Talking trees

Tzachi Zamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


"Moral embodiment" is a construction proposed by this essay to capture ways in which morally significant states may be experienced as modifications of one's relationship with one's body. Literary episodes in which humans are metamorphosed into trees exemplify such changes in relation to states such as guilt, sexual experience, and grief. I relate the analysis to moral approaches that underscore acknowledgment. It will be suggested that such approaches need to be supplemented by the recognition that acknowledging another sometimes requires noting patterns of embodiment. I also formulate some historical implications of this analysis in relation to the paradigm of the body-as-machine. Renaissance literary imagery (virtually all examples I discuss are from Renaissance texts) appears to assume a much more involved understanding of the body's participation with moral experience than the mechanistic one that came to supersede it as part of modernity. Contemporary re-thinking of embodiment within Anglo-American philosophy suggests that some aspects of this past understanding of embodiment may now be fruitfully reclaimed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)439-453
Number of pages15
JournalNew Literary History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


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