Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion

Paperback | August 30, 2016

bySarah Hammerschlag

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Over a span of thirty years, twentieth-century French philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida held a conversation across texts. Sharing a Jewish heritage and a background in phenomenology, both came to situate their work at the margins of philosophy, articulating this placement through religion and literature. Chronicling the interactions between these thinkers, Sarah Hammerschlag argues that the stakes in their respective positions were more than philosophical. They were also political. Levinas's investments were born out in his writings on Judaism and ultimately in an evolving conviction that the young state of Israel held the best possibility for achieving such an ideal. For Derrida, the Jewish question was literary. The stakes of Jewish survival could only be approached through reflections on modern literature's religious legacy, a line of thinking that provided him the means to reconceive democracy. Hammerschlag's reexamination of Derrida and Levinas's textual exchange not only produces a new account of this friendship but also has significant ramifications for debates within Continental philosophy, the study of religion, and political theology.

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From the Publisher

Over a span of thirty years, twentieth-century French philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida held a conversation across texts. Sharing a Jewish heritage and a background in phenomenology, both came to situate their work at the margins of philosophy, articulating this placement through religion and literature. Chronicling th...

Sarah Hammerschlag is associate professor of religion and literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the author of The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought (2010).
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:August 30, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231170599

ISBN - 13:9780231170598

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbbreviations1. "What Must a Jewish Thinker Be?"2. Levinas, Literature, and the Ruin of the World3. Between the Jew and Writing4. To Lose One's Head: Literature and the Democracy to Come5. Literature and the Political-Theological RemainsEpilogue: "There Is Not a Pin to Choose Between Us"NotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

From early texts such as Violence and Metaphysics to late works such as Adieu, Derrida sustained a powerful and philosophically productive bond with Levinas. But their differences, in matters of metaphysics and on the question of Jewish 'communitarianism,' were profound. In this searching and suggestive meditation, Hammerschlag asks us to consider anew this troubled affiliation and examines the dialectic of fidelity and betrayal that marked their intellectual friendship across the decades.