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Book Reviews Krzysztof Ziarek. I n f l e c t e d L a n g u a g e : T o w a r d a H e r m e n e u tic s o f N e a r n e s s — H e id e g g e r , L e v in a s , S te v e n s , CfeLAN. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Pp. 239. Paper $18.95. Krzysztof Ziarek’s conversation with Heidegger, Levinas, Stevens, and Celan probes the possibilities of thinking the other beyond the alterity-nullifying strategies of representa­ tion. Through the readings of “ the poetic” in Heidegger, mostly in his later essays on poetry and language, the study questions the opposition between ontology that does not account for the other and ethics that gives priority to absolute alterity. The Levinasian con­ text allows Ziarek to thematize the ethical in Heidegger as always underwriting the question of Being: language viewed as a response to the call of Being is already subtended by respect­ ful listening to the other. Conversely, the circumspect analysis of Heidegger’s encounter with the poets yields new insights into the articulations of alterity in the work of Levinas and Celan, the ethical thinkers par excellence. The study proposes an ethico-ontological model of approaching otherness, which brings ontological and ethical alterity to bear upon each other without obliterating the chiasmatic nature of the relation between them. The suggested model of the post-Heideggerian her­ meneutics of nearness points to the underlying “ ethicity” of language—its obligation to do justice to the other’s essential unpresentability. This ethical injunction of indebtedness to the other arrives prior to language’s processes of signification. The readings of Heidegger’s texts in the first two chapters of the book initially fore­ ground the notion of ontological alterities, stemming from the nearing of thinking and Being in Ereignis, and its unwordable closeness to the phenomenal, that is, to its “ alwaysamiss ” articulation in the way-making of language. The same motif will be taken up in the fourth chapter, which discusses Wallace Stevens’ oeuvre as a poetic counterpart of Heidegger’s exploration of language. In the meantime, however, the chapter on Levinas stresses that, unlike ontological alter­ ity in which one and the other stand in a reciprocal relation, the ethical comportment towards the other precludes symmetry and reversibility. Ziarek notes the emphasis on direc­ tionality in Levinas: it manifests itself not only in the unilaterality of the ethical relation but also in the fact that the non-sign of the other, which “ magnetizes” language and always pre-disposes it ethically, is a trace of the direction of its passage. Interestingly, this Levinasian perspective allows Ziarek to uncover a hidden mesh of vectors in Heidegger’s own “ way-languaging,” through which the relation between Being and thinking is revealed to be already inflected by the directionality of language towards the other. As a matter of fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of Inflected Language is its own unthematized vectorization , as indicated in the title by the preposition “ toward.” The study arrives at a discussion of Celan’s poetry as a concerned address to the other. Celan’s supreme articulations of alterity seem to bring into proximity Heidegger’s onto­ logical alterity and Levinas’s ethical alterity. Nevertheless, the Heideggerian underpinning of Celan’s work intensifies the question, implicitly asked by Celan himself, why the open­ ing to the other in Heidegger’s thought did not compel him to address the atrocities of the Holocaust or his own involvement with nazism. Considering the complexity of Celan’s twofold conceptualization of otherness, Ziarek’s definition of his poetry as “ acceptance of the gift of otherness” seems somewhat prob­ lematic, It obscures the disparity between the notion of the gift o f the other in the onto­ logical model (as proposed, writes Ziarek, in Lacoue-Labarthe’s Heideggerian reading of Vol. XXXV, No. 3 89 L ’E sprit C réateur Celan) and the gift fo r the other in Levinasian ethics, where “giving” is oriented only towards the other and depends on the non-reciprocity of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 89-90
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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