Of Levinas and Shakespeare: "To See Another Thus"

Of Levinas and Shakespeare: "To See Another Thus" (ePDF)

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 Of Levinas and Shakespeare: "To See Another Thus"
Purdue University Press

Book Description

Scholars have used Levinas as a lens through which to view many authors and texts, fields of endeavor, and works of art. Yet no book-length work or dedicated volume has brought this thoughtful lens to bear in a sustained discussion of the works of Shakespeare. It should not surprise anyone that Levinas identified his own thinking as Shakespearean. "The play’s the thing" for both, or put differently, the observation of intersubjectivity is. What may surprise and indeed delight all learned readers is to consider what we might yet gain from considering each in light of the other.

Comprising leading scholars in philosophy and literature, Of Levinas and Shakespeare: "To See Another Thus" is the first book-length work to treat both great thinkers. Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth dominate the discussion; however, essays also address Cymbeline, The Merchant of Venice, and even poetry, such as Venus and Adonis. Volume editors planned and contributors deliver a thorough treatment from multiple perspectives, yet none intends this volume to be the last word on the subject; rather, they would have it be a provocation to further discussion, an enticement for richer enjoyment, and an invitation for deeper contemplation of Levinas and Shakespeare.

Book Reviews

Andrew Cutrofello, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago

“Together, the papers in this marvelous collection reveal the significance of Shakespeare for Levinas and the significance of Levinas for Shakespeare. At a time of keen interest in Shakespeare and philosophy, it will be welcomed by philosophers and literary critics alike.”


Adam Z. Newton, University Professor Emeritus, Yeshiva University

“Coming upon the heels of the four-hundred-year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Of Levinas and Shakespeare offers a timely and ambitious addition to the growing body of work on Levinas as a writer in peculiar and often uncanny proximity to other writers. This collection explores the nuanced play of affinities between 20th-century ethical philosopher and Elizabethan dramatist/poet, and discloses ways in which Shakespeare might be used to open up Levinas and not merely the other (and more predictable) way around. If reading can be a way of inhabiting, a form of living space, then this volume offers ample satisfaction for the room it provides a range of audiences—scholars of Levinas and of Shakespeare, students of ethical criticism, dialogists of literature and philosophy—to dwell for a time ‘within.’”


Bettina Bergo, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Montréal

“This valuable collection of essays responds to an observation Levinas made after the War—to wit, that ‘the whole of philosophy is only a meditation on Shakespeare.’ With this pithy remark, Levinas opened the work of the great bard to our contemporary condition, as a profoundly self-reflexive, indeed ethical, thinker. Through sustained cross-readings of Levinas and Shakespeare, the essays take up dwelling in the tragedies and comedies of Shakespeare, situating the ongoing renewal of the letter through new insights. What are these revitalizing insights into Shakespeare of which Levinas speaks? Above all, it is discerning, in the situations and characters of the playwright, a testimony to the human encounter as infinite, as unlimited by concepts and the ongoing drive to unfold a story and to interrupt it, holding it far from simple answers. Understood through Levinas’s eyes, Shakespeare dramatized what the philosopher recognized as human worlds peopled with figures, great and small, who are compelled by their respective others to respond and to seek justice. Students and teachers alike will find in this collection innovative and thought-provoking avenues toward reframing Shakespeare studies, and impressive stagings and illustrations of Levinas’s challenging thought.”


David P. Haney, President, Centenary University

“These essays do not simply apply Levinasian concepts to Shakespeare, which in Levinas’s terms would do violence to Shakespeare by bounding his work with a conceptual schema. Instead, these astute and sympathetic readings enable the Shakespearean literary world, which (as Hamlet suggests to Horatio) overflows the boundaries of philosophy’s dream, to speak and listen to Levinas’s philosophical world, which overflows the boundaries of the concept by rooting thought in ethics. This dialogue works hard to preserve the concrete humanity and ethical grounding of both worlds. Now more than ever, in an era that permits the reduction of the human to the tweet, we need this kind of reading.”


About the Editor(s):

Moshe Gold is an associate professor of English and director of the Rose Hill Writing Program at Fordham University. A coeditor of the Joyce Studies Annual, Gold has published on Joyce, Plato, Levinas, Derrida, and the Talmud. His work on the Polish director Kieslowski appears in Of Elephants and Toothaches: Ethics, Politics, and Religion in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue.

Sandor Goodhart is a professor of English and Jewish Studies and Director of the Religious Studies Program at Purdue University. He has published over one hundred essays and six books, including Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature (1996), The Prophetic Law: Essays in Judaism, Girardianism, Literary Studies, and the Ethical (2014), and Möbian Nights: Reading Literature and Darkness (2017).

Kent Lehnhof is a professor of English at Chapman University. He studies early modern literature and culture and has published extensively on Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. Recent work has appeared in Renaissance Drama, Modern Philology, and Shakespeare Bulletin.