Levinas Reading

April 8-9, 2015


On philosopher Emmanuel Levinas as a reader: a reader of philosophical texts and religious texts but also a reader of literary texts. The impetus for this conference arises from the recent publication of the first three volumes of Emmanuel Levinas’ Oeuvres complètes.

Thanks to these new volumes of Levinas’s previously unpublished works, we finally have access to his wartime notebooks and his literary compositions as well as to other unpublished writings on themes such as eros and metaphor. These writings provide us with a new perspective on Levinas the philosopher.  We are now able to think with more nuance and detail about Levinas the reader.  This opens up a new interdisciplinary approach to his work. We can finally reconstruct the ways in which his project emerged out of the reading of philosophical, literary and religious texts and are able to see early formulations of his work that reflect those sources.  This provides us with the opportunity for a truly new conversation, one which gets past debates over Jewish versus Christian appropriations, and allows us to consider how and why he synthesized sources from Catholic writers such Léon Bloy  with canonical Jewish sources such as Maimonides,  and modern avant-garde literature such as the novels of Maurice Blanchot.  It also allows us to rethink his relationship to two thinkers with whom he is often closely associated whether in opposition or proximity: Martin Heidegger and Franz Rosenzweig. 
 The recent publication of the first three volumes of Martin Heidegger’s Black Notebooks thus also adds a new element to the conversation. The publication of these notebooks which span from 1931 to 1941, and which include overtly anti-Semitic statements has again stirred up conversations concerning the relationship between Heidegger’s thought and his political commitments.   Levinas was one of the first thinkers in France to read and interpret Martin Heidegger and has often been credited with introducing Heidegger to French audiences.  At the same time he was also one of the first to find constructive means of thinking against him.  Thus one strand of our conference will be to consider Levinas’s strategies to read, make use of and also subvert Heidegger’s thinking.

Organized by Sarah Hammerschlag, Assistant Professor of Religion and Literature,  and Raoul MoatiAssistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy.
Sponsored by the Divinity School, the Martin Marty Center, the Philosophy Department, the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, and the Chicago France Center.

Speakers include

Bettina Bergo, Université de Montreal
Rodolph Calin,  Université de Paul Valery
Ryan Coyne, University of Chicago
Oona Eisenstadt, Pomona College
Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago
Sean Hand,  University of Warwick
Martin Kavka, Florida State University
Jean-Luc Marion, University of Chicago
Françoise Meltzer, University of Chicago
Michael Morgan, Indiana University
Adriaan Peperzak, Loyola University

Levinas Reading Conference Schedule

University of Chicago Divinity School, April 8-9


Wednesday, April 8

Swift Lecture Hall (3rd floor)


9:30 Welcome by Raoul Moati and Sarah Hammerschlag

8:45 - 9:30 Coffee served


10:00 - 12:00 Levinas and Literature

Seán Hand: “Philosophy’s End, Literature’s Trace: Reading Relations between Levinas’s Literary and Philosophical Visions”

Sarah Hammerschlag: “Literature and the Ruin of the World”


12:00 - 1:30 Lunch Break


1:30 - 3:30 Levinas and Ancient Philosophy

Michael Morgan: “Levinas and Plato”

Adriaan Peperzak: “How to Read ‘Being’ and ‘Beyond’”


3:30 Coffee break


4:30 Jean-Luc Marion: Introducing the volumes

Round table on the impact of the volumes on Levinas studies


Thursday, April 9

Swift Lecture Hall (3rd floor)


8:45 - 9:30 Coffee served


9:00 - 12:00 Levinas Reading Religious Sources

Oona Eisenstadt: “Rhetorical Subterfuge in Levinas Reading Israel”

Michael Fishbane: “‘Seeing the Voices’- Enchaining the Chains of Tradition”

Martin Kavka: “For it is God’s Way to Sweeten Bitter with Bitter: Prayer in Levinas and R. Hayyim of Volozhin”


12:00 - 1:30 Lunch Break


1:30 - 4:00 Levinas on Modern Philosophy

Bettina Bergo:  “Einfühlung or Dialectics; Exteriority or Constitution? Husserl and Levinas on Intersubjectivity”

Ryan Coyne: Title TBD

Raoul Moati: Title TBD


4:00 Coffee break


4:30 Rodolphe Calin: “The notion of accomplishment in Levinas”


6:00 Reception

Swift Hall Common Room (1st floor)