Preface
And while the intended liberatory aims of feminist and queer performativity
are laudable, performative theory tends to be flawed by its disregard for ethical
questions.-Lynne Huffer, "Luce et Veritas: Toward an Ethics of Performance"
Oddly enough, the trajectory of this text on ethics leads away from the
recognizably ethical questions treated in the opening chapters (subjec-
tivity, community, dialogics) toward more ethically unfamiliar notions
like response to the inhuman, the chiasmus, exemplarity, anger, and
becoming-other. So perhaps a hesitation, a word or two about the
emergence of this book, is in order.
It
began as a project concerning
Emmanuel Levinas's work and what his texts could add to the recent
resurgence of ethics in literary and cultural studies. I was and am
especially interested in Levinas's one-way movement of performative
subjectivity: the ethical subject in Levinas does not ever merely re-
turn to or coincide with itself; rather, it is nothing other than exterior
response to the other. And concomitantly, Levinasian ethics does not
rest in a series of rules to be followed, but rather in inexorable and con-
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