Altered Reading: Levinas and Literature

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How might the ethical philosophy of the renowned French thinker Emmanuel Levinas relate to literature? Because his philosophy addresses the very opening of ethical experience, it cannot be applied readily as a critical method to literary texts. Yet Levinas's work, studded as it is with literary sources and quotations, demands a literary account.

With an attitude at once respectful and interrogative, closely attentive to Levinas's texts while in dialogue with readings by Derrida, Blanchot, and Bataille, Altered Reading shows how the thread of the literary leads directly to the internal tensions of Levinas's ethical discourse. Jill Robbins provides a comprehensive critical account of Levinas's early and mature philosophy as well as later key transitional essays. In an invaluable appendix, she includes her own translation of an important, previously untranslated essay by Bataille on Levinas.

Altered Reading will interest philosophers, literary critics, scholars of religion, and others drawn to Levinas's work.

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What People Are Saying

Derek Attridge
Altered Reading illuminates the texture and the reach of Levinas's thought through a scrupulous engagement with the crucial question of the 'literary'.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226721132
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jill Robbins is associate professor of English and comparative literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is the author of Prodigal Son/Elder Brother: Interpretation and Alterity in Augustine, Petrarch, Kafka, Levinas, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction
Part I - Literature in Levina's Ethical Philosophy
1. On Call from the Other: Ethical Language in Totality and Infinity
Discourse and Gift Metaphysical Asymmetry Rhetoric and the Face
2. Tracing Responsibility Absolutely Toward the Future The Face Tracing an Absolute Past in Levinas and Derrida The Trace of God
3. Facing Figures The Literary Question The Claims of Figural Interpretation Lacking Figure Too Many Figures Losing Face Turning Away from Art
4. Visage, Figure Speech and Murder in Totality and Infinity
Just Speaking Speaking Face Speaking Murder And Cain Said to Abel
Part II - Levinas and the Aesthetic
5. Aesthetic Totality and Ethical Infinity Poetry and the Ethical Theorizing the Work of Art
6. Art, Philosophy, and the Il Y A
Allusions and Abridgements Bataille on Description and Cry Jean Wahl's Existentialisms Cries and Lacerations (Kierkegaard)
Levinas Reading Kierkegaard
7. Citation and the Art of Totality and Infinity
The Alibi of Metaphysics Levinas Reading Rimbaud The Alterity of Literature
8. Exceptions The Frozen Face Nameless The Knots of Agnon Improper Naming Levinas Reading Dostoevsky The Example of Blanchot Appendix Review Essay, "From Existentialism to the Primacy of Economy," by Georges Bataille Index

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