Totality and Infinity

On the feminine & eros:  Equivocation constitutes the epiphany of the feminine – at the same time interlocutor, collaborator and master superiorly intelligent, so often dominating men in the masculine civilization it has entered, and woman having to be treated as a woman, in accordance with rules imprescribable by civil society.  The face, all straightforwardness and frankness, in its feminine epiphany dissimulates allusions, innuendos.  It laughs under the cloak of its own expression, without leading to any specific meaning, hinting in the empty air, signalling the less than nothing.

The violence of this revelation marks precisely the force of this absence, this not yet, this less than nothing, audaciously torn up from its modesty, from its essence of being hidden.  A not yet more remote than a future, a temporal not yet, evincing degrees in nothingness.  Hence Eros is a ravishing beyond every project, beyond every dynamism, radical indiscretion, profanation and not disclosure of what already exists as radiance and signification.  Eros hence goes beyond the face.  ……

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The relationship established between lovers in voluptuosity, fundamentally refractory to universalization, is the very contrary of the social relation.  It excludes the third party, it remains intimacy, dual solitude, closed society, the supremely non-public.  The feminine is the other refractory to society, member of a dual society, an intimate society, a society without language.  Its intimacy is to be described.  For the unparalleled relation voluptuosity maintains with the non-signifying constitutes a complex that is not reducible to the repetition of this non, but to positive traits by which the future and what is not yet (and is not simply an existent that remains at the status of the possible) is, so to speak, determined.

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Nothing is further from Eros than possession.  In the possession of the Other I possess the Other inasmuch as he possesses me; I am both slave and master.  Voluptuosity would be extinguished in possession.

  • Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, ‘B. Phenomenology of Eros’