A Response to Zachary Braiterman’s “Messianism, History, & Schlemiel Aesthetics (Kenneth Seeskin)”


I look forward to reading Zachary Braiterman’s posts every week on his blog Jewish Philosophy Place and I admire and respect the work he has published on Jewish Philosophy, aesthetics, and theodicy.  I have learned a lot from his work.

I was especially interested in the blog entry he posted entitled “Messianism, History, & Schlemiel Aesthetics” since his entry bears mention of the work I have been doing on the schlemiel.  With respect to this blog entry, Braiterman is interested in the work I have written on the schlemiel and the Messianic Idea.  In this entry, he has drawn on it to offer an insightful critique of Kenneth Seeskin’s recent book Jewish Messianic Thoughts in an Age of Despair.

What I find most interesting about Braiterman’s reading is his approach to the Messianic Idea as a schlemiel aesthetic that really has nothing to do with the tasks of rational Jewish philosophy.   This is an interesting wedge since it challenges the use of the Messianic idea in Jewish philosophy (or in contemporary Continental philosophy) by such thinkers as Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, Ernst Bloch, and Giorgio Agamben.

To be sure, Braiterman and Seeskin are both drawn to a Maimonidean approach to Jewish philosophy.  And this approach is suspicious of the Messianic Idea and prophetic flights of the imagination.  The Guide to the Perplexed, parts of the Mishna Torah, and the “Letter to Yemen” clearly demonstrate that Maimonides was very careful to avoid the dangers that would come by taking the Apocalyptic aspects of the Messianic idea seriously.

What Braiterman wonders about is why Seeskin would still take to the Messianic idea since, for Braiterman, it seems to be derived more from the imagination and the Midrash than from reason.  As Braiterman notes: “Messianism is rooted in the imaginary of biblical, midrashic, and liturgical source material, whereas the introduction of Kantian conceptual-moral frames struck me as off point.”

Braiterman argues that Seeskin misreads the “wilderness generation after the exodus from Egypt” and their “crying and rebellion in the desert for water.”  For Seeskin (and one could imagine, for Herman Cohen – I will return to this), they are giving up hope and are rebelling against “the belief in God and the Messianic idea.”    On this note, Braiterman sides with Emil Fackenheim who, he argues, would see their crying and despair as providing them with a “critical insight into history and the human predicament.”

In the second part of this blog entry, Braiterman addresses the question of why Seeskin would even try to reconcile Kantian ethics with the Messianic idea:

Its not clear why one might need this messiah business if all messianism constitutes is the notion that redemption depends upon human will and act, constitutional democracy, and perpetual peace.  Why do we need such an inflationary and theological word for such a flat and deflationary thing?

This is a very good question.  It’s the same question one could pose to the Jewish-German Philosopher Hermann Cohen.  After all, Cohen insisted that the Messianic Idea was a specifically Jewish contribution.  He associates it with hope.  In contrast to the Greeks, who despised hope, Cohen tells us that the Jewish tradition introduced the Messianic idea of hope:

To the earliest Greeks, hope meant no more than idle speculation.  And it is only after the Persian wars that this emotion is looked on as more than the opposite of fear, or as one of Pandora’s evils…..Nowhere in paganism does the concept of hope suggest a general enhancement of all human existence.  The widening-out into the non-personal, ethical realm, this spiritualization of a basically materialistic-personalistic emotion is the effect and indeed one of the surest marks of the idea of God’s unity or –what amounts to the same thing – of His pure spirituality.

Seeskin inherits the legacy of hope that Cohen espouses in such passages as, on the one hand, uniquely Jewish, and, on the other hand, consistent with Kantian ideas.   Nonetheless, Cohen, like Seeskin and Maimonides, has a problem which Braiterman is acutely aware: the aesthetic aspect of the Messianic idea.

As Braiterman notes “when all is said and done, the messianic idea is “just” an image, and a philosophically foolish one at that. It’s the image that rivets the eye in the prophetic literature, especially as it appears liturgically in the closed off space of the synagogue, on a Saturday night in a candle-lit Havdalah ceremony, or packed tight at the end of the Passover seder, at which point it becomes a figure sung by drunk people.”

The last words of this description of the Messianic aesthetic remind me of Walter Benjamin’s call to “win over the forces of intoxication for revolution.”  Indeed, for Braiterman, the aesthetic qualities of the messianic idea overshadow the philosophical, ethical, or political dimensions of the idea.  They are intoxicating; just like a fascinating object.  Braiterman notes the Messianic idea is “almost like a photograph, you can pick it up and consider it, and use it to this effect and to that.”

Braiterman notes that Seeskin clearly knows that the Messianic idea has “no philosophical use value, at least not in terms of determinate propositional truth contents.”  So, why, he wonders, would Seeskin even try to use it for philosophical purposes?

Musing on this, Braiterman evokes the schlemiel and my schlemiel theory blog (and book) project:

Maybe the messianic idea represents the schlemiel figure par excellence in the history of Jewish thought…How else to explain Seeskin’s book, a serious book about a serious topic written by a serious man ends with a joke.

The point of the joke, says Braiterman, is to show that, in the end, we will all realize that when “all enchantment has been removed from the world…and there is quick judgment, and arrogance are now rare,” we will no longer be enchanted by the Messianic idea.  At that point, anyone who wants to be the messiah can be.

Nonetheless, for Seeskin, it is still necessary to cast hope in the Messianic.

Braiterman avers: “Who gets to be Messiah? Any schlemiel who wants it.  That’s the punchline.”

Following this, Braiterman says that he would resist Seeskin’s claim that the “rational religion” is messianic and “reflects moral teleology.”  Moreover, Braiterman reiterates that he doesn’t accept the notion that our age is an “age of despair.”  Instead of looking toward the future, what is to come, to hope, Braiterman takes the side of the present.  In doing so, it seems that Braiterman is parting with Herman Cohen and Maimonides (who does, in fact, purport a restorative and political reading of the Messianic idea at the end of the Mishna Torah).

Braiterman finishes his piece with a basic rejection of the messianic idea as a schlemiel aesthetic: “Because maybe with this much hindsight in the history of an idea, maybe it’s easier to understand that messianism is an aesthetic, and maybe, after all is said and done, a schlemiel aesthetic at that.”

In many ways Braiterman is correct; the messianic is a schlemiel aesthetic.  To be sure, what makes it so is the fact that the schlemiel is a messianic character who is not oriented toward the present.  Rather, the schlemiel is a character which is oriented toward the future. It mixes dreams and reality and, in its simplicity, it draws its life on our hope.  Sometimes this can have negative consequences, as I have shown in blogs on the schlemiel, the Apocalyptic, and Messianic Activism.  Nonetheless, the best schlemiels, do not simply mix dreams and reality; as Ruth Wisse would say, they juxtapose hope and skepticism.

To be sure, I would argue that the Messianic idea is brought down to reality by way of Braiterman’s skepticism.  Even though he wishes to be rid of an aesthetic idea – which has nothing to do with Jewish philosophy and the concern with the present – he shows how hard it is to just let it go.   In other words, the Messianic idea, like the schlemiel, is, as Braiterman says, “infectious.”  We can’t let go of it.  And this, for Braiterman, is the irony.

Strangely enough, Hermann Cohen argues that irony has nothing to do with hope.  Greek “tragedy is predicated on fear and compassion, its comedy on the very opposite of hope, namely irony.”

Cohen finds nothing ironic about the Messianic idea, but we do.  And this irony goes hand-in-hand with the schlemiel.  The schlemiel discloses the irony of the Messianic idea by way of the juxtaposition of hope and skepticism.   In other words, a rationalist like Cohen would be befuddled by the Schlemiel.  To be sure, this character is meant to disclose a historical tension Jews have with the present and the future.

Regarding this, I wonder: if we were to reject the Messianic idea, would we also have to reject the schlemiel?

At the end of her opus, The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, Ruth Wisse says something very insightful regarding this issue.  For Wisse, in a world that is wholly skeptical or wholly optimistic, the schlemiel cannot exist.  Pertaining to Zachary Breiterman’s review of Seeskin’s book, I would say the same thing.  In a world that is wholly skeptical or optimistic the Messianic idea cannot exist.  In many ways, it seems that the schlemiel and the Messianic idea go hand-in-hand.

However, what I find most interesting about Wisse’s claim about the schlemiel is that, for her, after the founding of Israel, it no longer becomes a character of interest.  She shares this claim with a few other Zionist thinkers.   However, this is another issue which I cannot address here .

Needless to say, I think Wisse and Braiterman would like to exchange the aesthetic for the political and the future for the present.   Nonetheless, I think Wisse’s previous claim remains and that simply having a state does not mean that one is wholly optimistic or wholly skeptical.  To be sure, we still waver between hope and skepticism.  And as long as our skepticism or optimism is tainted, there will be schlemiels and Messianic ideas.

Perhaps, on the other hand, what hooks us up to the Messianic idea or the schlemiel is not hope or skepticism so much as time.  As Levinas or Derrida may argue, as long as there is a future-to-come, there will always be a Messianic idea and, as i would argue, there will always be a schlemiel.

Or perhaps, as Braiterman suggests, as long as we love aesthetics we will be intrigued by Messianic ideas and schlemiels of all stripes and colors.

Perhaps, like Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch, we love utopia and the messianic idea like we love the circus….

But regardless of how we view the Messianic idea we can all agree that the greatest danger the Messianic idea poses is with Messianic Schlemiels (or what I call Messianic activists) who mix their utopian-slash-Apocalyptic dreams with reality.  Perhaps the greatest of all Messianic Schlemiels was named Shabbatai Zevi, the false messiah.  Maimonides, Seeskin, and Braiterman would all agree that what happened with Shabbatai Zevi shows us the greatest danger of the Messianic Idea.  They would all, rightly, note that when a dream or an aesthetic becomes immanent in a utopian political gesture, we have crossed the line; and, as Gershom Scholem suggested with respect to Shabbatai Zevi, this kind of foolishness verges on nihilism and not perpetual peace.

But can the fool(ish) text do Humanity any Good? Maimonides, Derrida, and Gasche (Part II)


Echoing Jacques Derrida’s reading of Stephen Mallarme’s “Mimique,” Gasche writes that:

If the mime of “Mimique” only imitates imitation, if he copies only copying, all he produces is a copy of a copy.  In the same manner, the hymen that comes to illustrate the theatrical space reduplicates nothing but the miming of the mime.  Miming only reference, but not a particular reference, Mallarme keeps the Platonic differential structure of mimesis intact while radically displacing it.  Instead of imitating, of referring to a referent within the horizon of truth, the mime mimes only other signs and their referring function.

Derrida, Gasche tells us, calls this miming of other signs re-marking.

Gasche notes that this remarking has the “structure of the hymen.”  But instead of focusing on a static structure, Gasche looks to depict its dynamic nature.  For this reason, Gasche focuses on “the manner” in which “the double structure of the hymen relates to itself.”

He calls this “manner” a “reflection without penetration.”

In other words, Gasche sees the mime and the reader as taking on a manner of reflection without penetration.  Gasche derives the evidence for this “manner” from a line in Derrida’s essay that depicts the double structure of the hymen in terms of a “violence without blows.” But what Gasche misses is that Derrida links this dynamic structure, which manifests a “violence without blows, or a blow without marks,” to a person who is “made to die or come laughing.”

In fact, for Derrida, remarking is an event.  The manner of reflection without penetration happens when there is a “violence without blows, or a blow without marks.”  When this happens, one “is made to die or come laughing.”   And this laughter is exemplary of what is, so to speak, remarkable.

With all the undecidability of its meaning, the hymen only takes place when it doesn’t take place, when nothing really happens, when there is an all-consuming consummation without violence, or a violence without blows, or a blow without marks…when the veil is without being, torn, for example, when one is made to die or come laughing (232)

Gasche fails to underscore that, for Derrida, the “manner” of the double movement is comic and perhaps tragic (as one is made to either “die” laughing or made to “come laughing”).   Derrida is denoting how the event of  “a reflection without penetration” is the event of laughter.

Perhaps this is because language, unlike God, does not show us, in a prescriptive manner, ethical or political ways of being; rather, the text shows us its absent-minded ways.  In fact, if the text prescribes anything, it prescribes the manner of absent-mindedness.  Or, as Derrida says in his essays in on the poet Edmond Jabes (in Writing and Difference), the text prescribes the detour and the ellipsis.

In the same essay on Jabes, Derrida notes how the text prescribes exile from God. Unlike Maimonides, Derrida would say that the text does not prescribe any ethical or political ways of being.  The text doesn’t perfect man.   While Maimonides would say that Moses was exiled from knowing God and having a “penetrating reflection,” he would not say that God only prescribed exile for Moses.  In fact, as Maimonides argues, God prescribed His ways to Moses for emulation, imitation, and practice.

In contrast, if we reread Gasche by way of Derrida’s own remarks, we can say that the manner of the reader and the text is the manner of a schlemiel.  This manner is prescribed.  Unlike the text (which is unaware of itself), the attentive reader is aware of its absent-mindedness.  If one reflects on the text’s schlemiel-ish “reflection without penetration,” the attentive reader will be conscious or become conscious.  And this, Derrida might say, would happen when one laughs.

But are we who laugh at the foolish text, for this reason, better (or superior)?  As I have shown in other blog entries, this is exactly what Baudelaire proposes at the end of his essay on laughter.   However, this is a conclusion which, as I also have shown, Paul deMan disagreed with.   In fact, if anything, the consciousness that comes out of this, for deMan, leads to madness and self-destruction not superiority.

Would Derrida agree with deMan?  Does the absent-minded schlemiel text, and the reader’s attendant “reflection without penetration,” lead to vertigo, madness, and self-destruction?  Should we read Derrida’s comment that one may “die of laughter” in lieu of deMan?

By virtue of its inability to know itself, by virtue of its being a “reflection without penetration,” the text presents itself as absent-minded.  Recognizing what the text doesn’t see, Derrida seems to be suggesting that the reader will either “die” of laughter or “come to” laughter.  Why?  Because he or she realizes that the only thing he or she can follow is an opaque and aleatory text which, in its absentmindedness, dynamically flows, warps, and weaves in different directions, one will either die of laughter or come to laugh.

Regardless, one laughs at the text’s absent-mindedness.  Perhaps one also laughs at the fact that one’s “reflection without penetration” on the text is also risible.  But in knowing that language doesn’t have a meaning or know of any, are we, in a deManian sense, mad?

Derrida’s text implies that, upon reading the hymen, we are either made to die or “come laughing.”  Derrida seems to be suggesting that we either affirm this “reflection without penetration” with a yes, and laugh or we don’t.  This, in fact, is a suggestion he makes on his essay “Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce.”  Without such a suggestion, it would seem that deMan and Derrida would be in agreement: the manner of the text would be a manner of madness and self-destruction.  In other words, the person who reflects on what deMan calls the “irony of ironies” would die laughing or go mad.

Derrida, in that essay (which I will return to in an upcoming blog entry) suggests that we should describe and affirm the reflection without penetration; and, in doing so, say yes to it.  This affirmation, this yes-saying, in a Nietzschean and Joycean spirit, is a prescription of sorts.   Like Sancho Panza who follows Don Quixote on his Journeys, the postmodern saint says yes to following the aberrant and absent-minded ways of the text.  Instead of Moses following the ways of God, we have a much more secular (and risible) model of observance.

So, here’s the question: Do we – like Sancho Panza – learn and repeat the schlemiel’s manner?  Is this, according to Derrida, our postmodern prescription and destiny?  Is this our postmodern ethic?  And will the foolish text do humanity any good?

Since the text has the structure of the hymen, Gasche would say that the repetition of the text (and the “reflection without penetration”) is inescapable.  The text repeats itself and we repeat the text repeating itself.  That’s it.  Nothing more nor less.

But what is the point of the text or our lives if they always remain caught up in an endless textual ellipsis?  Again: What good will this do for humanity?

The structure of the schlemiel, its manner, for Gasche and Derrida, would be an endless reflection on the surface.  It would be a manner of moving across an endless surface or as Deleuze might say, a thousand plateaus.  And in response to it we will, as Derrida –that is, Rabbi Derissa – de (of) the risus (laughter) – claims, either die laughing or come laughing.

(Enter laughter)

But can the fool(ish) text do Humanity any Good? Maimonides, Derrida, and Gasche (Part I)


In his book Of Minimal Things: Studies on the Notion of Relation, Rodolphe Gasche notes, in one of his readings of Jacques Derrida, that a text, like a person, can have a manner.

A manner is a way of acting or bearing.  A manner can also be read as a style.

What is the meaning of Gasche’s description?

This description of the text as a manner has religious resonance.  The reader, in an exegetical manner, must figure out his or her bearing in relation to the text and its bearing.  How does the text appear to the reader and how, in turn, does the reader present him or herself to the text?  Can the text teach us about how to bear ourselves or is it devoid of any such prescriptions for action?

Gasche suggests that the relation to the text is not by way of knowledge so much as by a relation to its way of being (its manner).  Textual relation bears two questions: How do we relate to the text and how does it relate to us?  Does the text turn away from us, as God turns away from Moses in the moment of revelation?

I can’t help but hear Maimonides reading of Prophetic Revelation in Gasche’s claim. In Part I, Chapter 54 of The Guide to the Perplexed, Maimonides discusses how, when Moses requests to see God’s essence, he sees, instead, God’s actions.  In other words, Moses , according to Maimonides, was only allowed to see God’s manner of being:

When Moses asked for knowledge of the attributes and asked for forgiveness for the nation, he was given a favorable answer with regard to their being forgiven.  Then he asked for the apprehension of His essence, may He be exalted.  This is what he means when he says, “Show me, I pray You, Your glory” (Ex. 33:18), whereupon he received a (favorable) answer with regard to what he had asked for first – namely, “Show me Your ways.”

Although Moses didn’t learn of God’s essence, he was shown God’s “ways” so that he could teach and practice them.  He was given what Gasche would call – in his essay on Derrida – a “reflection without penetration.” Nonetheless, he is given a manner that can make life better for himself and for the Jewish people.  To be sure, for Maimonides, the prophet is a political leader and a philosopher.  Most importantly, Moses, “the greatest of all prophets,” is the only prophet who is a lawgiver.  All three are related, in some way, to God’s ways or manners, which Moses practices.  Practice, it seems, trumps reflection into the essence of things.  The manner of God, God’s ways, bear themselves to Moses.  Not God’s essence.

Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, and the later Martin Heidegger, have taught us, with respect to language, that if it doesn’t have an essence that can be known (like God cannot be known), then all one can know of language is not what language is but what language does.  We can only know or describe how language does things.

Maimonides notes how Moses can perfect himself and be the best leader and prophet if, and only if, he imitates what God does – which can only be found by following God’s ways.  Maimonides sees Moses’ practical knowledge as being based on divine contemplation of God’s ways.  Such contemplation can foster love and fear and, most importantly, prompts imitation that promotes ethical and political well being.

The imitation of these manners or ways would do humanity good.  Maimonides tells us that such imitation will help man to perfect himself; moreover, without imitaiton, society cannot perfect itself.  Without a teacher of God’s ways, without a leader who pursues the ways of justice, society will degenerate.

Can we say the same for language?  Can or does language as such – language and its ways -do humanity any good?  Can language help?

Heidegger, near the end of his life, focused solely on “listening” to language.  And Benjamin wrote several essays and notes on language.   Derrida and Giorgio Agamben, amongst others, also call on us to pay close attention to language.

For them, its an imperative to pay close attention to the ways of language.  But do they do this because they believe that following the ways of language will do humanity any good?  Are they miming religion, so to speak, while emptying it of its content?  Instead of the manner and ways of God, do we study and practice, instead, the ways of language?  Are these, as Derrida might say, the way one would practice a “religion without religion?”

To answer these questions, let’s play a game.  I’ll imagine what would be implied if we read the relation of the reader to the text as we would read the relationship of Moses to God.  To know what to do, to act or imitate the ways of the text, we would have to know what a text is doing and how it is doing it:

What is the manner of the text?

Can we learn justice from the ways of language? Or do we just learn its ways?  Are we in the position to imitate its ways or is this a ridiculous question reserved only for religion and theology not language as such?

Reading Gasche, we should like to know if we are going to imitate the text so as to perfect ourselves and society; otherwise, Gasche’s language suggests that we reflect on a manner that is devoid of any ethical or political content.  Does the act of reflection suffice?  Does it help humanity?

If ethics is based on actions and not on knowledge, as Levinas points out in a reading he makes of Maimonides (in one of his essays on Judaism), for language to be ethical, it would have to be prescriptive in some way.   Otherwise, its “manner” would have no ethical content.

If we take Jacques Derrida seriously, we would have to say that a text has the manner of the schlemiel.  It does not know what it is doing.   And language likes to dream and get distracted.  A text can be absent-minded.  But can a text, like a schlemiel, fail?

How would it fail?  In what manner would the text, as schlemiel, fail?

Roldophe Gasche gives us a clue.  In his book, Of Minimal Things: Studies on the Notion of Relation, Gashe writes of Derrida’s notion of mimesis.  He reads mimesis through Derrida’s essay on Mallarme entitled “The Double Session.”  There, Gasche looks into the relationship between the text and reflection.  He argues that Derrida’s notion of textual mimesis shows has the manner of a mystical and absentminded kind of consciousness: a “reflection without penetration.”

Gasche’s notion of a “reflection without penetration” is really another name for what is commonly called “absent-mindedness.”

How, according to Gasche, does one, along with the text, become absent-minded?

Is the text, as Derrida might say, always-already absent minded?  And is our manner of reading, always already, absentminded? Through Gasche’s reading of Derrida, I would like to briefly touch on these questions.

To be continued, in tomorrow’s blog…..

Destroying Toys With Jacques Derrida and Charles Baudelaire


In “The Philosophy of Toys,” Baudelaire writes of how the “overriding desire” of children is to destroy their toys so as to get at the soul of each toy:

The overriding desire of most children is to get and see the soul of their toys, some at the end of a period of use, others straightaway.  It is on the more or less swift invasion of this desire that depends the length of life of a toy.  I don’t find it in me to blame this infantile mania; it is a first metaphysical tendency.  When this desire is implanted itself in the child’s cerebral marrow, it fills his fingers and nails with an extraordinary agility and strength.  The child twists and turns his toy, scratches it, shakes it bumps it against walls, throws it on the ground….

But in the midst of destruction, Baudelaire tells us that there emerges a question:

But where is the soul?  This is the beginning of melancholy and gloom.

Contrast this to the celebrated French Philosopher Jacques Derrida’s portrayal of his “overriding desire” – in his book The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud to Beyond.  It brings him into contact with toys which he, like Baudelaire’s child, destroys:

In effect I believe that the idea imposes itself, this is indeed the word, in any event imposes itself upon me and I want it (want it horribly, flight, no, to enclose myself in a book project, to deploy all possible ruses and a maximum of consciousness, intelligence…while remaining…enclosed in this puerile (and masculine) enclosure of naivete, like a little boy in a playpen, with his construction toys.  That I spend the clearest part of my time taking them to pieces and throwing them overboard changes nothing essential in the matter.  I would still like to be admired and loved, to be sent back a good image of my facility for destruction and for throwing far away from me these rattles and pieces of tinkertoy), finally you will tell me why I still want all this.

Derrida’s destruction of toys is different from Baudelaire’s child.  He destroys them because he wants to be loved in “your” absence.  This “you,” in this passage, sounds like his mother.  He relates to her absence, to his desire for her, by destroying toys.  And he wants this as his image.  He wants “to be sent back a good image of my facility for destruction and throwing far away from me these rattles and pieces of tinkertoy.”

He says that he destroys toys for her “in order to prepare in your absence what I will give you on your return, at the end of time. What is it?”

Yes, indeed, what is it?  What will he give the absent mother when she returns?  It seems as if he has destroyed all of the toys she has given him.

What could this imply?  Is the destruction of the toy-gift a destruction of that which distracts the child for the mother’s absence?  And, on the contrary, wouldn’t the destruction of the toy do the opposite?

Instead of preparing the child for the mother’s absence, the destruction of the toy would expose the child to the mother’s absence.  And when I hear Derrida ask, regarding what gift he will give her upon her “return at the end of time,” I cannot help but hear a man-child’s impotent rage.

It seems as if Derrida is being very sarcastic and angry here.  Instead of Baudelaire’s child who sinks into melancholy and gloom, Derrida-as-man-child becomes mad.

Juxtapose this Derrida to the Derrida who celebrates play, the Derrida who plays with texts as if they were toys, and what you might find is the other – less playful – side of deconstruction.  Madness, it seems, is the remainder of this exercise in toy destruction since it is the mother, after all, who gives Derrida the toys to play with in her absence.  And now there is nothing – that is, there is no toy – that can distract him from her “betrayal.”

Derrida is, on the one hand, like the shocked child that Baudelaire sees as exemplary of the Absolute Comic.  But, unlike her, he is not in a stupor.  Derrida is mad.  He knows he has been duped.  And we are reminded of this by the fact that he has broken all of his toys and thrown them outside of his playpen.

And, although this seems different from the melancholy and gloom that Baudelaire refers to in the wake of discovering that the toy has no soul (that the soul is absent), the fact of the matter is that Derrida has ejected broken toy fragments away from him.  Nonetheless, they lay around his crib like melancholic ruins.  What he wants “back” (in return for his destruction) is an image of himself as a toy destroyer.  It is, what I noted in relation to Benjamin, a souvenir of sorts.

This is part and parcel of the man-child’s “overriding desire.”

I’ll close this blog entry with a 1935 Walt Disney Animation entitled “Broken Toys.”