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Levinas and Blanchot on Image and Art

Lecturer: Mark Hewson

Originally Taught: Evening Sem 2 2013

The philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and the critical writing of Maurice Blanchot developed in the closest proximity, and the study of their two works leads far into the problems of modern philosophy and literature. The course will be focussed on the way Blanchot and Levinas re-interpret art and the image, and in particular, the transformations of modern art. It will begin with Levinas’s book, Existence and the Existent. This work is an excellent introduction to the phenomenological understanding of world, existence and time, and it gives the phenomenon of art a central place in elaborating its version of the question of being. The course will then consider the way that each of these two writers analyse the phenomenon of the image. It will conclude with a study of Blanchot’s text, ‘The Museum Art and Time’, a review essay of Malraux’s writings on art and the museum, which advances a philosophical-historical interpretation of modern art.

Course Schedule

Lecture 1

  • Levinas, Existence and Existents. Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 (“The relationship with existence and the instant”, “The world”.)

Lecture 2

  • Levinas, Existence and Existents. Chapter 3, “Existence without a world”

Lecture 3

  • Levinas, Existence and Existents. Chapter 4, “The Hypostasis” and Conclusion.
  • Blanchot, The Space of Literature. “Sleep, Dream”.

Lecture 4

  • Blanchot. The Space of Literature. “The Two Versions of the Imaginary”
  • Levinas, “Reality and its Shadow” (in Collected Philosophical Papers)

Lecture 5

  • Blanchot, “The Museum, Art and Time” (in Friendship)

Lecture 6

  • Blanchot, “The Museum, Art and Time”.

Recommended Reading:

  • Emmanuel Levinas, Existence and Existents. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Kluwer, 1988.
  • Emmanuel Levinas, “Reality and its Shadow” in Collected Philosophical Papers. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Kluwer, 1987.
  • Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature. Translated by Anne Smock. University of Nebraska Press, 1982. (especially “Sleep, Dream” and “The Two Versions of the Imaginary”).
  • Maurice Blanchot, “The Language of Fiction” in The Work of Fire.
  • Maurice Blanchot, “The Museum, Art and Time” and “Museum Sickness” in Friendship. Translated by Elizabeth Rottenburg. Stanford University Press, 1997.

Level of Difficulty: The level of the course will be introductory/intermediate. The texts to be studied are quite demanding, but no prior knowledge is assumed.