Communities of Dialogue Russian and Ukrainian Émigrés in Modernist Prague

Conference | Paper

The Figure of the Messiah in Levinas: Overcoming Titanism

Anna Yampolskaya

Thursday 23 May 2024

11:45 - 12:30


In this talk I discuss the Messiah as a titanic figure. I will focus on the 1961 discussion between Levinas and Jankélévitch regarding the figure of the Messiah. Both compare the Messiah to the Samozwanetz, the false Dimitry of Russian history. For Jankélévitch, everyone who proclaims himself a Messiah is a Samozwanetz, that is, an impostor. For Levinas, everyone who says ‘me’, thus volunteering for the responsibility for the world, is a kind of Messiah. The role of the Messiah is to be me, and to be the Messiah is to actively claim this role by using this first-person singular pronoun. I juxtapose this titanic understanding of subjectivity to the Levinas’s 1974 descriptions of subjectivity as prophetic and maternal.