Primo Levi and the History of Reception

William McClellan

in Answering Auschwitz

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233588
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241811 | DOI:
Primo Levi and the History of Reception

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Today, it is imperative that reception history be put in the context of a reception ethics. This chapter draws upon the political philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, who in several works—most notably, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive and Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life—comes to grips with the destructive effects of power on the human subject, a fundamental political and moral problem laid bare in the Nazi death camps. Agamben argues that Auschwitz, as a metonym for the Holocaust or the extermination of the European Jews, is the site where power absolutely degraded and destroyed human beings before exterminating them. Agamben, in turn, draws heavily on the memoirs of Primo Levi, including Survival in Auschwitz, and The Drowned and the Saved, calling Levi the cartographer of the new moral universe.

Keywords: reception ethics; Giorgio Agamben; Nazi death camps; Auschwitz; Holocaust; European Jews

Chapter.  3224 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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