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The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity

Tracy McNulty
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Hostess
    Book Description:

    In The Hostess, Tracy McNulty asks, What are the implications for personhood of sharing a person—a wife or daughter—as an act of hospitality? Combining critical readings of the Bible and Pierre Klossowski's trilogy The Laws of Hospitality, the writings of Kant and Nietzsche, and the work of Freud and Lacan, she contends hospitality involves the boundary between the proper and the improper.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9812-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: The Uncanny Guest
    (pp. vii-liv)

    The problem of hospitality is coextensive with the development of Western civilization, occupying an essential place in virtually every religion and defining the most elementary of social relations: reciprocity, exogamy, potlatch, “brotherly love,” nationhood. In almost every Western religion, hospitality is the attribute or special domain of the principal divinity (YHWH, Zeus, Jupiter Capitolinus, the Holy Trinity), who evaluates the character of human hosts by appealing for hospitality disguised as a supplicant. In ancient Greece, one could even argue that hospitality is religion, the defining social ethics ofZeus Xénios,Zeus god of strangers. Similarly, Christian “eucharistic hospitality” is the...

  4. 1. Israel, Divine Hostess
    (pp. 1-45)

    In the Introduction I argued that hospitality concerns a fundamental tension between the shoring up of identity and its opening to the other, or between the host’s “eminent personifi cation of identity” and the heteronomous nature of the hospitality obligation. Emmanuel Lévinas famously associates the first pole with the Greek hero Odysseus, and the second with the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. But one cannot help but be struck by the apparent strangeness of Lévinas’s identifying this second possibility with a patriarch, who is responsible not only for upholding the heteronomous authority of God but for consolidating the symbolic identity of the...

  5. 2. Cosmopolitan Hospitality and Secular Ethics: Kant Today
    (pp. 46-86)

    The last chapter developed an account of hospitality as an ethical act, an encounter with an unknown that dissolves subjective integrity. The hospitality relation embodies a specific tension, which I characterized as having the structure of an aporia or impossible limit. Etymologically, the host is the “master,” the one who “eminently personifies” identity: not only his own identity, but that of the group in whose name he acts. But as an accidental encounter with what can be neither foreseen nor legislated, the act of hospitality privileges immanent relations over identity. In my analysis of Genesis hospitality, I argued that the...

  6. 3. Under the Sign of the Hostess: Pierre Klossowski’s Laws of Hospitality
    (pp. 87-133)

    In the last chapter we saw how, despite its apparent archaism, the hospitality relation emerges as an essential concern for modernity, offering a unique avenue through which to challenge metaphysical notions of identity. The work of Pierre Klossowski represents a particularly interesting point of entry into these questions. Among the work of an impressive group of contemporary thinkers who have recently turned to hospitality as a model for a mode of relation not based on economies of identity, his contribution is perhaps the most original. His singular interpretation of hospitality both engages with and comments upon the entirety of its...

  7. 4. Hospitality after the Death of God
    (pp. 134-174)

    InThe Revocation of the Edict of Nantes,the problematics of hospitality and the “collaboration” that makes it possible were situated within the quasi - historical framework of secular politics and cosmopolitan ethics. But in the second novel in Klossowski’s trilogy,Roberte, ce soir,the problem of hospitality is brought home, played out within the domestic space occupied by a husband and wife and articulated within their marriage as an expression of the contradictions internal to the notion of monogamous property. Roberte’s articulation of the conflict between Catholic imperialism and Protestant freedom in the “Roman Impressions” doubles a conflict within...

  8. 5. Welcoming Dionysus, or the Subject as Corps Morcelé
    (pp. 175-199)

    Nietzsche zeroes in on the guiltiest secret of modern metaphysics: that despite its declared secularism, it has not managed to separate itself from onto -theology when it comes to the concept of identity. Descartes finds the logical support for thecogitoin the existence of God, the “thinker outside of me” in whose gaze I come into being as “myself.”¹ However, this recognition of the Other at the source of human identity tends to fall under erasure in the philosophical tradition that emerges out of his work, which canonizes the “I think, therefore I am” at the expense of the...

  9. 6. The Other Jouissance, a Gay Sçavoir: Feminine Hospitality and the Ethics of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 200-236)

    Jacques Lacan describes the unconscious as the home in which the subject lives, a home that is not so much the possession of an owner as the dispossession of any possibility of ownership. The remark appears within his discussion of Freud’s enigmatic statement concerning the ethics of the unconscious,Wo es war, soll Ich werden:

    I won’t say that it was Freud who introduced the subject into the world—the subject as distinct from the psychic function, which is a myth, a confused nebulous—because it was Descartes who did that. But I will say that Freud addresses himself to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 237-268)
  11. Index
    (pp. 269-280)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)