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In Encountering Ability, Scott DeShong considers how ability and its correlative, disability, come into existence. Besides being articulated as physical, social, aesthetic, political, and specifically human, ability signifies and is signified such that signification itself is always in question. Thus the language of ability and the ability of language constitute discourse that undermines foundations, including any foundation for discourse or ability. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s theory of primary differentiation and Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of ethical relationality, Encountering Ability finds implications of music, theology, and cursing in the signification of ability, and also examines various literary texts, including works by Amiri Baraka and Marguerite Duras.
What is the relationship between texts and ethics? Who decides the ethics of a text, the writer or the reader? What happens to ethics in texts that portray dreams or psychoses? Is violence always inherently unethical? In dealing with others is violence to both them and oneself ever completely avoidable?
Textual Ethos Studies does not attempt to provide definitive answers to these questions so much as to be a springboard to the further discussion of ethics in relation to specific texts. The essays illustrate varying perspectives — ranging from the philosophical to the psychoanalytical to the linguistic — that can be used to localize how texts engage or invite an engagement with ethics.
Twenty scholars representing Asia, Europe, Israel, North America, and South Africa highlight the complex relationship between cultural context and ethics, and between the ethical and the unethical. Several essays deal with the study of atypical texts that represent different attitudes toward the violent, the disordered, the traumatized, the psychotic, and the sentimental in order to encourage — or provoke — further discussion of the relevance of these types of texts to ethics.