Keith Martel

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Lanei Rodemeyer

Committee Member

L. Michael Harrington

Committee Member

Thomas P. Kinnahan


Environment, Phenomenology, Place


This dissertation investigates the ways in which the human encounter with place has an active role in shaping personal identity. I commence the study with an examination of the appearing of place in the life of the subject. This begins with a consideration of intentionality through the philosophies of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. I then identify several characteristics of place including: place as unselfconsciously intended and tacitly known, place's bleeding boundaries, the intimate connection between the self and environment, and place's affectivity on the emplaced subject. Edward Casey, E.C. Relph, and J.E. Malpas are key influences in the development of these characteristics.

The dissertation continues to employ the narrative identity theory of Paul Ricoeur as he develops a sense of self-identity that is founded neither in the subject as posited in the Cartesian cogito, nor in Nietzsche's deconstruction of the subject. While Ricoeur's narrative identity is a helpful means of understanding the concept of personal identity, nevertheless, I argue that Ricoeur's framework manifests a significant oversight. In his attention to time and action, he misses the vital role of environment in the development of one's narrative. I reconsider Ricoeur's work giving attention to the way that the appearing of place in experience is effectual in shaping the self's story and thus the formation of identity.

I then turn to explore the question regarding why place is overlooked in everyday experience, in the work of Ricoeur, and throughout much of the history of philosophy. In the consideration of the veil of place, I utilize the inconspicuity of the ready-to-hand tool in Heidegger's Being and Time. However, I argue that to remain hidden is not necessarily the fate of place. I endeavor to exhibit the ways in which place is (and can be) self-consciously experienced. Finally, to demonstrate the ways in which place is a significant aspect of identity formation, I turn to the fictional works of author Wendell Berry and the later philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Through Berry and Heidegger I explore the themes the self's relationship with place, the effects of displacement, and the role of place-based memory.