The Face in Levinas

Angelaki 16 (1):17 - 39 (2011)
Abstract
This is a study of the way in which Levinas approaches the experience of human expression from two perspectives: firstly, as a pre-thematic or pre-cognitive ?experience,? which requires that he revisit Husserl's pre-objective intentionality and explore the relationship between the upsurge of sensation (?Urhylè?) and its ?intentionalization? as consciousness self-temporalizing. Thereafter, Levinas must contend with the implications of his own writing (his thematization and rhetoric), which includes his claims for the face. This implies that he must grapple with criticism to the effect that he is providing a (foundationless) hermeneutics of face-to-face encounters (later, of an affective memory that repeats without recollected representations). Levinas acknowledges that his writing is a ?dramatique des phénomènes? and not a phenomenology of actions (Totality and Infinity, ?Preface?). How, then, to avoid charges of arbitrary description? How to step outside the primordiality of ?the phrase? (Lyotard) or the conceptualization that threatens claims to ?pure? phenomenology? This is really what is at stake in Levinas's second great work (1974). In this essay, I explore the role that ?substitution? plays in weaving together conceptuality and phenomenality. I contrast this with other forms of ?dramatization,? from narrative witnessing (Delbo, Kertesz), to minimalist sculpture (Giacometti)
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