Professor Yotam Hotam, the 2015 Horace W. Goldsmith Visiting Professor in Judaic Studies at Yale, presented “‘Transgression’ in Modern Jewish Thought” at our recent, April 20, faculty colloquium. Dr. Hotam is a lecturer in the department of Learning, Instruction and Teacher Education at the University of Haifa; and his research focuses on the intersections between secularism, religion, and theology in modern European and modern Jewish thought.
In his highly enjoyable presentation, Dr. Hotam examined Freud’s 1905 work, The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious, and argued that the book, which consisted of a large collection of Freud’s “Jewish jokes,” revealed the way Freud navigated his dual identity as a lawful Jew whose parents hailed from Galicia and a secular modernist who rejected obedience to Jewish law. As Dr. Hotam explained, jokes act as a social mechanism to defy the norms of society by expressing inhibited or suppressed desires, but they also preserve the norms they attack. Freud’s jokes, according to Dr. Hotam, served much the same function in preserving his Jewish identity.
Dr. Hotam is the author of Modern Gnosis and Zionism: The Crisis of Culture, Life Philosophy and Jewish National Thought (Routledge 2013) and a co-editor of New Social Foundations for Education: Education in Post-Secular Society (Peter Lang 2015). Currently, he is working on a book project that explores the relation between the concepts of critique and theology in the writings of leading modern Jewish thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno. We look forward to learning more about his work!