A New Essay for Berfrois: “How Simple is Simon? Unemployment, Masochism, and Daydreaming in Robert Walser’s “The Tanners”

Click here to see my latest essay for Berfrois:  “How Simple is Simon? Unemployment, Masochism, and Daydreaming in Robert Walser’s “The Tanners.” It takes Robert Walser’s novel, The Tanners as its subject and tests out Walter Benjamin’s reading of poverty and unemployment. As the title suggests, I read Walser through the spectrum of unemployment, daydreaming, and masochism. Since it […]

The Difference Between Sadism and Masochism as the Difference Between Irony and Humor

One of the most interesting distinctions I have come across, regarding comedy, deals with the distinction made by Gilles Deleuze (a French philosopher) between humor and irony.  According to Deleuze, in his book entitled Masochism, we find irony in Sadism and humor in Masochism (I am capitalizing these words for the sake of emphasis).  As […]

The Odd Couple: Kairos and Masochism

Going through Roland Barthes lecture notes (for his lectures in Morocco in 1978), I came across an odd relationship, one I have never seen posited by any scholar; namely, the relationship between Kairos and Masochism.  Giving some thought to it this morning, it occurred to me that timing may in fact have something to do […]

The Other Side of the Sexual Revolution: Sex, Violence, and History in Michel Houellebecq’s “The Elementary Particles”

In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud asks his readers to think about the relationship of two drives that are completely opposed: Eros (life) and Thanatos (death).   When one thinks of death one does not think of sexuality and vice versa. To be sure, the act of thinking sexuality in terms of violence is disturbing. The […]

Too Much…Life: On Eric Santer’s “Psychotheology of Everyday Life” – Part I

Many Continental thinkers discuss “excess.” Besides Friedrich Nietzsche, the most notable exploration of excess can be found in the writings of Georges Bataille. He loves excess and his writings exude what he calls “expenditure” and “waste,” which, to his mind, is what life is all about. His book, Inner Experience is one of the most […]

Jerry Lewis, Comedy, and Psychoanalysis (Terminable/Interminable)

What has always intrigued me about the schlemiel is the fact that he constantly fails and that nothing, it seems, can help him.  And one of the things that pops up in modern Jewish-American literature and film to help the schlemiel out of his embarrassing condition is psychoanalysis.  The psychoanalytic cure (aka “the talking cure”) […]

Is Jerry Lewis a Masochistic Comedian or an Unconscious Anarchist?

All anarchists are fully conscious of their will to destroy the law.  The unconscious anarchist would not be; his anarchic “effect” would therefore be an accident. Steven Shaviro calls Jerry Lewis an “unconscious anarchist.”  But what does Lewis’s anarchism consist of?  Before we can answer that question, we need to look at the origin of […]