Levinas Studies 13:191-208 (2019)

Kaitlyn Newman
Pennsylvania State University
In his early essay, “Reality and Its Shadow,” Levinas appears to take a strong position against art, and while the strength of his admonitions against aesthetics has been questioned, the fact remains that Levinas refers to art as an act that is like “feasting during a plague.” Art becomes offensive. However, is it possible that we could imagine the artwork as a site where the encounter with the Other becomes possible? That is, when we encounter certain artworks, do we not also encounter the radical alterity of one whose experiences and very existence cannot possibly be assimilated to the Same, or to our own experiences? In this paper, I argue that art marks a site where the encounter with the Other is made possible by examining the post-genocide and post-war photographs of Simon Norfolk. I maintain that art thus contains ethical possibilities that actually align with Levinasian ethics, rather than run counter to it, as Levinas seemed to believe. This art cannot be understood through the lens of enjoyment—as “feasting during a plague”—but rather must be understood as an experience which throws us outside of ourselves and our interiority and, in so doing, forces us to confront an alterity and a horror that awakens responsibility and awareness of the Other.
Keywords Continental Philosophy  Major Philosophers  Philosophy and Religion
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DOI 10.5840/levinas2019138
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References found in this work BETA

Levinas on Art and Aestheticism.Richard A. Cohen - 2016 - Levinas Studies 11:149-194.
A Holy Aesthetic in Advance.Pamela Carralero - forthcoming - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy.
A Holy Aesthetic.Pamela Carralero - 2018 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (2):505-522.
Aesth-Ethics: Levinas, Plato, and Art.Silvia Benso - 2008 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (1):163-183.
Levinas and the Photographic Undergone.John Hunting - 2015 - Philosophy of Photography 6 (1):73-82.

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