Time, Ethics, and the Feminine
In his philosophy of ethics and time, Emmanuel Levinas highlighted the tension that exists between the "ontological adventure" of immediate experience and the "ethical adventure" of redemptive relationships-associations in which absolute responsibility engenders a transcendence of being and self.
In an original commingling of philosophy and cinema study, Sam B. Girgus applies Levinas's ethics to a variety of international films. His efforts point to a transnational pattern he terms the "cinema of redemption" that portrays the struggle to connect to others in redeeming ways. Girgus not only reveals the power of these films to articulate the crisis between ontological identity and ethical subjectivity. He also locates time and ethics within the structure and content of film itself. Drawing on the work of Luce Irigaray, Tina Chanter, Kelly Oliver, and Ewa Ziarek, Girgus reconsiders Levinas and his relationship to film, engaging with a feminist focus on the sexualized female body. Girgus offers fresh readings of films from several decades and cultures, including Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Federico Fellini's La dolce vita (1959), Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura (1960), John Huston's The Misfits (1961), and Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988).
"Girgus's book offers fresh, intriguing insights." — Choice
"Sam B. Girgus does what few scholars adopting an interdisciplinary approach achieve: he closely and clearly traces the inextricable relationship involving form, content, and meaning. I can't commend Girgus enough for his ability to unearth the most profound and affecting insights within the films he discusses. His readings are models of the very best in film analysis. Truly an outstanding achievement." — Cynthia Lucia, Rider University
"Sam B. Girgus daringly and deftly presses the case for cinema's ultimate philosophical consequences. He even presses the case for an ethics that goes beyond philosophy. We may believe we are familiar with the classic Hollywood and European art films we love, but Girgus makes us take another look, a long Levinisian look that finally faces up to the faces on the screen. When we then look away, we realize we have found something more about the films, about Levinas, and about the limitations of our viewing of films and our living of life. Nothing could be healthier." — Dudley Andrew, R. Selden Rose Professor of Film and Comparative Literature, Yale University
"Appropriating Levinas's ethics of transcendence, Sam B. Girgus inaugurates a new direction for film studies. His particularly welcome focus on time and the feminine opens up the cinema of redemption in crucially important ways. Highlighting the infinite demand the other makes on us as singular beings, thinking through the way time is out of joint or unhinged by trauma, and taking on board feminist critiques of Levinas, Girgus sets a very high standard for anyone wishing to follow in his footsteps." — Tina Chanter , DePaul University
Introduction: Time, by Film
1. American Transcendence: Levinas and a Short History of an American Idea in Film
2. Frank Capra and James Stewart: Time, Transcendence, and the Other
3. The Changing Face of American Redemption: Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and Denzel Washington
4. Sex, Art, and Oedipus: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
5. Fellini and La dolce vita: Documentary, Decadence, and Desire
6. Antonioni and L'avventura: Transcendence, the Body, and the Feminine