The American Institute for Levinassian Studies
Ethics of Otherness: Derrida, Levinas, & the Gaze of the Other in the Jewish American Wild West
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 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. 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 Levinasian model of ethics and that of Jacques Derrida.
Presented in English with Q&A and cocktail reception.
Free for AF members and $10 for non members
Biography : Eleanor Kaufman is professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. Her primary research is on twentieth-century French philosophy, with secondary interests in Medieval philosophy and Christian theology, literature and philosophy of the Jewish diaspora, and modern American literature. She is the author of The Delirium of Praise: Bataille, Blanchot, Deleuze, Foucault, Klossowski and Deleuze, the Dark Precursor: Dialectic, Structure, Being, both from the Johns Hopkins University Press; and At Odds with Badiou, forthcoming from Columbia University Press. This talk is taken from her longstanding “Jewry of the Plain” project, on the archives, museums, and cemeteries that commemorate Jewish settlement in remote regions of the American West at the end of the nineteenth century, and simultaneously a meditation on the work of Jacques Derrida.