Driven Back to the Text: The Premodern Sources of Levinas's PostmodernismOona Ajzenstat $55.00
Published in 2001 | 320 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0325-1
“Driven Back to the Text: The Premodern Sources of Levinas's Postmodernism, is necessary reading for anyone interested in the work of French philosopher Immanuel Levinas. . . This book fills a niche that was missing in Levinas scholarship.” — Studies in Religion
“What is significant about her reading of Levinas is that she delves deeply and thoroughly into these 'postmodern' sources. Rather than merely contending, as many studies to date have done, that Levinas's Jewish scholarship is important, Ajzenstat undertakes the detailed work of demonstrating exactly how and why this is the case. And the result is a book that contributes enormously toward the growing body of significant Levinas scholarship.” — American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly
“This book marks an important advance in Levinas studies. . . . Highly recommended for all academic collections.” — Choice"
Most of the scholarship on Levinas treats either Levinas the Philosopher or Levinas the Jew. Driven Back to the Text is one of the first extended studies to treat the two as one: Levinas's philosophy through Judaism, and his Judaism through philosophy. Beginning with a clear introduction to Levinas, the book argues that if, as is accepted, contemporary continental philosophy is heavily influenced by Levinas, and if Levinas is heavily influenced by traditional Jewish texts, then contemporary continental philosophy is at least to some extent influenced by Judaism. At the core of Ajzenstat's work are three examinations of Levinas reading and rewriting. In the first, she suggests that the sequence of biblical references used by Levinas in Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence form a subtext of midrash that grounds and illuminates his ideas at every turn. The second proposes that the images that Levinas draws upon in Otherwise and Totality and Infinity of mystics Abraham Abulafia and Isaac Luria⎯images of rupture and healing⎯are central to his thought. And the third offers an interpretation of one of Levinas's talmudic lectures and discusses the way the ideas raised therein form a framework for the ethics of difference he presents in all of his work. Driven Back to the Text demonstrates that what is at issue here is the Holocaust, and how it drives Levinas back to the Bible, the Kabbalah and the Talmud to fight against Hegelianism, totalitarianism and modern progressivist liberalism. This very return suggests a certain hermeneutic⎯one that both brings out of the texts what the readers' society needs to hear as well as one found in the texts; that is, it is an ethical hermeneutic and is part of the texts' ethics.
OONA AJZENSTAT (Eisenstadt) is in the religious studies department at Pomona College. She is the president of the Continental Philosophy in a Jewish Context Group.