Please join us for the Annual Philip Hallie Lecture on May 24th, 3:00 p.m. in Wesleyan's Memorial Chapel

Sarah Hammerschlag, “I wish you, what you wish me:” Jokes, Forgiveness, Shame, and the Social


The late philosopher Sarah Kofman ends her book Why do we laugh? [Pourquoi rit-on?] with a joke about two rabbis who could not forgive each other. This joke then becomes the paradigm by which Jacques Derrida understood his friendship with Kofman after her death. In her address, Professor Hammerschlag will suggest that thinking about this joke in tandem with the friendship of these two philosophers and their respective writings on philosophy, literature and psychoanalysis provides the groundwork for a model of politics that resists the political-theological prioritization of sovereignty, whether understood in terms of self-sovereignty or that of the head of state. At stake in Professor Hammerschlag’s lecture will also be the importance of the figural Jew, the figure of the feminine, and the role of literature in rethinking the recent renaissance of political theology.


Sarah Hammerschlag COL ’96 is associate professor of religion and literature in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the position of Judaism in the post-World War II French intellectual scene, a field that puts her at the crossroads of numerous disciplines and scholarly approaches including philosophy, literary studies, and intellectual history. She is the author of The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida and the Literary Afterlife of Religion (Columbia University Press, 2016), and the editor of Modern French Jewish Thought: Writings on Religion and Politics (Brandeis University Press, 2018).