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On Marriage

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I consider all feelings to have a potentially blocking, and a potentially motivating, or moving, impulse inside them. The point, of course, is that a marriage is unknowable to anyone outside it (and often to the people in it), so that only the couple themselves know where the lines between autofiction, truth and comedy blur in these retellings. If somebody tells you a joke well and fresh, and you get a laugh out of it, that’s a real relief – and it’s a strengthening moment, as well. Of course, Jews have done what they have done everywhere also in the UK – which is to transcend class. And I feel this is the case with all feelings – that they need to be admitted, even if only to yourself.

Baum’s methodology is to look at what is missing – a philosophy of marriage, a clear idea of what this dominant structure is and how it influences lives. Marriage is unknowable to anyone outside it’: Devorah Baum and husband Josh Appignanesi with their children in 2016. So that wasn’t a direct experience of aggressive, hostile antisemitism, but it was implicit in the acceptance of Shylock as staged Jew.EV: We wondered if this idea of the joke in your book The Jewish Joke (2018) could be linked to theatre. Joking, then, is a form of common language that can also offer its speakers a degree of privacy, by creating a kind of outsider discourse within the dominant discourse, one that speaks for the jokers’ own lack of definition or certainty. Because you see how Jews have prospered there, with that psychology that there is a chance to start anew.

And both my books regard that situation as becoming increasingly common to all people who feel themselves the subjects of a globalised world. Why, then, she wonders, has there been so little serious intellectual engagement with the idea of marriage? For anyone who has experienced, contemplated or rejected it, On Marriage offers a fascinating exploration of an institution that, for better or worse, “continues to shape and carry our human story”. It’s the plot that drives much of western literature and drama; it is presented to successive generations (especially women) as both the highest goal and a yoke of oppression. She is the author of Feeling Jewish (a Book for Just About Anyone) and The Jewish Joke: An Essay with Examples (Less Essay, More Examples).I'm an Associate Professor in English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of Southampton. So as they saw it, their choice was between condemning him for being bad, or showing a liberal understanding of why he turned out so bad. From Freud to Ferrante, and One Thousand and One Nights to Fleabag , she looks at marriage in all of its forms – from act of love to leap of faith, and asks: what are we really doing when we say ‘I do’? And that’s the familiar Jewish stereotype, but it’s also the product of a specific social situation, and I think it’s quite extreme in some ways, in a culture like this one – in particular where there’s a strong class system, where everybody knows their place, and you’re the people who don’t seem to have one.

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