A Serious Man

Bible and Critical Theory 9 (1):27-37 (2013)
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The film A Serious Man cinematically deconstructs the life of a mid-twentieth century, mid-western American physics professor named Larry Gopnik. As it happens, Larry is up for tenure with a wife who is about to leave him, an unemployed brother who sleeps on his couch, and two self-obsessed teenage children. The film presents a Job-like theodicy in which the mysteries of quantum physics are haunted both by questions of good and evil as well as the spectre of an un-named God, reverently referred to as Hashem. The following paper examines the broader set of philosophical, theological and ethical concerns which arise from the film’s themes, using it to illustrate those concerns. Just as Newtonian physics underwrote Kant’s evocation of the image of starry skies above and moral law within, quantum physics underwrites a new set of ethical anxieties, which the film narrates as a key facet of contemporary western culture’s postmodern re-enchantment. Although some, such as Slavoj Zizek, see this as a positively charged opportunity to rethink metaphysics and ethics, the film leaves the audience with more sinister conclusions.

Author's Profile

Timothy Stanley
The University Of Newcastle, Australia


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