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Vigilant Memory

Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death

R. Clifton Spargo

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Vigilant Memory focuses on the particular role of Emmanuel Levinas's thought in reasserting the ethical parameters for poststructuralist criticism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than simply situating Levinas's ethics within the larger context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo offers a new explanation of its significance in relation to history.

In critical readings of the limits and also the heretofore untapped possibilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impact of the Holocaust on Levinas's various figures of injustice while examining the place of mourning, the bad...

Vigilant Memory focuses on the particular role of Emmanuel Levinas's thought in reasserting the ethical parameters for poststructuralist criticism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than simply situating Levinas's ethics within the larger context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo offers a new explanation of its significance in relation to history.

In critical readings of the limits and also the heretofore untapped possibilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impact of the Holocaust on Levinas's various figures of injustice while examining the place of mourning, the bad conscience, the victim, and the stranger/neighbor as they appear in Levinas's work. Ultimately, Spargo ranges beyond Levinas's explicit philosophical or implicit political positions to calculate the necessary function of the "memory of injustice" in our cultural and political discourses on the characteristics of a just society.

In this original and magisterial study, Spargo uses Levinas's work to approach our understanding of the suffering and death of others, and in doing so reintroduces an essential ethical element to the reading of literature, culture, and everyday life.

Reviews

Reviews

A marvelously lucid and interesting analysis of Levinas's notion of 'after Auschwitz.'

This book provides an immensely engaging, rich, and contemporary analysis of Levinas's ethics.

Unique and indispensable for anyone engaged in scholarly treatments of ethics and politics.

An impressively well-documented, well-researched study.

Spargo's lucid analyses of Emmanuel Levinas's 'post-Holocaust' ethics make the compelling case that it is the consequences rather than the historical facts of the Holocaust that have profoundly and forever affected how individual human beings respond to their neighbors. As Spargo makes a strong case for a more expansive Levinasian ethics, he effectively links that ethics to the beginnings of political thought.

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Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction
Re-Theorizing Ethics
The Language of the Other
Ethics as Critique
Post-1945 Memory
1. Ethics as Unquieted Memory
Facing Death
Mourning the Other Who Dies
To

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction
Re-Theorizing Ethics
The Language of the Other
Ethics as Critique
Post-1945 Memory
1. Ethics as Unquieted Memory
Facing Death
Mourning the Other Who Dies
To Whom Do Our Funerary Emotions Refer?
Reading Grief's Excess in the Phaedo
The Death of Every Other
The Universal Relevance of the Unjust Death
The Holocaust—Not Just Anybody's Injustice
2. The Unpleasure of Conscience
Is Sorry Really the Hardest Word?
Unpleasure, Revisited
The Bad Conscience in History
The Bad Conscience and the Holocaust
Coda
3. Where There Are No Victorious Victims
Accountability in the Name of the Victim
Not Just Any Victim
Levinas and the Question of Victim-Subjectivity
Just Who Substitutes for Another?
Victim of Circumstances
Questionably Useful Suffering
4. Of the Others Who Are Stranger than Neighbors
The Stranger, Metaphorically Speaking
The Memory of the Stranger
Somebody's Knocking at the Door...
Lest We Forget—the Neighbor
The Community of Neighbors—Is It a Good Thing?
How Well Do I Know My Neighbor? The Exigency of Israel and the Holocaust
Afterword. Ethics versus History: Is There Still an Ought in Our Remembrance?
The Memory of Injustice
Nobody Has to Remember
Why Should I Care?
Notes
Index

Author Bio
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R. Clifton Spargo

R. Clifton Spargo is an associate professor of English at Marquette University. He is the author of The Ethics of Mourning: Grief and Responsibility in Elegiac Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).