“Mourning Becomes the Schlemiel” – a Guest Post by Jeffrey Bernstein

Beautiful guest post by Jeffrey Bernstein, as I read it, on mourning, melancholy, and the Jewish, as read through the prism of Gimpel the Fool. It originally appeared (where else?) at Menachem Feuer’s Schlemiel Theory blog, hand down the best site around for the intersection between Jewish philosophy and literature.

Schlemiel Theory

Unknown-2I. Psychoanalysis has taught us that comedy—in particular, the joke—is a discourse through which serious issues can be articulated in a manner that can be tolerated by an intended recipient. It has not (to my knowledge) said anything about the relationship between comedy and sadness—in particular, mourning.  Aristotle tells us that tragedy allows for a moment of catharsis—be it intellectual or emotional—in which the audience is able to resonate with the dramatic events being seen.  Can comedy or comedic situations fulfill a similar function?  Can it teach us, or model for us, anything having to do with, e.g., sorrow?  Is the insight of the Kotzker Rebbe to the effect that there is no heart so whole as that of a broken heart relegated to the discourse of lamentation alone?  These fragmentary reflections are a first attempt at exploring this question.  The schlemiel, as a figure of derision, is a particularly…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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One Response to “Mourning Becomes the Schlemiel” – a Guest Post by Jeffrey Bernstein

  1. Sydney Nestel says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

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