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Public Lecture by Professor Eleanor Kaufman: “Ethics and Otherness: Derrida, Levinas, and the Gaze of the Other in the Jewish American Wild West”

Apr 6, 2017 @ 7:00 pm 9:00 pm

The AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR LEVINASSIAN STUDIES* presents its third 2016-2017 lecture on “The Return of Ethics”

Ethics and Otherness: Derrida, Levinas, and the Gaze of the Other in the Jewish American Wild West  by Professor Eleanor Kaufman (Comparative Literature, English, and French and Francophone Studies, UCLA)

Presented in English

Discussion moderated by Professor Lia Brozgal (UCLA)

It is not surprising that in the memoirs and fictionalized accounts of early Jewish settlement in the rural American West, there is a marked concern with Christian neighbors’ perception and reception of the Jewish community.  In particular, this real and imagined gaze of the Christian other punctuates Western Jewish homesteader, cowboy, and small town settler narratives, alongside a predominant focus on issues related to Jewish family relations and Jewish observance.  Emmanuel Levinas’s notion of ethical relation as determined by the encounter with the other serves as a remarkably apt model for understanding Jewish systems of belonging and assimilation in the American West of the late nineteenth century—almost.  This presentation focuses on a seemingly exceptional case, that of Wyatt Earp’s Jewish wife Sarah Josephine Marcus (“Josie”) Earp and the set of larger than life memoirs and biographies devoted to her.  The example of Josie Earp in turn helps illustrate a major difference between the Levinassian model of ethics and that of Jacques Derrida.

Please RSVP by April 1 at ADMIN@AFDELA.ORG

This event was made possible by the generous support of the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies. The event is also co-sponsored by the Alliance Française de Los Angeles and the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in Los Angeles.

* The goal of the recently created American Institute for Levinassian Studies (AILS) is to extend the activities of the French Institut d’Études Lévinassiennes (http://www.levinas.fr) to this side of the Atlantic. The AILS proposes to offer to an American public an annual series of seminars, a forum of discussion, local events, and electronic access to a database of philosophical documentation. Serving as broad impulse for our endeavor, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) was a French philosopher and religious thinker known for his work related to phenomenology, ontology, ethics, and Jewish philosophy. Ethics as responsibility for the “Other” is the main tenant of his philosophy.


Apr 6, 2017
7:00 pm 9:00 pm


American Institute for Levinassian Studies


Herbert Morris Humanities Seminar Room, Royce Hall 306
340 Royce Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095 United States
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