Page 131 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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GIBBS / LEVINAS AND JEWISH THOUGHT
123
Judith Friedlander’s book,
Vilna on the Seine,
discusses several
key Jewish intellectuals in Paris, including Levinas.12 It is an
anthropological assessment of this re-emergence of Jewish
thought, and notes that most of the renaissance comes from
Jews who are not French. Indeed, the intellectualism of the Lith­
uanian talmudic tradition is part of this movement, as even her
title indicates. She has a lengthy chapter on Levinas, where she
culls much of the biographical information from various inter­
views that have appeared in French. Her presentation of the
philosophical matters is somewhat weak, but the account is of
value for placing Levinas in a context.
In the past year two books have appeared in English that
locate Levinas in the context of Jewish thought. One is my own
Correlations in Levinas and Rosenzweig
,13
The task of that book
is to explore how both Rosenzweig and Levinas are re-orienting
philosophy by recourse to themes from Jewish thought. I clearly
locate Levinas as the current representative of the tradition of
Cohen and Rosenzweig, and explore the relation of his Jewish
writings to his philosophical ones. Moreover, I place Levinas
in various contexts in order to show his relation with other
thinkers: with Cohen, with Rosenzweig, with Marcel, with
Buber, and with Marx. The result is to give access to a phil­
osophically challenging Jewish reading of Levinas.
The other book is Susan Handelman’s second book,
Fragments
o f Redemption: Jewish Thought and Literary Theory in Benjamin,
Scholem, and Levinas.14
Handelman examines the implications of
Levinas’s work for continuing arguments in literary theory. She
explores Jewish dimensions of literary theory, emphasizing sev­
eral important postmodern themes. Levinas (and to some extent
Rosenzweig) serve to restore the ethical structure of Jewish her­
meneutics, by insisting on the responsibility for the other in
reading and writing. Her work has some similarity to the de­
velopments in France, except that she chooses as her audience
not one from Jewish Studies, but rather the general literary
12. Judith Friedlander,
Vilna on the Seine.
New Haven: Yale University Press,
1990.
13. Robert Gibbs,
Correlations in Levinas and Rosenzweig.
Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1992.
14. Susan A. Handelman,
Fragments of Redemption: Jewish Thought and Literary
Theory in Benjamin, Scholem, nd Levinas.
Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana Uni­
versity Press, 1991.