, S. 1949. Excerpt in The Second Sex. (30 p)
    3. Fanon, F. 1986. Excerpt in chapter 5 in Black Skin, White Masks “The lived experience of the black man”/The fact of blackness” (30 p)
    4. Ahmed, Sara. 2006. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke University Press. (20 p)
    5. Weiss, G. 1999. Excerpt: chapter 6: “Ecart – the space of corporeal difference” in Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality” (20 p)

Supplementary readings

  1. Heinämaa, Sara. 2022. “On the transcendental and eidetic resources of phenomenology: the case of embodiment.” In Phenomenology as Critique: Why Method Matters.
  2. Oksala, Johanna. 2022. The Method of Critical Phenomenology: Simone de Beauvoir as a Phenomenologist. European Journal of Philosophy 31: 137–150.
  3. Dyring, R. n.d. “Gerontological difference: On the Generativity of Aging after Heidegger”
  4. Thomas Csordas (2023), “Merleau-Ponty among the charismatics and peyotists”, in: N. Bubandt and T. S. Wentzer (eds.): Philosophy on Fieldwork. Case Studies in Anthropological Analysis. London / New York: Routledge. 391-416.


Target group

PhD students with a limited knowledge of phenomenology from anthropology, area studies, philosophy, theology, religious studies, history of ideas, social sciences, nursing studies and similar fields.






Class teaching, lectures, class discussions, break-out groups, student presentations


ECTS credits

  • 4 ETCS for participation with student presentation
    Students in this category give an online paper presentation on 13 June 2024

  • 3 ECTS for active participation without student presentation

Students may sign up for the course with or without the obligation to give a paper. When applying for a seat on the course, you will be asked to indicate whether you would like to participate with or without a student presentation.



Thomas Schwarz Wentzer

Rasmus Dyring

Cheryl Mattingly

Jarrett Zigon


Date(s) and time

6 June 2024

9:00 – 12:00: The Basics


13:00 – 16:00: World

17:00 – 18:30: Online lecture, prof. Cheryl Mattingly


7 June 2024

9:00 – 12:00: Intersubjectivity


13:00 – 16:00: Embodiment


13 June 2024

9:00 – 13:00 student online paper presentations



Aarhus University

Campus Aarhus

Building 1453, room 121

Jens Chr. Skous Vej 3

8000 Aarhus C


Application deadline

6 May 2024

Course dates:

  • 06 June 2024 09:00 - 18:30
  • 07 June 2024 09:00 - 16:00
  • 13 June 2024 09:00 - 13:00