Encountering the Modern Subject in Levinas (Yale French Studies, No. 104, Encounters with Levinas)

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This is not the first edited volume to use the motif of the encounter to explore influences and meeting points between the work of Levinas and others. In Levinas's account, it is the encounter with an other, irreducible to the same, that calls the subject to an awareness of his or her absolute ethical responsibility. Thus, for Levinas, ethics precedes ontology and is transformative.

Treize's volume follows through on the promise of its title, using the juxtaposition of Levinasian theory and other discourses intellectual history in Samuel Moyn's article; Dostoevsky's writing in that of Alain Toumayan; and recent genetic theory in that of Edith Wyschogrod , to forge new ethical marriages and previously unforeseen intertexts and applications for Levinas criticism.

Other essays re-examine or re-stage encounters that have been taken for granted, sometimes fallaciously, in existing work. Leonora Batnitzky's article seeks to re-examine the grounds for the fashionable adoption of Levinas by postmodernists. She argues that Levinas's concept of responsibility anchors his thought in a resolutely Cartesian model, which is incompatible with the decentered postmodern subject.

This view both of Levinas and of Descartes opens the way for important debate. In her contribution to the collection, Luce Irigaray seeks to dismantle the widespread critical assumption that she is a 'disciple or inheritor' p. This logic precludes the possibility of a more desirable ethical relation: the 'reciprocal desire between two different existents and beings' p. The article is seminal reading both for Irigaray scholars and Levinasians. The misunderstanding demonstrates that what is often missing in our communicative relations is careful attention to the Other.


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Camus does not offer us any easy way out when confronting the impossibility of fully knowing ourselves and others; instead, he shows that we must acknowledge the suffering this brings and take responsibility for it. Skip to Main Content. Search in: This Journal Anywhere. Advanced search.

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