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Title: A study of alterity and influence in the literary and philosophical neighbourhood of Jean Genet and Emmanuel Levinas
Author: Newman, Thomas F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2672 7793
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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The dissertation is a chiasmic reading of the works of Jean Genet and Emmanuel Levinas, examining the way they each address the relation to the Other in terms of ethics and subjectivity. Whereas a straightforward association between the two writers might seem paradoxical because of the differences in their approaches and rhetoric, a chiasmic reading allows intricate approaches, moments of proximity and departures to be read both conceptually and aesthetically. We show that these two writers share a tightly-woven discursive neighbourhood, and examine that neighbourhood through detailed analysis of various textual encounters. We trace patterns of influence which allow us to consider our writers’ decision-making processes in the genesis of their texts. Genet and Levinas develop views surprisingly close to each other’s of the “face-to-face encounter”, which they place at the origin of language seen both as expression and commandment. Each approaches that encounter simultaneously in terms of the possibility of welcome, and the possibility of violence and betrayal. Considerations of influence from sources common to both, especially Paul Valery and Fyodor Dostoevsky, serve to extend our analysis of their thought on address to include the encounters they share within discursive history and across the genres. The theatre figures in both oeuvres as a powerful way of considering the radical passivity of the individual’s relation to the world. The passive subject, unable to escape alterity, is also unable to escape a certain liberty of choice and action, and a call to engagement. This call may take surprising forms, and even provoke the subject’s defection over to the Other; or the substitution of the Other’s claims for its own. This interstice between the individual and a plural world serves to disorder totalisation, characterised by hostility, and open new possibilities of interaction in its place.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available