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Virginia Woolf, Europe, and PeaceVol. 2 Aesthetics and Theory$
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Peter Adkins and Derek Ryan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979374

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979374.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

“Peace as awakeness to the precariousness of the other”

“Peace as awakeness to the precariousness of the other”

Virginia Woolf’s Pacifist Ethics

(p.81) Chapter Five “Peace as awakeness to the precariousness of the other”
Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace

Elsa Högberg

Liverpool University Press

In this chapter, Högberg traces a specific form of non-violent ethics across Woolf’s interwar and WWII writings, considering its political potential and limits. Focusing on Emmanuel Levinas’s idea of ‘The face as the extreme precariousness of the other. Peace as awakeness to the precariousness of the other’(Levinas, ‘Peace and Proximity’, 1984) alongside Judith Butler’s attempts to politicise his ethics of precariousness, this chapter shows how Woolf foregrounds vulnerability as an ethical injunction against violence. Arguing that Woolf’s work prompts a still unresolved question as to whether a pacifist ethics can be politically productive, Högberg reads Woolf’s pacifism as rooted in a concept of peace as proximity: the proximity of the ethical encounter, which prompts awakeness to the other’s vulnerability. The chapter ranges from Woolf’s Levinasian elevation, in Three Guineas, of a primary responsibility to Antigone’s Law of love, peace and proximity over the laws of the sovereign state to her literary articulations of an alternatively Levinasian and Butlerian ethics of peace and precariousness in Jacob’s Room, The Waves and Between the Acts. Voiced through poetic tropes of naked defencelessness and extra-linguistic, primal cries, Woolf’s pacifist ethics floods the boundaries defining Europe in a relocation of its ‘Greek’ origins, and in defiance against its political constructions of the other’s precarious face as a threat, which continue to justify the scandalous closing of European borders to ‘millions of bodies’ made vulnerable by war.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Emmanuel Levinas, Judith Butler, Peace, Pacifism, Ethics, Vulnerability

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