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Emmanuel Levinas (1906—1995)

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Emmanuel Levinas's term for the presence of the Other. It is an ambiguous concept because it simultaneously does and does not refer to actual human faces. It does refer to human faces inasmuch as the face is the most expressive part of the human body, but does not refer to actual human expressions. The face is not an object of experience or perception for Levinas, it is rather an epiphany or revelation—it transforms us, but does not yield knowledge. Levinas uses the notion of the face to think through the problematic of the self's relation with the infinitely Other. The face is what separates the self from the Other, thus stopping the Other from annihilating it. By the same token, the face appears in ‘my’ world, but I cannot harm it. It is not of this world.

Further Reading:

C. Davis Levinas: An Introduction (1996).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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