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The Physics of Being Jewish, or On Cats and Jews

  • Shai Ginsburg (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0364009411000444
  • Published online: 09 December 2011
Abstract

The opening scene of Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man has baffled many. What does an unsettling tale of an encounter with what may or may not be a dybbuk, set in the mid-nineteenth century in a Polish shtetl, and played out entirely in Yiddish, have to do with the story of a Jewish professor of physics and his family in suburban Minnesota in the summer of 1967, related in English? Is the scene to be viewed as a warm-up of sorts before the main attraction, akin, if you will, to the short-subject films—newsreels, animated cartoons, and live-action comedies and documentaries—that movie houses of old used to play before the main feature? If so, what is the significance of presenting an odd Yiddish scene to an American audience notorious for turning a cold shoulder to non-English-speaking cinema? Or is the scene to be viewed as a prologue to the movie? If so, in what sense could it be said to impart to the audience either the “state of suspense of the plot produced by the previous history” or, alternatively, the argument of the drama?

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Corresponding author
shaig@duke.edu
Linked references
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Erwin Schrödinger , “Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik,” Naturwissenschaften 23 (1935): 807812, 812–28, 844–49

Albert Einstein , Boris Podolsky , and Nathan Rosen , “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete,” Physical Review 47 (1935): 777–80

Werner Heisenberg , “Über den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik,” Zeitschrift für Physik 43 (1927):172–98

Arthur Fine , The Shaky Game: Einstein, Realism and the Quantum Theory, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996)

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AJS Review
  • ISSN: 0364-0094
  • EISSN: 1475-4541
  • URL: /core/journals/ajs-review
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