Kierkegaard’s “Happy” Birthday: “Repetition’s Love is the Only Happy Love”

Circa 1843, Soren Kierkegaard published a book called Repetition.   When one thinks of Kierkegaard, one usually thinks of anxiety, impossible existential dilemmas, and binding of Isaac.  These things, by and large, don’t evoke the image of happiness. However, in Repetition, he entertains the possibility of happiness through the idea of repetition. Today is Kierkegaard’s […]

Kafka and Kierkegaard’s Abrahams or the Knight of Faith versus the Schlemiel – Take 2

By way of a comic narrator, Kafka’s readings of Abraham and his creation of “other Abrahams” are educational: they teach us how the other Abrahams are.  I would suggest that, for Kafka, his Abrahams are schlemiels who, while acknowledging Kierkegaard’s Passionate Knight of Faith, also offer a challenge to it.  Instead of passion and concentration […]

Do We Ever Stop Laughing? Kierkegaard, Laughter, and Religion (Part 2)

In the end of The Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the “Philosophical Fragments,” Kierkegaard argues that the “ironist is always on the watch” for contradictions and verbal malapropisms.  This vigilance is radical.  For Kierkegaard, the true principled ironist will laugh at everyone, equally.  S/he will even laugh at those who die for an opinion.  No stone […]

Do We Ever Stop Laughing? Kierkegaard, Laughter, and Religion (Part 1)

For Kierkegaard, the kata-strophe recurs over and over.   It rotates.  And if we look into the kata-strophe literally, we see that one strophe or verse runs into another.  One group of words counters or negates the truth of another and this, for Kierkegaard, is a kata-strophe.   Strangely enough, for Kierkegaard, this kata-strophe is not simply […]

Boredom, Laughter, and Kierkegaard’s Rotating Kata-Strophe (Take 1)

Soren Kierkegaard’s interest in irony is well-known.  His book The Concept of Irony addresses irony and, throughout his work, one can find many passing references to it.  Moreover, Kierkegaard’s concept of irony has been written on by many different scholars.  I am not a Kierkegaard scholar, nor do I aspire to be one; nonetheless, as […]

A Schlemiel Mystic on East Broadway

Philosophers, mystics, and schlemiels have something in common. They are all, in some way, detached from the world and aloof. In Plato’s Theaetetus, there is a telling tale about a Thracian servant girl who laughs at Thales, the philosopher; who, while gazing at the stars, falls down a well. Socrates Why, take the case of […]

A New York Intellectual’s Jewish Question: Alfred Kazin’s Reflections on Jewishness and Writing

Alfred Kazin is known as one of the “New York Intellectuals.”  This group of pre and post War Jewish American thinkers – most of which were the children of immigrants – included brilliant budding minds such Irving Howe, Hannah Arendt, Leslie Fiedler, Saul Bellow, Paul Goodman, and Irving Kristol.   While they were all staunchly anti-Stalinist, […]

Schlemiels Can’t Do Camp

At the end of my last blog post, I suggested the possibility of Jewish Camp.  But is that possible?  Aren’t the two mutually exclusive?  This is what Susan Sontag suggests when she argues that Jews and Homosexuals are the creators of two modern sensibilities that are at odds with each other: a moral and an […]