Ageing and Modern Jewish Writing and Thought

  • Michael Mack


This chapter analyses how modern Jewish thinkers and writers pay attention to the more uncomfortable or darker aspects of our life which tend to get ignored in the redemptive narratives with which we are familiar from Christian and, in its secular form, humanist philosophies. Perfection here gives way to frailty, progress to the potential of regression – or in Freud’s famous psychoanalytical case studies, repression – and light to darkness. Franz Rosenzweig, one of the most important modern Jewish thinkers, famously understood his Jewishness, as his ‘dark drive’. Ageing is a dark topic, because it involves a deterioration of our health and our capacities. Modern Jewish writing and thought pays attention to dark topics which traditional humanist and Christian philosophies tend to marginalize or neglect.


Philosophical Tradition Binary Opposition Christian Philosophy Perpetual Motion Machine Humanist Philosophy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am most grateful to Geoffrey Scarre for his most detailed comments which helped to improve the quality of this chapter.


  1. Arendt, Hannah. (2002). Denktagebuch 1950–1973. Vol. 1 edited by Ursula Ludz and Ingeborg Nordmann. Munich: Piper.Google Scholar
  2. Arendt, Hannah. (2004). The origins of totalitarianism. with an introduction by Samantha Power. New York: Schocken.Google Scholar
  3. Auster, Paul. (2012). Winter journal. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  4. Auster, Paul, & Coetzee, J.M. (2013). Here and now: letters 2008–2011. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  5. Baars, Jan. (2012). Ageing and the art of living. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Jamison, Redfield Kay. (1995). An unquiet mind: a memoir of moods and madness. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  7. Löwy, Michael. (2005). Fire alarm: reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘on the concept of history’. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Machery, Pierre. (2011). Hegel or Spinoza (trans. Ruddick, Susan M.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  9. MacIntyre, Alasdair. (1999). Dependent rational animals: Why humans need the virtues. Chicago, IL: Open Court.Google Scholar
  10. Mack, Michael. (2003). German idealism and the Jew: the inner anti-semitism of philosophy and German Jewish responses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Mack, Michael. (2010). Spinoza and the specters of modernity: the hidden enlightenment of diversity from spinoza to freud. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  12. Mack, Michael. (2016). Contaminations: beyond dialectics in modern literature, science, and film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,Google Scholar
  13. Mendes-Flohr. (1999). Paul German Jews: A dual identity. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Roth, Philip. (1961). Reading myself and others. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  15. Roth, Philip. (1988a). The counterlife. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  16. Roth, Philip. (1988b). The ghost writer. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  17. Roth, Philip. (1996). Shabbath’s theatre. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  18. Roth, Philip. (2001). The dying animal. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  19. Roth, Philip. (2007). Everyman. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  20. Roth, Philip. (2010). Nemesis. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  21. Posnock, Ross. (2006). Philip Roth’s truth: the art of immaturity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. *****Scarre, Geoffrey. (2016). ‘******’ Palgrave companion to philosophy and ageing. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Scarry, Elaine. (1985). The body in pain: the making and unmaking of the world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Small, Helen. (2007). The long life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Spinoza, Baruch. (1996). Ethics. ed. and trans. Edwin Curley with an introduction by Stuart Hampshire. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  26. Vatter, Miguel. (2014). The republic of the living: biopolitics and the critique of civil society. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English StudiesDurham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations