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1. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Peter Atterton, Sean Lawrence

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2. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Emmanuel Levinas, Peter Atterton, Sean Lawrence

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3. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Tina Chanter

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I argue that the il y a is intrinsically connected to Levinas’s understanding of the tragic, and that Levinas offers an original reading of Shakespearean tragedy that goes beyond traditional aesthetic conceptions of artistic and tragic form and breaks with ancient tragedy. The il y a is implicated in the limit moment Levinas encountered while in captivity, suspended from the world, when time was out of joint. Focusing on Hamlet, who some have argued represents a failure of aesthetic form, I suggest rather that in construing Hamlet as the tragedy that constitutes a reflection on the meaning of the tragic il y a, Levinas identifies Shakespeare’s originality as a tragedian by pointing to the ungraspability of the formless. For Levinas, the tragic lies not in death but in having to be. Levinas’s incipient theory of Shakespearean tragedy provides insight into the complex role art plays for Levinas.
4. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Eli Schonfeld

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The following paper analyzes the effect of the Shakespearean text—and Hamlet in particular—on Levinas’s thought. I argue that Levinas’s reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet played a decisive role in one of the most crucial phenomenological debates to be found in the Levinasian text, namely, the debate with Heidegger on the meaning of death and on the object of Angst (anguish). Analyzing Levinas’s remarks on Hamlet in his philosophical text, this article demonstrates how Shakespeare inspires Levinas’s anti-Heideggerian thesis about anguish being anguish before eternity (and not anguish before death). Moreover, this article analyzes the Hecuba scene from the perspective of Levinas’s philosophy of substitution (where again Shakespeare occupies a central role), and tries to understand the situation of Shakespeare’s tragedy as being “beyond tragedy.”
5. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Pascale Drouet

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This article explores how Levinas’s analysis of family relations (paternity, filiality, fecundity, and maternity) and the ethical relationship to the other (requiring both a paradoxical process of separation and the aptitude to be ethically ordained) can retrospectively enlighten our understanding of King Lear. It first shows how, in the Shakespearean tragedy, Levinas’s ethical answer, “here I am,” cannot be dissociated from fearless speech, which becomes the manifestation of the ethical relationship to the other. It then focuses on the Levinasian paradox of “separation” as a prerequisite to the ethical relationship, and sees how this is radically distorted in the families presented in King Lear. It finally considers Levinas’s idea of maternity as a responsibility for others to the point of substitution, to questions the absence of mothers in King Lear and argue that the denouement of the tragedy can be regarded as a gender-reversed variation on the mater dolorosa motif.
6. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Lisa S. Starks

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Levinas’s Humanism of the Other may be seen as a meditation of King Lear. His philosophy offers what a critique of traditional and modern anti-humanism urgently needs: an ethics that precedes being. It provides a necessary ethical foundation needed to investigate questions of the human and humanity that Shakespeare examines so thoroughly in this powerful tragedy. Prefiguring Levinas’s later philosophy, Shakespeare dramatizes this humanism of the other through the suffering and vulnerability of the body. Lear’s and Gloucester’s parallel journeys are both grounded in this vulnerability of the body and fragility of the mind that lead them to a humanism of the other. Moreover, the ethical good that precedes ontology, the saying, is profoundly staged through the characters of Cordelia and Edgar. This vision of King Lear, therefore, underlies and informs Levinas’s radical critique of traditional humanism and contemporary anti-humanism in his insistence on a humanism of the other.
7. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Tamra Wright

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Although Levinas did not write about The Merchant of Venice, recent scholarship has explored Levinasian themes in the play. However, most of The Merchant instantiates not Levinasian ethics per se, but the cultural and other forces that work against ethics. In particular, theodicy, which Levinas sees as morally scandalous, is deployed by Christian characters to justify their ill-treatment of Shylock. A surface reading of the play would suggest that it is structured around clear binaries, with Christian “mercy” juxtaposed to legalistic, vengeful Jewish “justice.” However, a more nuanced reading, particularly one informed by Levinas’s philosophy, reveals ways in which Shakespeare seems to call these distinctions into question, and uncovers two genuinely ethical moments in the play: Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech, and his implied, biblically informed critique of the treatment of slaves by Christians in Venetian society.
8. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Sean Lawrence

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Levinas has little to say about Romeo and Juliet, unlike some other plays by Shakespeare, but it nevertheless reflects his philosophy. In keeping with his phenomenology of eros, the title characters form a relationship which does not extend to the third party, and instead retreat into what Levinas calls the “dual solitude” of lovers. Romeo and Juliet form a closed community which excludes the rest of the fictive world of Verona, its loyalties and its laws. They even withdraw from the temporality of their fictive world, into the atemporality of art and idolatry, frozen in the statues which their grieving parents offer to raise in their memories and in the story of which they are protagonists.
9. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16
Peter Atterton

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This article surveys the numerous philosophical themes Levinas attributes to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Detailed discussions are provided of the face as the temptation to commit violence and its prohibition, of the there is as the impossibility of an exit from existence, of the foundational role of con­science in ethics, and of the nature of the tragic hero who seeks to postpone the inevitability of death. I argue that it is only by treating the face as in some sense provoking violence can we hope to understand how the character Macbeth finds it possible to murder Duncan while looking him in the face. This reading requires us to see him as ethically ambivalent, as one might expect from a play in which “nothing is but what is not.” The essay concludes with a brief reflection on why Macbeth manages to evoke our pity, even though we know him to be a murderer.

10. Levinas Studies: Volume > 16

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11. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Emmanuel Levinas, Michael Portal Orcid-ID

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The following is an early, previously untranslated essay by Emmanuel Levinas concerning “the metaphysics of antisemitism.” This essay, published originally in 1938 for Paix et Droit, concerns the shared history and destiny of Jews and Christians, religious groups who maintain a relation of essential “foreignness” to, and so “do not belong” to, the “pagan” world. Levinas distinguishes between the long history of Jewish-Christian antagonism and the newer Nazi-style antisemitism, a particularly insidious “racism” that threatens both Jews and Christians. Levinas calls for a renewed appreciation of the “vocation” common to Jews and Christians to advance Judeo-Christian “solidarity,” a solidarity that Levinas believes is increasingly necessary.

12. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Brigitta Keintzel Orcid-ID

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13. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Silvia Richter

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This article reconsiders the influence of Rosenzweig’s thought on Levinas’s work in the light of the captivity notebooks (Carnets de captivité), as well as the lectures given shortly after the war at the Collège philosophique. Levinas’s ongoing dealings with Rosenzweig are discussed in two ways: first, by analyzing the articles he explicitly dedicated to Rosenzweig and, second, by identifying elements of Rosenzweig’s thought in Levinas’s work that are not explicitly mentioned therein. By combining these two approaches, I show that Rosenzweig’s work offered Levinas an ontological narrative that contrasts with Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein, and it motivated a concept of a new mode of transcendence linked to Judaism. Language, as spoken words produced face-to-face, plays a crucial role in this context: just as it opens up the mute Self into a loving Soul in The Star of Redemption, it is the face that speaks in Levinas, opening up the relationship to the Other and the “beyond of being.”
14. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Sergej Seitz Orcid-ID

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As Axel Honneth argues in his early essay “The Other of Justice,” Derrida and Levinas offer convincing arguments for offsetting practical philosophy’s traditional focus on justice with a focus on care. In Honneth, this leads to a strict dichotomy of justice (as equal treatment) and care (as singular responsibility). I show that Derrida and Levinas think of justice and responsibility not as dichotomic, but rather as aporetic. In all ethico-political conflicts, aspects of responsibility and justice are in play that are irreducible to, and in constant tension with, one another. Derrida and Levinas disclose a constitutive . This aporia opens up new perspectives on normativity.
15. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Christina Schües

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Responsibility is central to Emmanuel Levinas as well as Hannah Arendt. A reading of their understanding of the concept and role of responsibility for politics and ethics and in regard to its social-ontological status of primacy, its reference to historical, worldly, and human conditions, brings out the similarities and differences of their work. Regarding their historical context, they could have engaged in a dialogue; but they never did. Their personal temperament and thematic approach to key issues concerning the concept of responsibility—such as subjectivity, primordiality, or relationality—can be used to build pillars for a bridge between the two thinkers’ respective approaches. This essay tries to read each author in light of the other one.
16. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Pascal Delhom Orcid-ID

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There was no dialogue between Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas. In many regards, however, their philosophies have much in common. Both defend a conception of human rights as rights of others and as an obligation for the self. Both understand this obligation as an obligation of attention and action for others, based on their needs and their vulnerability. Both find the source of this obligation in the transcendence of the other, and both connect it with a radical passivity of the self, who is subjected to this obligation in spite of itself. At the same time, this proximity between the two philosophers entails and reveals profound differences between them, partially due to the difference between Weil’s metaphysics of light and Levinas’s metaphysics of language. These differences concern the status of subjectivity and of its duty toward the other, as well as the idea of an acceptation of sufferance, especially of the sufferance of others.
17. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
François-David Sebbah, Orcid-ID Mérédith Laferté-Coutu

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This article explores the seemingly exaggerated emphasis of Lyotard on the importance of hearing the ethical commandment in Levinas, instead of seeing or perceiving it in sensibility. Lyotard wants to read Levinas as a “Jewish thinker,” and his ethics as deeply connected to “Hebraic ethics.” Such a reading contrasts with phenomenological and Christian interpretations of Levinas, like Jean-Luc Marion’s, that focus on incarnation, the face, love, and the concrete relation to the other. Yet Lyotard outbids the rigor of commandment in Levinas, insisting on the radical heterogeneity of hearing and any phenomenological seeing. Ethics is completely outside phenomenology. This article argues that, instead of reading Lyotard as misreading Levinas, his approach can be one of the names for the skeptical phase that suspends or interrupts the Levinasian Said itself, especially when it tends to become excessively Christian.
18. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Paul Davies

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Patience has generally been regarded as a virtue, but it has proved very difficult to say why it should be so. A phenomenology of patience quickly turns into ambiguity and confusion, and it does so in a way that seems to hinder any straightforward ethical evaluation of the term. Kant suggests that patience’s moral status can only be recognized if it is supplemented by a less problematic virtue such as, say, courage. Kierkegaard in contrast keeps the focus on patience itself but argues that to do so we need a radical change in our conceptions of time and the self. With those changes in place, however, we can re-evaluate patience as an end rather than a means to an end. Levinas’s cryptic remarks on patience and passivity can seem to cohere with this Kierkegaardian move. But by reading them in the context of his accounts of aging, the passing of time, and the despite oneself (malgré soi), this paper will argue that their real significance lies elsewhere. Even Kierkegaard’s patience relies on a distinction between a bad or problematically passive patience and a good patience. Levinas consistently, and especially in Otherwise than Being, draws our attention back to that excessive, non-redeemable, and “absolute” passivity.
19. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Robert Bernasconi

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The duality or separation of self and me is central to the thinking of Emmanuel Levinas, but it is difficult to understand, not least because of the powerful hold that John Locke’s account of personal identity still has on our thinking of the self. By drawing on Augustine and especially Jean-Luc Marion’s reading of Augustine in In the Self’s Place, it is possible to gain insight into Augustine’s not yet Lockean account of the self so as to arrive at Levinas’s no longer Lockean account.
20. Levinas Studies: Volume > 15
Gabriella Baptist Orcid-ID

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Derrida’s Glas can be interpreted against the background of a confrontation with Hegel, after and with Levinas. Derrida’s position in front of the great shadows of tradition (see “Violence and Metaphysics”) becomes in Glas an exceeding of the limits, searching for the other than logos, for instance, remains or writing. Glas is interpreted on the background of Derrida’s reading of Levinas: against the archeologic totality of Hegel’s system, Glas does not oppose nevertheless the eschatological infinity of a metaphysical alterity, but rather the finite infinity of a transgressive desire for contingency. Language, art, and literature, much more than the ethical or religious dimension, are external phenomenological transcendence, against which Hegel’s system of absolute knowledge and Genet’s literary experiments are constantly measured.