Towards a humanistic narrative about art: reflections on Emmanuel Levinas and Ernst Bloch

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English: This article explores the possibilities of a humanistic narrative about art with special reference to the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and Ernst Bloch. Throughout the article it is shown how Levinas’s and Bloch’s respective interpretations of art are connected with their theories of ontology. Levinas understands being as a neutral and indifferent manifestation of reality. In his phenomenological analysis of art Levinas appeals to examples from modern art in particular and emphasises that artworks withdraw from the ‘light’ of being, which is to say, artworks refuse intelligible description in language. For Bloch, by contrast, being essentially carries an unrealised promise in the germ. Bloch hermeneutically explores the ‘pre-appearance of utopia’ and human happiness that are portrayed and symbolised by religious, pre-modern and early modern art in particular. Towards the end of the article an interpretation of prophetic hope is put forward with reference to Levinas’s and Bloch’s work, in an attempt to overcome the limitations of both authors with respect to the possibilities of a humanistic narrative about art.