Volume 22, Issue 2, Spring 2018
A Holy Aesthetic
Recognizing an Art that is Otherwise than Art in the Work of Emmanuel Levinas
Despite Emmanuel Levinas’s famous denigration of art in “Reality and Its Shadow” as an egregious evasion of ethical responsibility, discussions of poetic art in his later writings court the ethical rhetoric that lies at the heart of his philosophy. Refuting claims that a more mature Levinas simply changed his attitude towards art, this article argues the existence of a poetic art that equates to a Jewish understanding of Temimut, or holiness, and describes the written word as a “holy aesthetic” born of ethical artistic intentions. Through these claims, this article seeks to add an interdisciplinary dimension to existing Levinas scholarship on ethical aesthetics, which has yet to consider how Levinas’s later discussions of art emerge from Talmudic thought.