Effacements: Emmanuel Levinas and Irigaray

Morny Joy

in Divine Love

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780719055232
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700792 | DOI:
Effacements: Emmanuel Levinas and Irigaray

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This chapter explores the writings of Levinas on women and the ‘feminine’. Luce Irigaray and Emmanuel Levinas shared a commitment to reconfiguring contemporary ethics. They both envisage a revised male and female relationship as paradigmatic for the changes they wish to introduce. These relationships will be heterosexual, where there are specific qualities that are ‘feminine’ and have distinctive roles for women. They both employ similar terms to describe vital aspects of the radical transformation of ethics: desire, eros, infinite, transcendence, mystery and virginity. Irigaray, however, has chosen to disapprove of certain aspects of Levinas's work—specifically those which concern his depictions of women, the ‘feminine’ and the relations between men and women. Irigaray disputes Levinas's portrayal of maternity and fecundity. She faults Levinas for viewing the child as the main creative outcome of love, rather than viewing love as creative in its own right. Levinas's mixture of conservative religious values with a radical interrogation of traditional western ethics is a potent but confusing one. It has made it awkward for feminists to speak to his work.

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; contemporary ethics; heterosexual relationship; radical transformation of ethics; virginity; feminine; conservative religious values

Chapter.  13997 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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