Bewildered and Bewildering: Animal Life and Jewishness in James Joyce, Franz Kafka and Shalom Auslander


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), United Artists, 1972

by Menachem Feuer

In a popular Woody Allen joke about a moose, Allen, playing a schlemiel from New York City, recalls how he went hunting and shot an animal in Upstate New York. After shooting the moose, he brought it back to the city. Since Jews have for millennia been opposed to hunting, fighting, and open displays of masculinity, this claim is bewildering. Can a schlemiel – a Jewish comic character – kill (let alone do violence to) an animal?

I shot a moose, once. I was hunting in Upstate New York, and I shot a moose, and I strap him on to the fender of my car, and I’m driving home along the west side highway, but what I didn’t realize … that the bullet did not penetrate the moose. It just creased the scalp, knocking him unconscious.

Allen is bewildered by the fact that animal is still alive.  Nonetheless, he comes up with a plan.

And I’m driving through the Holland tunnel – the moose woke up. So I’m driving with a live moose on my fender. The moose is signaling for a turn, y’know. And there’s a law in New York State against driving with a conscious moose on your fender, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. And I’m very panicky, and then it hits me: some friends of mine are having a costume party. I’ll go, I’ll take the moose, I’ll ditch him at the party. It wouldn’t be my responsibility.

To make the joke more New Yorkish, Allen portrays the hosts of this party as a Jewish family. The moose schmoozes (mingles) with them. All seems well, but then things get out of control: 

I drive up to the party and I knock on the door. The moose is next to me. My host comes to the door. I say “Hello. You know the Solomons.” We enter. The moose starts to mingle. Did very well. Scored. Two guys were trying to sell him insurance for an hour and a half. Twelve o’clock comes – they give out prices for the best costume of the night. First prize goes to the Burcowitzes, a married couple dressed as a moose. The moose comes in second. The moose is furious. He and the Burcowitzes lock antlers in the living room. They knock each other unconscious. Now, I figured, is my chance. I grab the moose, strap him onto my fender, and shoot back to the roads, but – I got the Burcowitzes. So I’m driving along with two Jewish people on my fender, and there’s a law in New York State … Tuesdays, Thursdays and especially Saturday…

The following morning the Burcowitzes wake up in the woods, in a moose suit. Mr. and Mrs. Burcowitz are shot, stuffed and mounted – at the New York Athletic Club, and the joke is on them, because it’s restricted.

The punchline of the joke is telling on many levels. It speaks to a post-Holocaust, American sense of Jewishness. The gentile hunters of Upstate New York – who can’t tell the difference between Jews and animals – take the Jews for animals. The Burkowitzes are shot, stuffed, and mounted. The real animal, however, lives on. Animal life, so to speak, lives on…but it is not Jewish.

The schlemiel’s mistakes often leads to a bowl of soup spilling or an accidental fall causing a minor wound or bruise that the schlemiel or the person spilled on can walk off. But the schlemiel’s mistake in Allen’s moose joke cost the subjects their life. As one can expect from a schlemiel, he got the wrong moose. But the consequences are grave.

Since the Burcowitzes are Jews (in a time when Jews weren’t allowed in certain clubs and societies – think of Groucho Marx’s joke that Allen uses in Annie Hall: “I wouldn’t belong to a club that would have me as a member”), the joke is on them: not only are they dead, but, even if they were alive, they couldn’t go in the club and see themselves on the wall. The moose regains consciousness and comes back to life; they don’t. And while the moose is free, they are dead and excluded from the world of Upstate New Yorkers. This joke is something of a cautionary tale. Had Allen stayed in New York City and not gone hunting in Upstate, this mess would never have happened.

The most compelling claim made by this joke is that both Allen and the Berkowitzes cannot have what is called (in Yiddish) “Goyishe Nachas” since they are the means to Goyishe Nachas.

The scholar, Daniel Boyarin defines this Yiddish term as “games goyim play,” a “sometime ‘racist’ term of opprobrium for European Christian culture” and its “masculine values such as war making, dueling, and adulterous courtly love affairs that end in Leibstod”(38, Unheroic Conduct).

Boyarin puts “racist” in scare quotes because there is some truth to this designation which is not racist. For Boyarin, it is ethical. It is indicative of how the Jewish way of life takes joy in much different things than the “goyim” (gentiles). Goyishe Nachas is a kind of joy that is foreign to Jews because Jews – at least during nearly two millennia of Diaspora – emulated the “mentsch” as the “ideal type.” The “ideal characteristic” of the mentsch is, in Yiddish, called Edelkyte. Boyarin argues that this term is equated with being humble, non-violent, and “sensitive.”

Given this reading of Goyishe Nachas, we can see how the confusion of man, animal, and Jew in the moose joke is telling us something more than what happens when a schlemiel goes hunting. While the joke involves a failed attempt of a schlemiel – of the Alvy Singer variety – to kill an animal, it also suggests a reflection on Jewishness, death, consciousness, and conscience. What does it mean that Jews are confused with animals and that the animal lives on while the Jews do not?

The relationship of Jews in New York City to the woods of Upstate New York (the Adirondacks) has, since World War II, been a topic of interest for great Jewish American writers, artists, and comedians such as Saul Bellow, Bruce Jay Friedman, Ben Katchor, and Woody Allen. While Bruce Jay Friedman and Woody Allen see the Jew (in the form of the schlemiel) and the wild as a contradiction, Saul Bellow and Ben Katchor envision Jews that assimilate and go wild. In the Adirondacks, Jews can become like animals. This literally becomes the case in Katchor’s graphic novel, The Jew of New York. In Allen’s joke and in these pieces, the question about the relationship between Jewishness and the American wild is of great concern. While the schlemiel can’t become wild or kill an animal, Katchor and Bellow’s characters can. The question remains: What’s the difference between a Jew who can be wild and one who can’t? Is it a matter of conscience that separates one kind of Jew from another or one kind of animal life from another?

Hegel Calls Consciousness Animal Life

Woody Allen let us in on the joke. We know that the moose killed and stuffed are really Jews and not animals. But this secret is not funny. If you are a Jew hearing this joke (and is existentially aware of societal exclusion and difference in the 1960s), it’s devastating. The death of the Jewish animal, so to speak, should strike our conscience. The consciousness of the moose – its animal life –seems to be beside the point.

But for a thinker like Hegel, it’s not. Allen’s animal can speak and schmooze. He is an admixture of man-and-animal. He has what Hegel argues is the key trait of modern consciousness: animal life. Although, for Hegel, human consciousness is equated with animal life, it nonetheless has no ethical elements whatsoever. Animal life (consciousness) is – as Michel Houellebecq would say – atomized. It has no issues with belonging or not belonging. It is alone in its bewilderment.  Nonetheless, it does bewilder the thinker (take note that the root of bewilder is “wild”).

Consciousness itself is the absolute dialectical unrest, the medley of sensuous and intellectual representations whose differences coincide, and whose identity is equally again dissolved, for it is itself determinateness as contrasted with the non-identical. But it is just in this process that this consciousness, instead of being self-identical, is in fact nothing but a purely casual, confused medley, the dizziness of a perpetually self-engendered disorder. It is itself aware of this; for it maintains and creates this restless confusion. Hence it also admits to it, it owns to being a wholly contingent, single, and separate consciousness – a consciousness that is empirical…single and separate, and, in fact, animal life, and a lost, self-consciousness…this consciousness is therefore the unconscious, thoughtless rambling….both bewildered and bewildering. (124-125 Phenomenology of Spirit)

Hegel’s reading of animal life has its roots in Aristotle who starts his Metaphysics with a meditation on the difference between man and animal. He begins by noting that the thing that humans and animals share is “sensation” and “memory.” What separates man from animal is “experience,” which Aristotle reads in terms of something that can be abstracted, discussed, and inferred upon.

Animals, for Aristotle, cannot have experiences that can be shared in language and abstracted and inferred upon by reason. The “man of experience,” may be different from an animal, but he is inferior to the thinker. Each genus and species is distinct from the other.

The notion of clear and distinct boundaries between man and animal is a claim that survives in philosophy. Rene Descartes, when speaking of experience, argues that man’s imagination is tainted by experience. As a result of experience, the imagination (as opposed to the mind) can imagine a being that is half-human and half-animal. Descartes argues that the mythical creature is an illustration of the deficiency of experience and the imagination. Both cannot see things clearly and distinctly because they mix genres (the biggest genre violation is the mixture of the human and the animal). Since Descartes associates consciousness with experience and the imagination, he concludes that only the mind can distinguish things in a “clear and distinct” manner.

Hegel’s notion of consciousness draws on both Aristotle and Descartes. But he adds on to them by way of a more phenomenological description. Consciousness is not “self-identical.” It is constantly changing, affected and distracted by stimuli. It is a “confused medley, the dizziness of a perpetually self-engendering disorder.” Hegel points out how consciousness is “aware” of this “restless confusion” which it, in part, creates. Consciousness has no problem with seeing itself as a “contingent,” “empirical, and “separate.” Hegel calls consciousness “animal life.”

And this is more a curse than a blessing. Animal life is “lost” and engages in a kind of “thoughtless rambling” that is, at once, “bewildered and bewildering.”  Hegel is, in effect, taking on the role of the mind and is describing the mind’s consciousness of animal life. The mind is separate from animal life and consciousness; it finds consciousness to be bewildered and bewildering. In this gesture alone, Hegel suggests that he is beyond consciousness. He speaks from the transcendent angle of reason, which is beyond animal life.

In his book, The Open: Man and Animal, Giorgio Agamben takes up Hegel’s thread but he – indirectly or is it accidentally (?) – points out what is missing in Hegel’s account when he argues that the question of consciousness (vis-à-vis the man-animal divide) is more important than the question of conscience:

What is man, if he is always the place – and at the same time, the result – of ceaseless divisions and caesurae? It is more urgent to work on these divisions, to ask in what way – within man – has man been separated from non-man, and the animal from the human, than to take positions on great issues, on so called human rights and values. And perhaps even the most luminous sphere of our relations with the divine depends, in some way, on that darker one which separates us from the animal. (16)

While Agamben is right to point out how the “divine depends, in some way,” on the “dark” relation between man and animal life, he – like Hegel – leaves out the question of conscience which is a part of that relation. For Hegel and Agamben, consciousness is the dividing line and the darkness that Agamben is referring to have to do with the empirical nature of consciousness (animal life), which Hegel found “bewildered” and “bewildering.”

To better understand what is at stake in animal life and its relation to the human and the divine (or, for me, personally, Jewishness) I would like to turn to Leopold Bloom of James Joyce’s Ulysses. In Bloom we see a literary approach to Hegel’s phenomenology of animal life/consciousness. But what makes Joyce of greater interest to my query is the fact that he suggests that we see consciousness or animal life in terms of Jewishness.

This suggestion is not, by any means, a mistake. To be sure, Hegel associated Jewishness with animal life and argued that Jews were stuck with an “unhappy consciousness” because they could not, like the narrator/voice of The Phenomenology of the Spirit, be bewildered by animal life. Rather, Jewishness, for Hegel, can’t get beyond animal life. It is stuck, so to speak, in the darkness of “empirical consciousness” and animal life. While Hegel’s “absolute mind” is happy with itself, the Jewish consciousness or animal consciousness is unhappy because (as I noted) it is caught in the darkness (“dizziness of a perpetually self-engendered disorder,” “bewilderment,” etc) of experience and the imagination. From Joyce’s depiction of Bloom, we see that Joyce took Hegel seriously.

However, unlike Hegel, Joyce gave consciousness/animal life a positive valence and affirmed it. He also makes it comical and fun. Nonetheless, Joyce makes Bloom’s empirical consciousness, his animal life, into something that has less a need for belonging (in particular, his belonging to the Jewish people) and more of desire for the play (Hegel: “confused medley”) of consciousness. Joyce is more interested in that than to a Jewish kind of conscience. Bloom’s conscience is more attentive to animals.

Franz Kafka and Shalom Auslander remedy this lack of conscience vis-à-vis a people. Although the conscience they present is divided and deeply troubled, the important thing is that they see Jewishness from the inside out rather than from the outside in (as we see in Joyce and Hegel). Joyce’s Bloom, nonetheless, gives us an intimation of how the divine, as Agamben says, “depends” on the relation of man to animal. The only thing is that this divine sphere, for Jewish life, is not, as Agamben says, luminous. It is mixed with darkness. Joyce gives us a sense of this through Bloom, but Kafka and Auslander complete it by showing how this darkness evokes the relation of animal life to consciousness and a particular, Jewish (rather than a universal) kind of conscience.

James Joyce: Bloom, Cats, Dogs, Jewishness, and Consciousness

What interests me most about Joyce’s representation of Bloom is the contrast between two styles of writing that Joyce uses when writing about Stephen Daedalus and Bloom. The contrast tells us a lot about how Joyce approached Jerusalem and Ithaca/Athens. Joyce is at home and more familiar in the language and culture of Athens and Ithaca than he is in the language and culture of Jerusalem. His readings are more entrenched in Paul and Augustine than in Moses.

In relation to Daedalus, Joyce writes of a dog and in relation to Bloom he writes of a cat. The Jew is close to the cat and the feminine while the gentile is close to the dog and the masculine. This contrast was certainly on Joyce’s mind. And it comes out in his prose style. When he writes about dogs these are the dogs of war and masculinity. History, heroism, and war can be heard echoing in these lines:

Then from the starving cagework city a horde of jerkined dwarfs, my people, with flayers’ knives, running, scaling, hacking in green blubbery whalemeat. Famine, plague, and slaughters. Their blood is in me, the lusts my waves…. The dog’s bark ran towards him, stopped, ran back. Dog of my enemy. I just simply stood pale, silent, bayed about. (56)

In contrast, when Joyce introduces Bloom to his readers, Bloom is attending cats and a woman. He attends to the feminine. It has been noted by a few Joyce scholars that he – like many writers in Europe – read the book Sex and Character by the “self-hating” German-Jewish thinker Otto Weininger. He depicted the thoughts of Jews as “woman-like,” distracted, and heteronomous (totally anti-Kantian and unable to be self-reliant). Like Weininger, Joyce describes the thoughts of Bloom as feminine, wandering, and fragmented. Bloom has no historical or intellectual basis for his reflections. As Weininger would say, Bloom, like many Jews and women has “no essence” or foundation for his thoughts and actions.

James-Joyce-Leopold-Bloom-Sketch--e1360049021427 (1)
A Sketch by James Joyce of Leopold Bloom, 1926

Notice how much more the prose flows and fragments in Joyce’s representation of Bloom as he caters to his cat and his female acquaintance. His mind isn’t on war, history, or honor. His mind is on the movements of the cat and it moves from detail to detail:

Another slice of bread and butter: three, four: right. She didn’t like her plate full. Right. He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off the hob and set it sideways on the fire…. The cat walked stiffly round a leg of the table with tail on high.


-O, there you are, Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

The cat mewed in answer and stalked again ….Prr. Scratch my head. Prr. (65)

Mr. Bloom watched curiously, kindly, the lithe black form. Clean to see: the gloss on her sleek hide, the white button under the butt of her tail, the green flashing eyes.

As he prepares breakfast, his mind wanders more and more and becomes more fragmented. This contrasts greatly from the prose and style of the above-mentioned section of Ulysses. It moves more like a cat than a dog, so to speak. His focus on detail is based on his immersion in experience – on things he has around him, be careful not to disturb anyone, and things he has to get – rather than on thought and history:

Stamps: stickyback pictures. Daresay lots of officers are in the swim too. Course they do. The seated legend in the crown of his hat told him mutely: Plasto’s high grade hat. He peeped quickly inside the leather headband. White slip of paper. Quite safe. On the doorstep he felt in his hip pocket for the latchkey. Not there. In the trousers I left off. Must get it. Potato I have. Creaky wardrobe. No use disturbing her. She turned over sleepily that time. He pulled the halldoor to after him very quietly, more…looked shut. All right till I come back anyhow. (67)

Perhaps, for Joyce, what makes Bloom a schlemiel (a man-child) is the fact that, unlike his gentile friends, Bloom is a caring person who, in his attention to detail and getting everything right, is constantly distracted. The question on my mind, upon rereading these passages, is how Joyce relates Bloom’s distraction to the historical awareness of Daedalus. He famously says, in this novel, “history is a nightmare from which we must awaken.” And, in addition, Joyce puts an accent on the awareness of death which may be on the mind of the gentiles but is not the mind of a Jew like Bloom.

Bloom is caught up in life and Joyce suggests that Bloom lacks an awareness of death, evil, history and heroism. He is too distracted. Nonetheless, as we can see from the above passage, this is not because he is cruel but because he is loving and caring for his cat and his lady-friend. He has affinity for animal life and is, like the mensch, sensitive. After all, he wants to make a good breakfast and doesn’t want to wake her.

Bloom doesn’t understand the “bigger things” like history, death, heroism, etc. Joyce was astounded by the fact that Jews didn’t know how to live in the world. And this astonishment comes out in the contrast between those who follow cats and those who are in the midst of barking dogs. This simple distinction between different animals – which is based on the distinction between masculine and feminine – makes Bloom into a cat-man of sorts. For Joyce, Bloom is a man who leans toward empirical experience, the effeminate, and animal life.

Bloom’s consciousness and his affinity to animal life and the feminine are all tied together. His consciousness is constantly at work, but he doesn’t care to belong to this or that group. As Seamus Deane argues, in an essay entitled “Joyce the Irishman,” both Stephen and Bloom embrace a kind of heretical consciousness. Both “are involved in parental and marital betrayals which are, in their turn, closely associated with religious affiliation, Christian and Jewish…. only art is beyond betrayal”(James Joyce: Cambridge Companion, 48-49). In other words, Bloom’s kind of Jewishness isn’t really Jewish so much as artistic. He is a Jew who is driven by a kind of animal life that betrays Judaism and embraces the animal life and consciousness as a kind of aesthetic.

This aesthetic evinces and even celebrates a kind of dizziness that is associated with animals. And it also challenges Judaism and is notions of ethics and providence with an affirmation of chance and an ethical relation that focuses primarily on the animal rather than the human. The focus is on the chance relation between events in the mind, which, for Hegel, is the bread and butter of animal life.

In the “Night Town” part of Ulysses, a drunken Bloom comically stumbles around like Charlie Chaplin (as in the film One A.M.) in the streets of Dublin.

When Bloom is almost hit by a car, he reflects on his luck and its divine opposite: “the Providential.”

Close shave that but cured the stich. Must take up Sandow’s exercises again. On the hands down. Insure against the street accident too. The Providential. (He feels his trouser pocket.) Poor mama’s panacea. Heel easily catch in tracks or bootlace in a cog. Day the wheel of the black Maria peeled off my shoe at Leonard’s corner. Third time is the charm. Shoe trick. Insolent driver. I ought to report him. Tension makes them nervous.  Might be the fellow balked me this morning with that horsey woman. Same style of beauty. Quick of him all the same. The stiff walk. True word speak in jest…Lost cattle. Mark of the beast. (He closes his eyes an instant.)  Bit light in the head. Monthly or effect of the other. Brainfogfag. (567)

His father, Rudolph, appears to him in a drunken vision. He asks him about his identity but the question itself suggests that Bloom is a different kind of Abraham (who is told by God to leave his home and family to the “place where God shows him), the question is rhetorical:

Are you not my dear son Leopold who left the house of his father and left the god of his fathers Abraham and Jacob? (569)

In this possible moment of conscience, Bloom responds: “(With precaution) I suppose so, father. Mosenthal. All that’s left of him.” The name “Mosenthal” is shorthand for “Moses and all.” In other words, Bloom has left Abraham, Jacob, and Moses (the law giver). In response, Bloom’s father complains and likens him to a drunken dog that runs with other dogs. Bloom tells his father that he had to run with them because they “challenged me to a sprint. It was muddy. I slipped.” Bloom’s fall may be comedic but the father pays attention to the “challenge…to sprint” and calls it, as many Jews would, “Goyim nachez” (a word Joyce intentionally misspells; is pleasure to the gentiles, here associated with athletics; for more on this notion, which we discussed above, also see Daniel Boyarin’s book Unheroic Conduct and the argument that one becomes dog-like when pursuing these Goyim Nachas).  Bloom’s responses to his father indicate that he may not have a problem with not belonging to the Jewish people. To his father, he is a non-Jewish Jew in the sense that his consciousness is greater than his Jewish conscience about tradition, family, etc.

Later on in the section, we see that he has more of an affinity for dogs. After feeling the pain of his fall (after slipping in the race, which was spurred by “Goyim Nachez”), he stumbles across a dog that he befriends. He feeds the dog some pork and identifies with him and his “movements”:

My spine’s a bit limp. Go or turn? And this food? Eat it and get all pigsticky. Absurd I am. Waste of money.  One and eightpence too much.  (The retriever drives a cold sniveling muzzle against his hand, wagging his tail.) Strange how they take to me…. Stinks like a polecat. Chacun son gout. He might be mad. Fido. Uncertain of his movements.  Good fellow!…. Influence of his surroundings. Given and have done with it. Provided nobody. (580)

When he is spotted with the dog he “stammers” that he is “doing good to others” and that the dog is “the friend of man. Trained by kindness”(581). Here, Joyce is suggesting that Bloom retains his conscience but it has nothing to do with Jews. It has to do with animals. His consciousness and conscience are equated with animal life. And as Seamus Deane suggests, this is a kind of betrayal that is carried on without any remorse. Bloom has more in common with Paul than with Abraham. But unlike Paul, who like many Greek thinkers distinguishes animals from humans, he embraces animal life and animals. He is a different kind of Jew who – in clinging to empirical consciousness and animal life – doesn’t betray art. Joyce seems to be suggesting that the new model for the artist is a universal model and has no room for the Jewish conscience but does have room for a Jewish consciousness which is close to animal life, bewildered, and bewildering. Joyce embraces the bewilderment but a price must be paid if – as Woody Allen’s joke suggests – the animal (the dog Bloom is attending to in the street or Allen’s moose) is to survive.

Franz Kafka and Shalom Auslander: Vulnerable Apes and Little Self-Hating Chimps

Reading Kafka’s “Report to an Academy” and Shalom Auslander’s “Bobo the Self-Hating Chimp” side by side has prompted me to think more about what we can learn from a writer who uses a hybrid human-chimp as a metaphor for Jewishness. While Kafka’s attempt to do this is troubled by the times he lived in (which thought of the mixing of “races” as a form of “pollution” – and, lest we not forget, Jews were, mistakenly, thought to be members of race), Auslander’s evocation of the Jew as a chimp seems less troubling for us today because we love animals. Even so, for literature to be affective it must (for better of for worse) trouble us. The question, for today’s Jewish and non-Jewish reader of these short stories, is what exactly is troubling and why. What can the frustrations and problems of these Jewish kinds of animals teach Jews about what they are or may be? The main issue that is at stake in both Kafka and Auslander’s stories is the troubling relationship of the modern Jew to his or her Jewish community and history. While their issues differ, they both bring us back to the relationship of the individual to the community and its shared history as a fundamental point of interest for modern Jews.

Sander Gilman, in his book, Franz Kafka: The Jewish Patient, argues that the discourse of mixing man and animal overlapped, in some points and places in Europe, with an anti-Semitic and racist discourse: namely, the fear that Jews would taint the racial “purity” of Germans. Gilman claims that Kafka was quite aware of this fear and that it influenced his writing. The Jew who converts and intermarries, for the anti-Semite, will end up creating children who are “mishling” (a being who is an admixture of races). Gilman also claims that, on the completely other end of the spectrum, there was a fear in the Jewish community that, by assimilating Jewishness was threatened. Both, for their own reasons, wanted to keep Jewishness distinct.

For the anti-Semite, a Jew will always be a Jew. Nodding to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gilman argues that “the transformation of the Jewish body” by way of either assimilation, conversion, exercise, or language acquisition was “desirable but inherently impossible. The model for Kafka was that of religious conversion.” And when, in stories like “The Report to the Academy,” the “ape becomes ‘human’, that is, he acquires a human manner of seeing the world with his acquisition of language…. he remains marked by a sexual passion for his ‘kind.’(13). The more Kafka’s characters try to change, says Gilman, “the more they reveal themselves as fundamentally defective.” This, argues Gilman, “reflects both a Jewish and anti-Semitic accusations against Jewish assimilation.”

While, today, writers like Gloria Anzaldua, celebrate the “mixture of races, rather than resulting in an inferior being, provides hybrid progeny, a mutable, more malleable species for the gene pool,” or what she calls, in Spanish, the “mestiza,” the “old world Mishling” (an anti-Semitic term for a Jewish “half breed”) was despised.   What we get in Kafka and Auslander’s story is a sense of the regret and shame at having chosen or having become different from their community. But while there is a shame or regret, there is also a disclosure of how fundamental the dialogue between being a modern person and a member of a Jewish community are for them. While Auslander sees the community in more resentful terms, Kafka sees it in different terms which evince a desire to embrace it while “escaping” it.

In Kafka’s “The Report to the Academy,” the main character, an ape that has become “human,” speaks to an academy:

You have done me the honor of inviting me to give your Academy an account of the life I formerly led as an ape. (Kafka: The Complete Stories, 250)

Unfortunately, he can’t “comply with your (the Academy’s) request” to the “extent you desire.” Nonetheless, he does give a revealing account. In his account, the reader can see that he wishes to please his audience by saying that he was, before “escaping,” “stubbornly set on clinging” to his “origins.” He had to “give up being stubborn” was his “supreme commandment,” to which he “submitted himself.”  He lived a “forced career” as a human but “I felt more comfortable in the world of men and fitted it better.” The world of apes, read the world of the Jewish people, made him feel very uncomfortable. But although he feels comfort amongst humans “a strong wind that blew out after me out of my past.” Over time “it began to slacken.” Now, his (Jewish) past is only a “gentle puff of air.” And now all he feels is a “tickling of the heels.”

He goes on to recall how he learned different human customs. But he also notes how he was hunted and shot. He recalls his “large, naked red scar,” which earned him the name “Red Peter, a horrible name, utterly inappropriate”(251).  He was also hit in the hip (251). And, to this day, he tells the Academy, he limps.

He also recalls how he was put in a cage and subdued and yearned to be free. And although he was “hopelessly sobbing, painfully hunting for flees, apathetically licking a coconut, beating my skull against the locker” he was still “amenable to training.” In other words, he acknowledges the pain, but frames it all as a part of a positive process.

The attentive reader can see that what troubles him is that his freedom was forced. He remembers the abuse that drove him away from his people and his very body. However, he acts “as if” that doesn’t matter. He makes a distinction between the desire to escape and embracing (and understanding) freedom. The latter is superior to the former.

No, freedom was not what I wanted. Only a way out; right or left or any direction; I made no other demand; even should the way out prove to be an illusion…. To get out somewhere, to get out! (254)

While this desire is deemed lower than freedom, Kafka, in countless other places, discusses the desire to move and leave. It is, in other words, primary for him.  And this desire to move is something that is not associated with society (The Academy) so much as with his past and his people. It is the last remnant of his past.

After describing how he learned to do things like a human being, he goes into a monologue of praising modernity and suggests that by changing his behavior he has grasped the true meaning of freedom:

That progress of mine! How the rays of knowledge penetrated from all sides into my awakening brain! I do not deny it: I found it exhilarating. (258)

But, immediately after saying this, he makes a small confession:

But I must confess: I did not overestimate it, not even then, much less now. With an effort, which up till now has never been repeated, I managed to reach the cultural level of an average European.  In itself that might be noting to speak of, but it was something insofar as it has helped me out of my cage and opened a special way out for me, the way of humanity. (258)

By saying that he didn’t “overestimate” it, he is telling the academy that his accomplishment is not as great as it seems. There are traces that trouble him; but as the above cited passage shows, even after noting this he still acts “as if” he does think it to be the best thing in the world he ever experienced.

His real confession comes at the end of the text. What troubles him is his sexual partner – “a little chimpanzee” – who he comes home to every night after “performing.” He may have sex with her at night but, “by day I cannot bear to see her; for she has the insane look of the bewildered half broken animal in her eye; no one else sees it, but I do, and I cannot bear it”(259).  What he is saying – in this confession – is that he sees himself in this “bewildered half broken animal” and this makes him feel shame.

But after saying this he suppresses his emotion and memory and acts as if nothing he said was real: “In any case, I am not appealing for any man’s verdict.”

All he is doing, he says, is “making a report” and “imparting knowledge,”

This movement is telling since it suggests that, if in looking at the “bewildered half broken animal” Kafka is giving the modern condition of Jewishness a figure, Jewishness is based on an acknowledgement and a denial that one is European. What he knows, as a Jew, is something that academy will never know. He has this knowledge because he is a Jew who was torn away from his people. He has the wounds of this rupture – which he must deny – but they all come back to him when he sees one of his own kind.

The shame of this character and his memory of being torn away from his people – who appear to be “bewildered and half broken,” find a different kind of figure in Shalom Auslander’s story. But, even so, the shame comes in relation to the community. The difference, as I will argue in the second part of this essay, has to do with Auslander’s explicit reference to religious ideas and a kind of shame that separates Bobo from his fellow species. And this suggests a different kind of education, one less cultural (The Academy) and one that is more religious.

It goes without saying that the question of man’s relationship to apes has created major historical challenges and changes over the last three centuries. Although it is the case that the material culture must be deeply examined to understand these challenges and shifts, it is the act of imagining an ape with human features that needs the most thought. The ape-man is a staple in fiction and film. The important differences of genera that can be seen throughout different media must be noted. The most apparent difference to note is basic: while man-apes are figured as cute and adorable, others are frightening. This difference is often pronounced and is commonplace. But the occasion when the tension between is articulated by way of a comical figure is rare. This tension can, in effect, become a comical figure for modern Jewish consciousness. In its tension with a fictional people (in this or that ape-man fiction), this odd figure for Jewish consciousness takes on Yiddish and urban notes.

We see such figuration in Kafka’s “Report to an Academy.” Kafka’s story presents a chimp that (or is it “who”?) is at odds with himself; in his “report,” he acknowledges that he remembers how he was wounded when he was sundered from this people. Through the sexual other, he is aware of his broken existence. However, he betrays these memories and this knowledge by giving them a lower status in his report to the Academy (about what he has learned in his journey to becoming an ape – adopting language, dress, custom, consciousness, reasoning, and freedom).

Kafka’s ape is aware that he is free – and his freedom is based on denial – and this is more important to him than his shame at betrayal. As Kafka discloses at the end of his story, this shame is linked to his awareness of his sexual “other” (who serves as a mirror of his real self). He sees this otherness through his mate not at night but during the day when everything is clear. From these realizations, the reader can see that he is a divided man-ape. This consciousness mitigates the comical nature of his situation at the academy: namely, that he is an ape who knows that he is acting “as if” he is human and has escaped his past.

We all know that his existence is based on denial and that this is not a laughing matter. In fact, many of us would like that he remembers and rebel against the academy. And this is a metaphor for Kafka’s Jewishness which he didn’t take a stand on, but was deeply aware of – as can be seen in his journals and diaries.  Kafka had to hide this awareness in his man-animal parables. The smallness of his man-animal characters – as in “Josephine the Mouse Singer, Mouse Folk” – illustrates this very well.

In contrast to Kafka’s “Report from the Academy,” we see the figure of a Jewish ape-man’s consciousness in a more concrete, contemporary, and comical form in Shalom Auslander’s “Bobo the Self-Hating Chimp.” While Auslander carries over Kafka’s figure of the Jewish ape-man, he makes it more obvious and comical that he is Jewish. And by making it more obvious, he is free to create a distinct figure of modern cynical, Jewish self-consciousness and existence – one that is situated in a ridiculous American variant of the capitalist, cultural system.  More importantly, four words, for Auslander, sum up the core of this consciousness in four words: God, Death, Shame and Guilt.

Right off the bat, Auslander focuses on the initial event of discovery at the Monkey House (the area where the public sees the monkeys, so to speak, on display).

As 9:37 in the otherwise ordinary mourning of May 25, Bobo, a small chimpanzee in the Monkey House of the Bronx Zoo, achieved total conscious self-awareness:




Guilt. (11, Beware of God: Stories)

But instead of leaving us in shock, as Kafka does, Auslander couches this revelation in a comical language:

Each one dropped like a boulder onto his tiny primitive skull. He grabbed his head in his hands and ran shrieking around the Monkey House, overturning water bowls and tearing branches off the trees. (11)

The monkey runs after fellow monkeys in a comical manner and then experiences, for the first time, a kind of transport above his body: “It was as if he had been somehow transported to the top of the tallest tree in the forest and was looking down upon himself below”(12).  Now, like Kafka’s ape-man, he sees “a brute, a beasts, a dim, half-finished creature”(12). His “newly acquired skills” (of consciousness, shame, etc), however, are not there to built but to destroy (they are a “weapon”).

When he notices his “bright red erection,” “shame filled his soul.” Shame, asks the narrator, “That was new.” Seeing him in this state, the other monkeys start crying and screaming.  And they “point at Bobo’s hideous primitive penis.” Following this, the narrator brings in the teachers of the ape children and notes that instead of “explanation,” they give the kids a “Denial”(12).

He’s just happy, children! Tried one teacher.

“Happy, yay!” clapped the other. (12)

What is most interesting in this comic portrayal is how his consciousness is based on shame and a sense that he is at odds with not just the other monkeys but the teachers as well. He lives in a shameful truth that can’t even be noticed or discussed by the educators of the community. This shock informs Bobo’s “self-hatred.”

The “Management” of the “Monkey House” also notices this mayhem. They shut down the facility clear the “innocents away” and “sedate” Bobo. The narrator of this short story notes how this internal state means nothing to the Management who cannot know it and how are too busy “restoring” the Monkey House so that more people will come and patronize them. He jokingly notes how there is a new décor: “Chimpanzee Bay, a freshwater pool that was built to look like an ocean, complete with a Deluxe WaveMaker 3000. Judging by the crowds pressing their faces to the glass on opening day, it didn’t seem to bother anyone that chimpanzees can’t actually swim”(13). It is the consciousness of this by the reader, the narrator, and Bobo, which creates the effect of an aggravated man-ape consciousness. Our frustrations give us a kind of bitter cynical consciousness, that is inseparable from – as we saw in the opening of the story – God, Shame, Death, and Guilt.

The Monkey Painter, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, 1833

Turning to a more comic note, the narrator points out how the Management gave Bobo a wide array of drugs – ranging from Viagra to Paxil – to deal with his PTSD (14). Like Kafka’s Ape-Man, Auslander’s wants “out”(14). But while Kafka’s ape sees it in terms of a past ape memory (and thus falsely), Auslander’s ape-man does not. He knows that the Management has made him into an animal without any freedom whatsoever.

The narrator stages the mental rebellion of Bobo against the Management. He articulates Bobo’s thoughts against the humans; namely, that the Lab Technician, for instance, should acknowledge that he and humans – like the Lab Technician – share an “awareness of our own mortality and unique self-perception”(15). But this thought is not heard. Like Kafka’s bug in “The Metamorphosis,” when he speaks, his thought come out as odd noises.

They don’t care about his thoughts. This is his private shame.

“Bobo isn’t a fool.” He knows that the public wants a cute ape: a “Curious George,” “Megillah Gorilla” or a “Monchichi.” They don’t want the bitter ape, the ape-as-self-hating-artist.

Perhaps in order to increase his sense of alienation and humiliation or perhaps because that’s the way “life” is, he notices that his “Judeo-Christian” sense of the words “right and wrong” sets him apart from the other apes (16). And this prompts him to apologize to a female chimp – Esmerelda – for “objectifying” her for sexual reasons. But, as in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1976), she doesn’t care and goes off in search of the alpha male ape, Mongo.

The guilt at this clearly puts Auslander’s Bobo in the realm of the schlemiel that Woody Allen dwelled in for half his career. Bobo – like Allen’s schlemiel in many films – watches his sexual failure in a comical way:

Bobo watched with contempt as Mongo humped away at Esmerelda, his ridiculous testicles bouncing this way and that like terrified children on the back of a runaway camel in the African Safari Park. “Help! They screamed to shout. “Get us out of here!” Bobo knew how they felt. Look at us, Bobo thought, shaking his head sadly. A bunch of fucking monkeys. Where is our dignity? Where is our pride? Where is our pants? (18)

Following this, Bobo retreats away from the cruel world. He retreats into the world of art. After Mongo has sex with Esmerelda and “shits” next to Bobo, Bobo takes the shit and flings it against the wall making art:

By the end of the first week, he was creating sweeping tableaus which he saw as scathing attacks on chimpanzee culture and primitive mores. His Self-Portrait was a devastating attack on racism, his Unhuman Stain a poignant plea for self-respect and dignity, his Life in Monkey House a searing assault on political power and corporate gain. (19)

The observers love this shit-art, so the Management gets him real paints. His paintings start to change. They grow “darker with each passing day”(19) because he starts “wrestling with existence and the meaning of death”(19).

But, as Auslander wittingly conveys, this art can’t keep him from thinking of Esmerelda and his sexual failure. He portrays – in his mind – Esmerelda and Mongo as “mutually…. selfish.” They want to breed, but he, he wants to create art. He is, as Kafka might say, a “hunger artist.”  But this only leads him to the deepest cynicism. And the schlemiel turns into a serious, self-hating character: “you’re an angry little monkey aren’t you? Yes, you are!”

After this cynicism takes hold of him, he stops painting and becomes suicidal.  He sees everything fall apart around him. So he “stood up and walked calmly to the edge of Chimpanzee Bay.” He just gives up on existence. He wants nothing to do with it.

Everyone watches him commit suicide but they have no idea what he is doing. And while he is dying, Mongo mounts Esmerelda: at this moment, sex and death are in a clearly figured tension. The reader gets a deep sense of this cynicism and, in effect, shares it with Bobo.

However, there seems to be hope.

A chimp named “Kato” notices the death and is struck by: “God. Death. Shame. Guilt.” Auslander, using the same opening sentences as he did with Bobo (describing the awareness of these words and their meaning) jokingly suggests that the cycle will now overtake the next free and conscious monkey-man, Kato: “Look at us,” Kato thought, “a bunch of fucking monkeys”(21). The only difference is that he has a conscience and tries to save his fellow Jewish animal: he pulls Bobo’s body out of the water. But it is too late. Kato is the only one who is “mourning.” The rest of the community of Apes and the people watching outside the cage are indifferent. And this fills Kato’s soul with “shame.” However, the last words of the story ironically suggest a “new” awareness of shame that is cynical.

Since it is cynical, we can say that this awareness is not new at all. It is not only typical of a man of conscience – which is spurred by God. Death. Shame. Guilt and the “Judeo-Christian” – but the indifference to Bobo’s suicide is also typical of a world that is inhumane and unjust. To be sure, it is the disclosure that the world doesn’t care about monkeys-with-consciousness that typifies his more obvious figuration of a particular kind of Jewishness and a general sense of a world that consistently prompts cynicism. Is it this consciousness that is, for both Kafka and Auslander, inevitable?

Regardless of how comical it is, it is the disconnect between Jewishness and the world gives birth to a kind of cynical consciousness that Auslander figures in this and in a book like Hope: A Tragedy. The schlemiel takes part in this endeavor but when it becomes cynical, the world seems to displace the possibility of going beyond self-hate. And the schlemiel is no longer the schlemiel. While Aleichem and Singer foreground the schlemiel’s battle between goodness and a society that can do without it, Kafka and Auslander describe the consciousness that is caught up in this realization. The possibility of animal life and Jewishness living on are, as Auslander suggests in this story, very bleak. And in the midst of this and many of his other stories and novels, the theological questions of a cynic who is tempted by nihilism (and not the schlemiel) remain: Where is God? How could chimps be indifferent to each other’s suffering and death? Am I to blame? Is my shame a result of their indifference or my hatred of my people? All of these questions arise out of a darkness as to what is and what should be.

Does the Divine Depend on The “Dark Relation” Between Man and Animal?

I noted earlier how Giorgio Agamben makes the claim that “our relation to the divine” may depend on our understanding of the “dark” relation between man and animal. But he explicitly leaves the conscience out of his formulation. He is not alone. Hegel and Joyce also leave conscience out of their understanding of consciousness. (Hegel more so than Joyce.) The reason for this omission has to do with the fact that ever since Paul’s claim that Jews are “carnal,” Jews have been associated with the carnal as opposed to the spiritual. Jews are, according to the framework posited by Paul, closer to animals than to humans. The result of these thoughts has been devastating to say the least. (One need only think of the Holocaust and Hitler’s claims – which weren’t born in a vacuum – that Jews are sub-human and must be exterminated.)

Hegel was obviously affected by this way of thinking as it was passed on by the Church fathers and European society. And, as we have seen above, he associated Jewishness with empirical consciousness, which is both “bewildered”, and, for a philosopher or the mind, “bewildering.” James Joyce did his utmost to rehabilitate Jewishness and turn in into a positive figure of animal life, modern consciousness, and the modern artist. Nonetheless, he did so, as we saw above, at the expense not simply of Jewishness but of the Jewish people. Indeed, throughout the novel there is a marked aversion to Zionism and Jerusalem is pictured as a dead land; a desolate land without a people. Joyce’s slanted presentation of Bloom’s Jewishness relates to a final point I’d like to make regarding the rereading of Jewish carnality.

Michael Wyschogrod is an important Jewish theologian whose interpretations of Heidegger, Moses Maimonides, Christianity, and the Judaism of the rationalists are unparalleled. In his seminal book The Body of Faith: God in the People of Israel, Wyschogrod argues that instead of understanding Jewishness in terms of reason and doctrine, one should approach it in terms of the Jewish body (the body of Abraham) and the bodies of the Jewish people (in general).  Wyschogrod argues that Jews are, at least according to the Bible, Jewish law, and theology, historically and bodily elected. With this in mind, Wyschogrod puts a particular emphasis on the relation of the Jewish body to conscience and peoplehood. For Wyschogrod, one cannot simply think of oneself as a body isolated from other bodies let alone as a body outside of history and materiality.

What Wyschogrod is suggesting is that Jewishness, unlike other major religions, is not associated with a doctrine, a set of ideas, or a spiritual realm. Jewishness is associated with the Jewish body and cannot be separated from it. Wyschogrod – in contrast to Paul, Augustine, and Maimonides – is presenting a challenge to universalism and to a pristine kind of spirituality (which, as we see in Hegel, Augustine, et al aspires to a disembodied metaphysics).

Wyschogrod suggests a challenge to Agamben’s reading of the divine by way of the animal since the “dark relation” that Agamben is talking about can be understood in terms of the bodily relation Jews have to a God in history. This relationship – manifest in history rather than in some luminous spiritual realm – is a mixture of light and dark. The relationship of the Jew to his body and the bodies of other Jews is also a mixture of darkness and light since the relation of Jews to other Jewish bodies is never clear. The relation to God is not clear because it is a bodily rather than an abstract, intellectual relationship (as it is in Maimonides). It is, in this sense, closer to animal life.

Jewish particularity and embodiment, in other words, is finite. It is exposed to darkness that is at once historical and existential. In this sense, Jewishness has much in common with what Hegel calls “empirical consciousness” and animal life because it does not live in the luminous realm of the mind or spirit so much as in the world and in history.  Jewishness is, in this sense, bewildered. And for a thinker like Hegel or a spiritualist like Paul, it is bewildering.  But for the Jew it is more than bewildering; it hurts and makes Jews vulnerable to other Jews…in an ethical sense. It involves consciousness and conscience. And, since Jewishness and Jewish particularity is situated in history, after the Holocaust, the darkness between the Jewish people and God of history (as Emil Fackenhiem refers to God) is prescient.

In the fiction we have discussed in this essay, we see a variety of relations of animal life to Jewishness. While Bloom is often indifferent and even comical about his Jewishness, Auslander’s chimp struggles with it. He becomes an artist, throwing shit at the wall, but he knows that being an artist is insufficient. His conscience ties him not only to “God, death, shame, and guilt,” but also to his fellow apes. This makes his life dark and uncertain. It is so dark that it eventually leads to his suicide.

No wordplay or Joycean wit can redeem Bobo from his fate. Simply saying “yes” (which we find running throughout the pages of Joyce’s Ulysses) cannot keep Bobo from the “no” he hears all around him.  His life, as the life of many Jews, is met by many refusals and much darkness (with occasional flashes of light). Bobo must face the possibility of nihilism. And this is especially the case with God’s absence from much of modern history.

Not only does Bobo the self-hating chimp live a kind of animal life with a thoroughly modern kind of consciousness, he also lives it in history and in the wake of the Holocaust. (Auslander also lives in the in the wake of an observant community that has become inflexible. This fact cannot be discounted in his depiction of Bobo, the self-hating chimp.) The animal life Ausladner deals with is quite tangible. Bobo may not be a stuffed animal, as in Woody Allen’s moose story, since he knows that he is on display like his “little chimp.” And this, in major part, is the source of his self-hatred.  He is excluded from the club of humans and he cannot so easily exclude his fellow monkeys for his conscience and consciousness.

The main difference between Allen’s moose and Auslander’s “self hating chimp” is that Auslander’s Jewish animal takes his own life because he can’t find solace in his fellow monkeys. Kato, the monkey that comes in his wake tries to save his life, gives the reader some kind of hope. However, Kato’s last words take note of how foolish they all are (“fucking monkeys”). This isn’t too promising. In this gesture, Auslander wants to put the bodily, animal life of the Jew in the hands of a Jewish conscience which is troubled with its own people, the society that circumscribes it, and the options available for transcendence.

Against Hegel, we see that although Kato’s consciousness is deeply troubled, it is not separate from his people and a desire for justice. Amidst a post-Holocaust and post-assimilation America, in which the Jewish people are divided and are facing an uncertain future, this is a relevant point of reflection that is empirically grounded in history and darkness.

The accidental death that Woody Allen talks about in his joke can no longer framed within an America that doesn’t accept Jews to this or that club. There are different things, today, that sting the Jewish consciousness and conscience. And by understanding that sting, perhaps we can better understand how the divine does in fact depend on the relation of animal life to humanity. But that relation is better thought through in fiction that it is in philosophy.

Because fiction is the medium through which we can reflect on animal life in a way that is, like the experience of God in history, “bewildered and bewildering,” literature is more affective than philosophy. It spurs one to not just think but also to experience the dark relation of animal life to Jewishness, on the one hand, and the dark relation of animal life to the divine, on the other. Most importantly, Joyce, Kafka and Auslander show us that the comedy of animal life can spur us to think about how there is something wild about the relationship of man to animal and man to God. But that wildness arises out of a kind of darkness that is a part of one’s reasoning about animals, bodies, and God. This wildness is directly connected to failure. (Something that attends every schlemiel.)

Michael Wyschogrod articulates this wildness, which we see in Joyce, Kafka, and Auslander, by way of a phenomenology of darkness, failure, and trust:

The human condition is…. a mixture of light and darkness. Judaism thinks of man as the inhabitant of an unredeemed world in which Israel clings to the promise that it has received, but is also aware that there is something outstanding that has not yet occurred but has been promised and will therefore occur. To disregard the darkness of the human condition would be to ignore human suffering, while to forget the light that illuminates the human path would be to overlook the signals of hope along that path. Judaism steers a midcourse between these two alternatives. It believes the promise, but it can also accept the failure. In failure, reason comes up against the hardness of reality, its indifference not only to the aspirations and loyalties of man but also to his knowledge, which is always partial and never penetrates any but the uppermost layers of ignorance. Failure is possible because man is suspended between darkness and light, so that there is enough light to hope but often not enough to succeed. (14, Body of Faith)

Hegel was partially correct about consciousness and animal life. It is bewildered and, for the philosopher, it is bewildering. But while the philosopher, for Hegel, must look down on it, Wyschogrod shows us that Judaism teaches the opposite. It teaches that a Jews is (or should be) bewildered by an unredeemed world in which the promise and the failure of its fulfillment are ever present.

Whether it is Kafka’s estranged ape – who has a hard time coming to terms with his unredeemed ape-ness -or Auslander’s self-hating and suicidal chimp, the same tension between the promise and the failure of its fulfillment remains. As Auslander’s self-hating chimp and his successor, Kato, know: God, death, and shame are not mere words. They inform the existential tension between the promise and its failure in an unredeemed world.

Likewise, by virtue of God, death, and shame – rather than consciousness as such – humanity in general and Jews in particular are bewildered. Before the incomprehensibility of God and death one is, as it says in the Psalm 73:22, like an animal: “But I was brutish and ignorant; I was a beast before thee.” The Psalm isn’t simply speaking about a bewildered consciousness; it is also, and more importantly, speaking of a bewildered conscience. Such bewilderment spurs Bobo to choose nihilism and death; but, as Wyschogrod suggests, Judaism stays alive because it chooses neither nihilism nor a denial of reality as a proper response. Judaism dwells amidst light and darkness.

Judaism accepts failure and a glimmering of hope although, as Wyschogrod notes, that hope may still not “be enough to succeed.” And this is what may be most bewildering since we can see that while a Jew would embrace failure (in the likes of a comic character such as the schlemiel), most people would choose nihilism or a negation of reality. While consciousness can turn to philosophy or art for salvation (which is what we see proposed by Hegel, on the one hand, and Joyce, on the other), the animal life we see in Kafka and Auslander, both bewildered and bewildering, is forced to choose between a life with a bewildered people or no life at all.

About the Author:

Menachem Feuer has a PhD in Comparative Literature and a Masters in Philosophy. He teaches Jewish Studies and Jewish Philosophy at York University in Toronto. Feuer has published several essays and book reviews on philosophy, literature, and Jewish studies in several book collections and peer-reviewed journals including Modern Fiction StudiesShofarMELUS, German Studies Review, International Studies in PhilosophyComparative Literature and Culture, Ctheory, and Cinemaction.