A Map of Misreading: Paul deMan’s (Mis)reading of Madness in Baudelaire’s “Essay on Laughter.”

One can tell a lot about an author by virtue of things that he or she mentions and highlights in his or her writings.  Charles Baudelaire, a poet and an incredibly talented prose writer, was fully aware of what is at stake in an essay.  And he knew full well that the final “notes” of […]

Notes On Jean-Paul Sartre’s Reading of Jewish Inauthenticity (Self-Hatred), Self-Consciousness & the Jewish Body

In 1946, in the wake of the Holocaust, Jean-Paul Sartre published Reflexions sur la Quesion Juive. The collection of essays was renamed, translated as Anti-Semite and Jew (my edition is from 1965, Schocken Books). Sartre’s book was reprinted over twelve times, and in many languages. The book presents a reading of anti-Semitism and the anti-Semitic […]

Blindness And Insight: From Paul and Augustine to Woody Allen’s “Anything Else” – Part I

The movement from blindness to insight is a time honored theme. It has its roots in early Christianity and in the Enlightenment it becomes a guiding principle.   The Christian appropriation of blindness is fascinating. In Corinthians 2 (3:14-16), Paul associates blindness with the Jews and sight with the Christians: Therefore, since we have such hope, […]

A Note on Goya and Sholem Aleichem’s Caricatures

Charles Baudelaire, in his essay “Some Foreign Caricatures,” distinguishes between a “historical” and an “artistic” caricaturist. Writing on Goya, who took the horrors of the Spanish Insurrection and the war with Napoleonic France, Baudelaire notes that Goya opened up the field of caricature by introducing “fantasy” into the comic. And, in contrast to the categories […]

Deconstructing the Deconstruction of Zionism: Gianni Vattimo’s Myth Making and Misreading of Jewishness and Jewish Humor

The “Yale School,” which included such academic personalities as Paul deMan and Harold Bloom, gave America its first taste of deconstruction. What deMan and Bloom popularized, in particular, was the rhetorical reading of texts.  The point was to find, as deMan once said, their keystone (or it’s “center”). By locating it and taking it out, […]

A Note on Nietzsche’s Sarcasm: Stupid and Honest Mystics versus Dishonest and Foolish Philosophers

In the beginning of The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, Ruth Wisse points out that for Rabbi Nachman the Simpleton (that is, the schlemiel) acts “as if” good will triumph over evil.  In his story, “The Clever Man and the Simple Man,” the thinker looks down on the simpleton as an idiot for being so naïve.  The […]

Meir Abehsera’s “Possible Man” – The Holy Fool, The Writer, and the Beggar – Part I

At the beginning of the summer, I had an interesting talk with the Kabbalah scholar Elliot Wolfson about Holy Fools.  The subject that I wanted to discuss with him, which pertains to the Holy Fool, is something he was familiar with in his studies of Habad (Lubavitch) Hasiduth and Mysticism; namely, something called Ruah Shtut […]