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. Examining Levinas's texts while in dialogue with readings by Derrida, Blanchot, and Bataille, this text 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 appendix, she includes her own translation of an essay by Bataille on Levinas.
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.