Returning (to) the gift of death: violence and history in Derrida and Levinas

The purpose of this paper is to establish a proper context for reading Jacques Derrida's The Gift of Death, which, I contend, can only be understood fully against the backdrop of "Violence and Metaphysics." The later work cannot be fully understood unless the reader appreciates the fact that Derrida returns to "a certain Abraham" not only in the name of Kierkegaard but also in the name of Levinas himself. The hypothesis of the reading that follows therefore would be that Derrida writes The Gift of Death not as an attempt to re-present Kierkegaard's Abraham either rightly or wrongly but as an effort to do with Kierkegaard's Abraham what is possible with his thought in a broadly Levinasian/Derridean framework. That the reading he provides of the Abraham story would not be recognizable to Kierkegaard is not the principal point of Derrida's effort; his aim is to demonstrate that Levinas should not have been so hasty to dismiss Kierkegaard but could have recovered his interpretation of Abraham for purposes that Derrida and Levinas both share
Keywords Derrida  Levinas  Violence  History  Abraham  God  Death  Singularity
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Jacques Derrida (2008). The Gift of Death. University of Chicago Press.

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