Images and Shadows: Levinas and the Ambiguity of the Aesthetic

Estetika 47 (2):123-143 (2010)

Tanja Staehler
University of Sussex
Levinas’s comments on art appear contradictory. On the one hand, he criticizes art as being disengaged from ethical concerns and constituting a possibility of moral evasion; on the other hand, he engages quite closely and in a supportive fashion with some art, such as Paul Celan’s poetry. Interpreters commonly argue that only one of Levinas’s conceptions of art, either the affirmative or the negative, represents his true attitude towards art. In this article the author seeks to make both statements compatible with each other and thus relevant to Levinas’s conception of art. She focuses on his essay ‘Reality and Its Shadow’, where art is diagnosed as an ambiguous phenomenon. She argues that full understanding of the ambiguity of art demands that Levinas’s different statements about art are considered together; only thus can the complete picture of the ambiguity emerge. Furthermore, it turns out that the very same feature which makes art open to misunderstanding – namely, its precarious materiality – also allows an artwork to sustain itself and to be revived. Art reveals a shadow, withdrawal, or resistance that belongs to reality itself
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 41,524
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Ideas About Art.Kathleen Kadon Desmond - 2011 - Wiley-Blackwell.
Are There Counterexamples to Aesthetic Theories of Art?Nick Zangwill - 2002 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60 (2):111–118.
A Portrait of the Artist as an Aesthetic Expert.Christy Mag Uidhir & Cameron Buckner - 2014 - In Gregory Currie, Matthew Kieran & Aaron Meskin (eds.), Aesthetics and the Sciences. Oxford University Press.
Adorno Vs. Levinas: Evaluating Points of Contention. [REVIEW]Nick Smith - 2007 - Continental Philosophy Review 40 (3):275-306.
The Aesthetic Function of Art.Gary Iseminger - 2004 - Cornell University Press.
Aesthetics.Harold Osborne - 1972 - London: Oxford University Press.
Art, Self and Knowledge.Keith Lehrer - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Are Video Games Art?Aaron Smuts - 2005 - Contemporary Aesthetics 3.


Added to PP index

Total views
40 ( #200,833 of 2,248,792 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #195,279 of 2,248,792 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature