A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!

About the book

A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! takes the form of commentaries on memes made with the image of Batman slapping Robin. It is a genre-defying book that mixes discussions of philosophy, psychoanalysis, Judaism, language, and representation with self-writing, producing a distinctive type of autotheory. The book is cerebral, playful, social, and intensely personal. It contains philosophy, including original philosophical research, but also explores new ways of doing and thinking about philosophy.

About the author

Simon Evnine is a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami, in Florida, USA. Besides working on Batman memes, he is interested in social ontology and the philosophy of language. You can visit his website here and find information on his previous books and papers, among other things.


A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!

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Parergon (pl. parerga): something supplementary to a work (ergon) of art; an embellishment to it; a framing element

Epergon (pl. eperga): something outside of, or additional to, a work of art

What people are saying about A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!

Just as a newspaper holds its form constant while it varies the news content, the author of A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! finds a way to use a single meme in which Batman slaps Robin as a structure for conveying a sequence of reflections. Sometimes alternately, and other times all at once, these reflections are philosophical and picaresque, sarcastic and explanatory,  literary and analytical, visual and discursive, musical and rabbinical, fragmentary and unified, continuous and interrupted. Kierkegaard meets Calvino meets auto-theory. The collision sweeps up some analytic philosophers, an avuncular joke-teller, and other characters who come and go. The pictures provide a rhythm, the captions start a melody, and the commentary improvises with chords, riffs, and surprises. (Susanna Siegel, Harvard University)

A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! is, among other things, an extended exercise in what you’re not supposed to write. If we are told not to explain our jokes, the whole thing is an explanation of the joke. If we’re told to say, at every step, what motivates our choices of topic, the book is gleefully and inexplicably obsessive. It’s a book about representation, pastiche, logic, Judaism, psychoanalysis, shame, music, Batman, and the characters we play in attempting to understand ourselves. It’s a meticulous, midrashic, imaginative, funny, insouciant, sincere piece of work. Part of the joy of philosophy is the experience of trying on someone else’s vocabulary, concerns, convictions, and habits of reasoning, and seeing how our own are transformed in the process. I think I have never read anything that is so full of this joy. (Ian Olasov, CUNY)

To open a volume of the Talmud is to be confronted more by commentary than by any primary source. The Talmud itself is a commentary to the Mishna, which itself is, in some sense or other, a commentary on scripture. The Talmudic text constitutes just one column in the middle of the page, surrounded by later commentaries. On the one side, a commentary by Rashi, the great French exegete. On the other side, a commentary that often comments on Rashi’s comments, by the generation of sages that followed him. Comments on comments on comments. One sometimes wonders, by the time one reaches the depths of insight at the end of this chain of comments, whether the original source was really hiding these treasures, or whether they’ve been smuggled in by the imagination of the commentators themselves. The author of A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! stands in this proud tradition of Jewish commentary. Evnine’s memes are a form of commentary to begin with: social commentary and more. But the author’s commentary on those memes offers so much more depth, in philosophy, psychology, and Torah. Were these treasures really lying in wait, in Evnine’s memes, or has the commentator conjured them up, ex nihilo? Evnine himself is certainly Jewishly literate, but “Evnine” the commentator is in another league entirely, a great Rabbi of the generation. I have tried to contact the real Evnine to discover something of the identity of Evnine the commentator, but all I received was an instructive slap! A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! is funny and profound and profoundly funny. (Rabbi Samuel Lebens, Professor of Philosophy, University of Haifa)

Imagine a joke that begins, “Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Bruce Wayne walk into a Yeshiva….” and you will glimpse what awaits you in A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!. Astonishingly creative, intellectually rich, and personally intimate, Evnine’s text shatters the boundaries of conventional philosophical writing, to enchanting effect. (David Livingstone Smith, author of Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization)

A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! is a highly original work. We are invited to eavesdrop on a scholar-artist who, having undergone an extended process of psychoanalysis, is analyzing as well as psychoanalyzing his own work in front of our very eyes. On display are Evnine’s remarkable erudition and wit but also his insight, his sensibility, and his vulnerabilities. Evnine plunges so deep, we reach what may be the common origin of the psyche’s sadistic and masochistic impulses; a minute later, we are taken to rarefied air where Tarksi’s theory of truth resides. This is the joint work of a philosophy professor and the young boy the professor once was. We are made privy to repressed desires but discover also that the voyeuristic pleasure an observer may get in such cases is mixed with the pain of recognizing ourselves in the movements of another person’s bared soul.  

Evnine’s exploration is personal, but like the best personal explorations, it illuminates human psychology – our psychology.  (Iskra Fileva, Colorado University)

Memes are jokes and jokes are creatures of context. To get them, you usually need to be familiar with the context that is presupposed. This brilliant edition of and commentary on Evnine’s Batman Meme Project flips the script. The memes are presented as strange and opaque and as urgently in need of the background against which they might show up as funny or even intelligible; the surrounding commentary supplies the missing context. In this way the book makes art happen, right before our eyes, for what is art but this very kind of opportunity to make the passage from not getting it to getting it? That it is the artist’s life – from his work as a philosopher and a musician, his psychoanalysis, his Jewishness and Englishness, embarrassing memories of childhood and accidental encounters on social media – that supplies the needed background is what makes this book so intimate, even if always dizzyingly ironic, so generous, even if also challenging. (Professor Alva Noë, UC Berkeley, author of Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature)