The Possibility of Laughter: Laughing Creatures and Fecundity in Levinas, Derrida, and Dara Horn’s “In the Image” – Part I

Laughter is an ambiguous thing. It can either exclude one or include the other. And, in relation to time, one might think it relates solely to the present moment. Laughter is all about the new. Henri Bergson associated it with progress and “Creative Evolution.” And Leo Strauss argued that laughter was the key element of […]

Becoming Jewish – Part VI of Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud

Unlike any author in Jewish-American or Yiddish literature, Bernard Malamud closely traces the process of a non-Jewish character’s becoming-a-Jew. But what makes Malamud’s treatment so fascinating and thought provoking is the fact that Frank, an Italian-American character who becomes a Jew, is that Frank is inspired to become Jewish by virtue of a schlemiel. His […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part V

One of the greatest things Bernard Malamud provides the reader of The Assistant with is an acute sense of how complicated it is to become a good person.   The schlemiel in the novel, Morris Bober, is the model for goodness. His endurance of suffering, bad luck, and failure show the reader a character who, though […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part IV

One of the key features of the schlemiel, one we see brought out in I.B. Singer’s “Gimpel the Fool” is the fact that the schlemiel – regardless of the situation – doesn’t give up on trusting people. Even if there is reason to judge someone in a negative manner, they overlook or find an excuse […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part III

One of the most important things about Frank is his timing. To be sure, Frank comes out of nowhere. But he does so after Bober is held-up, beaten with a gun, and hospitalized. He comes, like a Saint, to assist him. However, as a reader, one cannot help but wonder if Frank, who is described […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part II

Writing on Bernard Malamud, Sanford Pinsker argues that with his work we have something fundamentally different from what we find in I.B. Singer. As Pinsker notes, I.B. Singer “had to face the agonizing problem of re-creating a ghetto experience that had been too short lived”(77, The Schlemiel as Metaphor: Studies in Yiddish and American Jewish […]

Facing Failure: A Levinasian Reading of Bernard Malamud’s Fiction – Part I

The schlemiel is often thought of as the Jewish fool who, in the traditional joke, is paired up with a nudnik and a schlimazel. The schlemiel, as the traditional joke goes, is asked to get a bowl of soup by the schlimazel. When the schlemiel gets right near the table, and it seems as if […]

Comic Exposure to Targeting: A Levinasian Reading of Andy Kaufmann and Phillip Roth’s Portnoy (Part IV)

Sanford Pinsker, in his book Schlemiel as Metaphor, points out that Phillip Roth – in one of his autobiographical accounts – thinks of himself in the tradition of Franz Kafka, who he calls a “sit down comic.”  The book that placed him squarely in that tradition was Portnoy’s Complaint.  But what is a “sit down” […]

Comic Exposure to Targeting: A Levinasian Reading of Andy Kaufmann and Phillip Roth’s Portnoy (Part III)

The last two targeting theories I’d like to look at, before I address Emmauel Levinas, Philip Roth, and Andy Kaufman come from Charles Baudelaire and Paul deMan who, apparently, follows in Baudelaire’s comic footsteps.   (I have written several blogs on Baudelaire and deMan’s reading of comedy.  What I look to do here is to summarize […]