Saintly Influence: Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Philosophy of Religion

Saintly Influence: Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Philosophy of Religion

Saintly Influence: Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Philosophy of Religion

Saintly Influence: Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Philosophy of Religion


Since the publication of her first book, Emmanuel Levinas: The Problem of Ethical Metaphysics, in 1974-the first book about Levinas published in English-Edith Wyschogrod has been at the forefront of the fields of Continental philosophy and philosophy of religion. Her work has crossed many disciplinary boundaries, making peregrinations from phenomenology and moral philosophy to historiography, the history of religions (both Western and non-Western), aesthetics, and the philosophy of biology. In all of these discourses, she has sought to cultivate an awareness of how the self is situated and influenced, as well as the ways in which a self can influence others.

In this volume, twelve scholars examine and display the influence of Wyschogrod's work in essays that take up the thematics of influence in a variety of contexts: Christian theology, the saintly behavior of the villagers of Le Chambon sur Lignon, the texts of the medieval Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, the philosophies of Levinas, Derrida, and Benjamin, the practice of intellectual history, the cultural memory of the New Testament, and pedagogy.

In response, Wyschogrod shows how her interlocutors have brought to light her multiple authorial personae and have thus marked the ambiguity of selfhood, its position at the nexus of being influenced by and influencing others.


We dedicate this volume to Iris Marion Young, a scholar who began her studies as an undergraduate student of Edith Wyschogrod’s at Queens College. Their work shares many of the same concerns, particularly with reference to the emancipatory political possibilities that can open up as a result of thinking about issues of embodiment. in her 2000 book, Inclusion and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Young adapted Levinas’s category of le dire, “the saying,” to argue for an explicit discourse of greeting in democratic societies. According to Young, this greeting could instantiate discursive equality and achieve, on the part of representatives of political institutions, explicit recognition of those who are less privileged and customarily excluded from political discourse. She writes, “In the moment of communication I call greeting, a speaker announces her presence as ready to listen and take responsibility for her relationship to her interlocutors, at the same time that it announces her distance from the others, their irreducible particularity” (59). Greeting, an act that alters the polis through inviting the redistribution of power, is an apt figure for that which both responds to and performs saintly influence.

We are indebted to Helen Tartar of Fordham University Press and Jack Caputo, editor of the Perspectives in Continental Philosophy series, for their perseverance in support of this volume. We also recognize Stephen L. Hood for key assistance in the early stages of assembling this volume, Miriam Exum at Fordham University Press for her assistance, and Kira . . .

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