4-14-2021 Ann Astell

To see Ann W. Astell's talk, click here.

Title: "Dialogic Interplay: Levinas as Reader of Gabriel Marcel's Philosophical Drama"

Presenter: Ann W. Astell, Ph.D.

Abstract: Composed in 1917, Gabriel Marcel's existentialist play L'Iconoclaste ("The Iconoclast") appears in Katharine Rose Hanley's 2004 English translation with the title The Mystery of Love. The French title focuses attention on Abel, an Iago-like character who stirs up jealous suspicions about a wife's fidelity to her husband. The English title, by contrast, turns a spotlight on the beloved, deceased wife and on the self-sacrificing, pregnant woman who has become a substitute for the deceased. Marcel explicitly alludes to Shakespeare's Othello, but his play actually combines elements from the tragedy of the jealous Moor with elements from the tragi-comedy The Winter's Tale. Although there is no evidence that Emmanuel Levinas read Marcel's play or viewed its performance, he could very well have heard excerpts from it, since Marcel liked to quote from his own plays both in private conversation and in his public lectures. Levinas would have delighted in the Shakespearean rehearsals of his fellow philosopher. According to Levinas, after all, "the whole of philosophy is only a meditation of Shakespeare" (TO 72). This paper uses Marcel's Shakespearean play to stage a conversation between Marcel and Levinas on responsibility, infinity, and what Marcel calls "creative fidelity."

Ann W. Astell joined the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame in 2007. Before that she belonged to the Department of English at Purdue University (1988-2007). She has been the recipient of an NEH grant and of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Former President of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (2011-2015), she is the author of six books and the editor or co-editor of seven volumes, including Levinas and Medieval Literature: The "Difficult Reading" of English and Rabbinic Texts (Duquesne University Press, 2009), Sacrifice, Scripture, and Substitution in Ancient Judaism and Christianity (2011, co-edited with Sandor Goodhart), and most recently, Saving Fear in Christian Spirituality (2020). In addition to her numerous publications on medieval literature and theology, she has published articles on Levinas, Edith Stein, René Girard, and Simone Weil.