Idle Forms

Idle Forms

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Idle Forms

15
Fall 2023

Issue Editors:

Yoav Ronel, Oded Na'aman

The Allure of Idleness in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart

Author:

Charlie Tyson
The naturalist novel is celebrated for its depictions of labor. Yet the grim determinism of this genre, with its plots of inexorable decline, suggests that one is doomed no matter how hard one works. Under such conditions, idleness offers to naturalism’s working-class characters a reprieve, a weapon of the weak, a rational response to an unjust regime. Drawing on eight of Zola’s novels and focusing on The Ladies’ Paradise ( Au Bonheur des Dames, 1883), this essay argues that naturalism rescues, rather than rejects, the ground of idleness and aesthetic surrender. One implication of this

A Human Measurement of Time: Communal Temporalities of Waiting in Goretti Kyomuhendo’s Waiting and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Author:

Ruth Wenske
This article considers how the theme of waiting is treated in two African realist novels: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Goretti Kyomuhendo’s Waiting: A Novel of Uganda at War. Building on recent scholarship that seeks to understand waiting as more than deferral or failure, the article develops the notion of idleness as an important aspect of waiting. It shows how the novels engage with waiting on both thematic and formal levels, thereby conveying “a human measurement of time” that is grounded in the nexus of community, nature, and storytelling. Specifically, it suggests that the

Rest and Play in Deep Focus

Author:

James Reich
Religious thought is often deeply concerned with work — what it is, how we should feel about it, why we must do it, and when we should stop. In this article, ideas about work from two different religious traditions are explored and compared. One tradition, stemming from the Talmud and early Rabbinic Judaism, thinks of work as the opposite of rest, and sees work and rest as, ideally, part of a divine cycle, alienation from which is painful. The other, a branch of Hinduism known as Shaivism, thinks of work as the opposite of play, and yet similarly thinks of play as a divine dynamic in which we

Amateurism, Now: Roland Barthes and the Contemporary Stakes of the Amateur

Author:

Eyal Bassan
This essay proposes a conceptual inquiry into the stakes, implications, and continued relevance of amateurism as a contemporary form of life and thought. Taking a cue from Roland Barthes’s fascination in his later years with the amateurish ­disposition — as a type of activity that is carried out “without the spirit of mastery or competition” — I identify two modalities of amateurism. The first, explored here through Barthes’s profound yet problematic relation to Japan and the haiku, is implicit and relational, concerned with forms of knowledge and thought. The second, more explicit and

When Enough Is Enough: Relational Readings of Narrative Enoughing

Author:

Alex Brostoff
Yael Segalovitz
“Enough” is a slippery signifier — it is never clear enough, or else it always means too much. In this inquiry, we investigate the social and psychic work that “enough” performs. We do so by following an associative series of narrative instantiations that demonstrate how enoughness holds the paradoxical capacity to signal both sufficiency and excess simultaneously. By close reading polyvocal, genre-hybrid texts (from Hélène Cixous reading Sigmund Freud and Clarice Lispector to Maggie Nelson reading Eve Sedgwick), we examine the capacity of enoughness to produce and reproduce psychic violence

On the Historical Raison d’être of Arabic Cookery Literature: an Essay on Productive Idleness

Author:

Limor Yungman
Cookbooks do not write themselves. Like any book, in any language or genre, they have authors and readers and cooks that use them and, in periods prior to print, also scribes who copied them in manuscript form. In medieval Iraq, cookery books were born out of idleness. Furthermore, they were not necessarily penned by cooks. The article probes the question of why and how recipe collections were created. Using a variety of sources — such as biographical dictionaries, the literary form known as mirrors for princes, and illuminated manuscripts — the article explores the political and social

Idle Labor: Distraction, Strike, Potential

Author:

Yoav Ronel
The article discusses the role of idleness in late neoliberal times in light of the glaring crisis that the institution of work is today going through. It suggests that today, as work becomes more and more problematic, and as the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism become more apparent and catastrophic, idleness becomes a viable existential and political option. In reading works of contemporary Israeli literature which are concerned with idleness and non-work, it shows the different potentials for resistance that are encapsulated in different forms of idleness and how they gain prevalence