Dostoevsky’s Two Idiots – Part II

In the midst of Prince Myshkin’s epileptic fit, everything becomes double. And this doubleness brings out Dostoevsky’s approach to the fool-as-mystic. If one is to understand what is at stake with the fool, one must, for Dostoevsky understand the tension of opposites: namely, the struggle between good and evil.   This struggle occasions and weights down […]

Dostoevsky’s Two Idiots: The Charming, Naïve, and Friendly Idiot and…the Deep, Mystical, and Epileptic One (Part I)

When it came to the fool Fyodor Dostoevsky, it seems, was of two minds.  After fleeing from Russia and the outpouring of his first novel, Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky set out for Basil, Switzerland.   Dostoeveky decided that, after writing a novel that was full of depth, complexity, bleakness, and evil, he wanted to write a […]

What Happens When An Idiot Reflects on a Beheading: On Dostoevsky’s Reading of the Death Sentence and Certain Death in “The Idiot”

We can have little doubt that most Yiddish writers read The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. And it is odd that, up until now, few schlemiel theorists have looked into the parallels between Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin (“the idiot”) and the schlemiel (which we find in writers like Mendel Mocher Sforim, I.L. Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem).   The […]

“Unhappy Dualism” or Simplicity: On Gershom Scholem’s Readings of Marranos, Sabbatians, and Hasidim

Duplicity and complexity were of great concern to Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Gershom Scholem. In her book on Rahel Varnhagen, Arendt takes aim at Jean-Jacques Rousseau as encouraging duplicity. She saw, in his work, a conflict between the private life and the public life. His confessions maintained this division and complexity. This came in […]

A Note on Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton: Silent Film, Comic Gestures, and Fate

In Jean-Claude Carriere’s book, The Secret Language of Film he points out how films were “born silent” and continue to “love silence.” But he makes a major distinction. He argues that, in its beginnings, silent film “wildly gesticulated.” But “over the past sixty years” since its inception, we have something different; namely, the “present inscrutability […]