The schlemiel is a central character in the tradition of Yiddish and Jewish-American literature. Oftentimes, the schlemiel is read as a comic character that has political and ethical content. In our essay, we take another look at the ethical character of the schlemiel by way of a close reading of Levinas's notion of the self, aesthetics, and ethics, coupled with Hommi Bhabba's reading of Levinas in terms of history and Adam Newton's reading of Levinas in terms of narrative. This nuanced reading is used in the analysis of schlemiels in selected stories and parables of Franz Kafka, I. B. Singer and Nathan Englander.


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