Journal Article

‘Better than metaphors’? Dwelling and the Maternal Body in Emmanuel Levinas

Kathryn Bevis

in Literature and Theology

Volume 21, issue 3, pages 317-329
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online August 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frm028
‘Better than metaphors’? Dwelling and the Maternal Body in Emmanuel Levinas

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Emmanuel Levinas once described his own textual practise as ‘mieux que les metaphores’. Yet surprisingly little detailed attention has been paid to the poetic texture of his prose. This neglect seems curious in Levinas's case as metaphor–or something like it–is such a governing influence in his philosophy. In Otherwise than Being, Levinas focuses on sensible elements of human experience, particularly the subject's indwelling of her own body. This concentration leads him to a radical use of metaphors for the ethical exposure to the Other, which is best exemplified by the unique indwelling, or incarnation of the-other-in-the-same, in the figure of the maternal body. Ultimately, the idiosyncratic metaphor of maternity is particularly appropriate for representing what I shall call the ‘sensible transcendent’ in Levinas. His concentration on the body, in particular its vulnerability and exposure, gives scope for a new understanding of how it is that the human person can encounter that which lies beyond herself.

Journal Article.  5491 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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