Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Levinas in France!

I'm excited about this one--our next North American Levinas Society conference will be in France, and we'll be teaming up with another organization (SIREL). Below is the Call for Papers.

Société internationale de recherches Emmanuel Levinas (SIREL, Paris)
North American Levinas Society (NALS, USA)
International Conference: "Readings of Difficult Freedom"
July 5-9, 2010: Toulouse, France


First published in 1963, with a second edition in 1976, Difficile Liberté, Essais sur le judaïsme is considered Levinas' mostaccessible book and constitutes an e xcellent introduction to his work. This collection of essays which appeared in a variety of journals (L'arche, Information juive, L'esprit, Evidences, etc.) reflects the society, culture and philosophy of France from the 1950s to the 1970s. These essays are closely bound to traumatic events of the time, but Levinas – and this is one of the strengths of the book –tackles these issues directly. He sets forth the reconditions for the reconstruction of a world governed by aspirations for justice and a renewal of Judaism, as signified by the living symbol of Israel.

Difficile Liberté should not be seen purely as a collection of circumstantial writings. Levinas attempts to define post-Holocaust Judaism, and charts the conditions and the need for Jewish thought and education in an authentic but distanced dialogue with modern, i.e. Christian, society. These considerations are often interspersed with references to writers and thinkers who influenced Levinas such as Claudel, Heidegger, Hegel, Spinoza, S. Weil, Gordin and Rozensweig, but more frequently to sacred texts, the Bible and the writings of the Sages of Israel which Levinas felt were so critical to study. Can it be said that Levinas' modernity may be found in his appeal to Jews to return to those old "worm-eaten tractates" (the Jew of the Talmud should take precedence over the Jew of the Psalms)? These articles are still innovative, sharp, concise and overarching; the style is sometimes lyrical – Levinas rarely wrote in such a strident, argumentative way, blending conviction and stupefaction.

Beyond the obligatory step of analyzing the title (taken from the last few words of the article "Education and Prayer") this conference aims not only to place the essays in Difficult Freedom in their historical context and within Levinas' evolving thought, but more importantly to examine them afresh – with the wonderment and probing they still elicit today. Diachronic and synchronic analyses of the articles in Difficult Freedom will help situate them with respect to Levinas' other works, themes could be explored such as the Holocaust, Israel, phenomenology, ethics, links to Heidegger, Rozensweig, French philosophers and writers, Talmudic readings, Levinas' relationship to Christianity, etc.

This international conference is organized by the Société internationale de Recherches Emmanuel Levinas (SIREL), and by the North American Levinas Society (Purdue, USA), in conjunction with the Levinas Ethical Legacy Foundation (New York), the Centre Raissa et Emmanuel Levinas (Jerusalem), and other partners to be announced. The conference will host participants from all over the world, with more than a hundred presentations. Priority will be given to students and young researchers. The proceedings will be published (articles selected by the editorial committee). If funding permits, some financial aid may be made available, in particular to young researchers.

1. On or before July 14, 2009: submission of title and a short author bio-bibliography.
2. On or before September 30, 2009: submission of a 500-word abstract presenting the paper (talks will be 20 minutes, in French or in English).
3. On or before November 15, 2009: author notification, based on the decision of the scientific committee.
4. February 2010: publication of conference program.

Questions concerning this conference and all submissions should be sent
(preferably as Microsoft Word files) electronically to: dl2010@gmail.com
Society Newsletter, 4.1 May

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