Rhys Tranter interviews
Sarah Hammerschlag about her book Broken Tablets
Both Levinas and Derrida engaged with the work of Martin Heidegger. Could you talk a little about the presence of Heidegger in the book?
It is true that to engage with Levinas and Derrida is inevitably to engage as well with Heidegger and the impact of Heidegger on both of them. In the book I consider the way in which both thinkers formulate their project in direct relation to his legacy, how Levinas’s conception of being Jewish is formulated as a response to Heidegger’s Dasein and how Derrida’s thinking particularly about American literature is formulated as a response to Heidegger’s disparaging of those forms of literature that he ties to fallen modes of existence, those that he says incite curiosity and idle chatter. Particularly after the publication of the Black Notebooks, there has been considerable attention to what it means to read Heidegger given the realization that the anti-Semitism was not a contigency of his thought, but ingrained in and inseparable from the most fundamental of its concepts and contributions. I would argue that Levinas and Derrida shared a fundamental awareness of this fact before it could be so clearly demonstrated and that furthermore one can read both their projects as indicative of a committed stance to think against its grain, even as they acknowledge some of its profoundest insights and contributions.