Religious Studies 777 (2019): Forgiveness – Reconciliation – Resentment (Fall 2019)

This online syllabus/course website is posted at and is also accessible by way of my home page (see below) or by way of the Department of Religious Studies website. It will be updated periodically, and students in the seminar are asked to consult it regularly during the semester. (The schedule below is tentative and will be finalized at our introductory meeting on September 13.)


Fridays, 2:30-4:30 p.m., University Hall 122

updated November 17, 2019


Dana Hollander, Department of Religious Studies, University Hall 114, (905) 525-9140, ext. 24759*,*,

*in your phone and e-mail messages, please let me know how I can reach you by phone

Office Hours: Fridays, 5-6 p.m., or by appointment.

☛ JUMP TO SCHEDULE: September / October / November / December


We will look at critical analyses of the themes of forgiveness, atonement, reconciliation, and resentment as an alternative to forgiveness. These notions often also involve the themes of retribution and sacrifice, and are sometimes encountered in political contexts in which it is a question of transitional justice. We will study works by Hermann Cohen, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Jean Améry, Thomas Brudholm, and Jill Stauffer.

Please see details below for how to obtain each reading. Further details to be communicated in class and by e-mail.

Course readings - including original-language editions of translated works we are reading (which students are encouraged to refer to to the extent possible) - as well as all background readings listed below, and additional research materials as needed, will be placed on reserve at Mills Library - e.g. for personal photocopying. To find items on reserve for a course, select "Course Reserves" from the drop-down menu here.

It is a requirement of this seminar that you use and bring to the relevant class meetings your own paper copies of all the primary works we are studying - in the same edition selected for the class.


Grades will be based on Participation/Presentation(s) 45%, Final Paper 55%.

September 13: Informational Meeting

September 20: Jankélévitch - Améry

Vladimir Jankélévitch, "Should We Pardon Them?" trans. Ann Hobart, Critical Inquiry 22 (1996) [print out from journal online]

Original: "'Pardonner?’" (1971) in L’Imprescriptible. Pardonner? Dans l’honneur et la dignité (Paris: Seuil, 1986) [book on reserve]

Jean Améry, "Resentments" (1965-66), trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld in At the Mind’s Limits. Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities

Original: "Ressentiments" in Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne. Bewältigungsversuche eines Überwältigten (1966) in Werke vol. 2 [book on reserve]

September 27 (Special Meeting Location: LRW 3043A), October 4: Jankélévitch – Derrida

selections from: Vladimir Jankélévitch, Forgiveness, trans. Andrew Kelley (U of Chicago P, 2005) [purchase book / book on reserve]

Original: Le Pardon (1967), in Philosophie morale (Paris: Flammarion, 1998) [book on reserve]

Jacques Derrida, "To Forgive" (1997-1999), trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg, in Questioning God, ed. John Caputo, Mark Dooley, and John Scanlon (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2001)

Original: "Pardonner: l’impardonnable et l’imprescriptible" in Jacques Derrida, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet and Ginette Michaud (Paris: L’Herne, 2004) [book on reserve]

"On Forgiveness," trans. Michael Hughes, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (London: Routledge, 2001). (Note that the interviewer questions are missing from the Routledge edition.)

Original: Interview with Michel Wieviorka, "Le Siècle et le pardon," in Le Monde des Débats 9 (1999), reprinted in Foi et savoir, suivi de Le Siècle et le pardon (Paris: Seuil, 2000)


Derrida speaking on forgiveness at European Graduate School (video, 2004) - search on EGS Youtube channel.

Excerpt from the film Derrida (2002), including footage from an August 1998 lecture on forgiveness in South Africa

Interview with Professor Jacques Derrida conducted by Michal Ben-Naftali, trans. Moshe Ron (Jerusalem, January 8, 1998; posted on the website of the Shoah Research Center, Yad Vashem)

"On Forgiveness. A Roundtable Discussion with Jacques Derrida" (1999), in Questioning God, ed. Caputo et al.

"Justice et pardon," in Jacques Derrida, Sur parole. Instantanés philosophiques (Paris: L’Aube, 1999) - a compilation based on radio interviews from 1997-98

Brief Introductions to Derrida:

Leonard Lawlor, "Jacques Derrida" (2006-2019), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Jean-Michel Rabaté, "Jacques Derrida" in Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism, 2nd ed. (2005)

Kevin Hart, "Jacques Derrida," in Graham Oppy and Nick Trakakis (eds.), The History of Western Philosophy of Religion (2009), vol. 5: Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Religion

Further Reading on Derrida:

Geoffrey Bennington, "Derridabase," in Bennington/Derrida, Jacques Derrida [book on reserve]

Jacques Derrida, "Letter to a Japanese Friend" (1985)

October 11, 18 October 25 (Special Meeting Location: LRW 3043A): Hermann Cohen on Atonement

Religion of Reason Out of the Sources of Judaism (1919/1929), trans. Simon Kaplan (Scholars Press): chapters 10 and 11 [book on reserve]

Original: Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, 2nd ed., ed. Bruno Strauss (1929) [download / book on reserve]

excerpt from "Love and Justice in the Concepts of God and Man" (1900), in a draft translation by D.H.

Original: "Liebe und Gerechtigkeit in den Begriffen Gott und Mensch" in Jüdische Schriften (Berlin: Schwetschke, 1924), vol. 3

Background Reading

Religion of Reason Out of the Sources of Judaism: Introduction

Andrea Poma, "Hermann Cohen: Judaism and Critical Idealism," chap. 5 of Morgan/Gordon (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy (2007)

Louis Newman, "The Quality of Mercy: On the Duty to Forgive in the Judaic Tradition," Journal of Religious Ethics, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 1987): 155-72, esp. 159 ff.

Further Reading

Michael Zank, The Idea of Atonement in the Philosophy of Hermann Cohen (2000) [book on reserve]

Steven Kepnes, "Hermann Cohen's Liturgical Reasoning on the Moral Subject and the Moral Community," in German-Jewish Thought Between Religion and Politics. Festschrift in Honor of Paul Mendes-Flohr on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. Chr. Wiese and Martina Urban (2012)

November 1: Emmanuel Levinas - A "Talmudic reading" on Forgiveness

"Toward the Other" (1963) in Nine Talmudic Readings, trans. Annette Aronowicz

Original: "Envers autrui" in Quatre lectures talmudiques

Background Reading

Annette Aronowicz, "Translator’s Introduction" to Levinas, Nine Talmudic Readings

Additional Resources

"The Talmud" (2013), two-part BBC radio program

A Page of Talmud (website by Eliezer Segal, University of Calgary)

Zvi Septimus, "Talmud," in Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law, ed. Brent A. Strawn (2015)


Robert Gibbs, "Returning/Forgiving: Ethics and Theology" in Caputo et al. (eds.), Questioning God

Edith Wyschogrod, Emmanuel Levinas: The Problem of Ethical Metaphysics, 2nd ed. (2000): 188-94.

-----, "Repentance and Forgiveness: The Undoing of Time" in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 60 (2006): 157–68.

Introductory Readings on Emmanuel Levinas

Robert Bernasconi, "Levinas, Emmanuel" (1998), in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online / Mills Reference]. To read the online article, be sure to click on the headings in the table of contents in the upper-left corner!

Dana Hollander, "Levinas, Emmanuel," in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, 2nd ed., 2005 [available online to McMaster affiliates]

Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity. Conversations with Philippe Nemo (1982)

Original: Ethique et infini

"Dialogue" with Richard Kearney (1981), from Kearney, Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers

Monday, November 4 - paper proposal due

November 4–8: in-person consultations about paper proposal and interim participation grade


November 15 Special Meeting Location: LRW 3043A

selections from: Thomas Brudholm, Resentment’s Virtue. Jean Améry and the Refusal to Forgive (2008) [purchase book]


Thomas Brudholm, "On the Advocacy of Forgiveness After Mass Atrocities," chap. 6 of Brudholm/Cushman, The Religious in Responses to Mass Atrocity. Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2009)

Thomas Brudholm and Valérie Rosoux, "The Unforgiving: Reflections On The Resistance To Forgiveness After Atrocity," Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 72 (Spring 2009): 33-50

November 22 Special Meeting Time: 12:00-2:00 p.m., LRW 3043A

Special Session with Prof. Johannes Steizinger (Department of Philosophy, McMaster University)

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (1887), trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge UP, 2006) [book on reserve], First Essay, secs. 10-11.

Original: Zur Genealogie der Moral, Digital Critical Edition of Nietzsche's Works, I.10-11

Raymond Geuss, "Nietzsche and Genealogy," Morality, Culture, and History (1999)

November 29

selections from: Jill Stauffer, Ethical Loneliness. The Injustice of Not Being Heard (2015) [purchase book]

Monday, December 9 - Final Paper Due