Kiš’s vigilance: ethics as aesthetics in the prose of Danilo Kiš

Nedeljkovic, M. 2016. Kiš’s vigilance: ethics as aesthetics in the prose of Danilo Kiš. PhD thesis University of Westminster English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies

TitleKiš’s vigilance: ethics as aesthetics in the prose of Danilo Kiš
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsNedeljkovic, M.

This thesis offers a reading of the late Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš by looking at how a particular tradition of European aesthetics and ethical philosophy (namely Levinas and Blanchot) can be compared to Danilo Kiš’s poetics. Beyond critically evaluating Kiš, I am to make connections between ethics, literature and philosophy. The major objective of my thesis is to argue that ethical is embedded as aesthetical in Kiš’s poetics as both Blanchotian and Levinasian understanding of ethics, i.e. as a non-dialectical and non-intentional movement from ‘I’ to the ‘other’ in the midst of passivity of dying (which is for both Blanchot and Levinas ‘other’ death). The thesis demonstrates that there are a number of strands in Levinas’s and Blanchot’s thought that, while differently expressed, can also be traced at work in Kiš’s writing, and which can, as such, help to elucidate certain crucial aspects of the latter.

Taking into consideration Kiš’s obsessive writing on the violence of the last century – both left and right – I argue that what permeates his prose is death as both possibility and a radical impossibility consequent upon the il y a, a crucial philosophical concept in Levinas’s ethical philosophy and Blanchot’s literary ‘theory’. For this reason, the thesis aims to assert that what permeates Kiš’s prose is what Critchley terms ‘atheist transcendence’: the burden of responsibility for the death of the other human radically excludes theodicy.

My research is significant in so far as conceptualisations of death to be found in continental European philosophy have hardly been directly juxtaposed with those found in Kiš’s prose. Since according to Blanchot, literature’s demand is always ambiguous and as such it exposes us to the question of being, in my thesis I analyse how this refusal of language to cease the tension of pluralism operates in Kiš’s prose as the ethical.


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