Radical Passivity

Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben

By Thomas Carl Wall
Foreword by William Flesch

Subjects: Postmodernism
Paperback : 9780791440483, 208 pages, January 1999
Hardcover : 9780791440476, 208 pages, January 1999

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Table of contents





The Language of Poetry

One The Allegory of Being



The Obscure Temporality of the Artwork

The Space of Art

The Profane

Two Levinas's Ethics

An Ambiguous Rapport

No One Other

The Self




Levinas and Heidegger

Three Blanchot, L'arrêt de mort, and the Image of Literature



En deça du temps

Image, Ipseity, and Art

Four Agamben and the Political Neuter

Anonymity and Belonging



Object = x



Selected Bibliography


Examines the notion of passivity in the work of Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben.


Radical Passivity examines the notion of passivity in the work of Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben, three thinkers of exceptional intellectual privacy whose writings have decidedly altered the literary and philosophical cultures of our era. Placing their use of passivity in the context of Heidegger and Kant, Wall argues that any philosophical understanding of Levinas's ethics, Blanchot's aesthetics, or Agamben's community must begin with an understanding of a "logic" of passivity that in fact originates (in the modern era at least) in Kant's analysis of the transcendental schema.

Thomas Carl Wall received his Ph. D. in English from the University of Washington.


"These are extremely complex problematics and philosophers with often obscure vocabularies, yet the author manages to present wonderfully clear arguments in lucid prose, free of the jargon that plagues many other writers. Wall demonstrates the common threads that both link them together and situate them clearly with other thinkers such as Derrida and Nancy. I found myself reading the book not so much as a secondary text (about this or that philosopher), but as an original philosophical investigation in its own right. The relations posed among the three thinkers and their links to Heidegger and Kant are completely unique. " — Michael Hardt, Duke University

"Radical Passivity is awe-inspiring and exhilarating to read. Wall has profound and profoundly original things to say about the figures he treats. He has significantly changed the way I think about Levinas and Blanchot, and introduced me to critically important aspects of Agamben's work. This is a major book, and it will have a major influence on the intellectual discourse in philosophy and literary theory in this country. " — William Flesch, Brandeis University