© 2020

IDIOT LOVE and the Elements of Intimacy

Literature, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. David Stromberg
    Pages 1-5
  3. David Stromberg
    Pages 7-32
  4. David Stromberg
    Pages 33-51
  5. David Stromberg
    Pages 53-80
  6. David Stromberg
    Pages 81-129
  7. David Stromberg
    Pages 131-153
  8. David Stromberg
    Pages 155-162
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 163-167

About this book


This book turns our search for intimacy on its head, suggesting that our way to creativity in love may be through idiocy. The book takes its readers on a journey through the work of Plato and Melanie Klein in theorizing the dynamics of intimacy while exploring some of the paradoxical aspects of love in works by Fyodor Dostoevsky and French filmmaker Catherine Breillat. Revisiting core concepts of how we think about relationships, the book lays out a model for relational breakdown—the idiot love cycle—in which we are constantly in the flux between seeing ourselves and seeing the other. Effecting close readings of literary, philosophical, and psychoanalytical sources, the book draws on parallels between these fields of inquiry while tracing their shared intellectual genealogy, suggesting that the tension between Narcissus and Cassandra, with its inherent conflicts, is also the space through which love emerges from intimacy.


Dostoevsky Melanie Klein Breillat Merleau-Ponty Idiot

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.JerusalemIsrael

About the authors

David Stromberg is a writer, translator, and literary scholar. His books include Baddies (2009), Narrative Faith (2017), and an edited collection of stories for children, In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times (2018). He lives in Jerusalem.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title IDIOT LOVE and the Elements of Intimacy
  • Book Subtitle Literature, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis
  • Authors David Stromberg
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-42694-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-42697-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-42695-8
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVII, 167
  • Number of Illustrations 4 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Man
    Literary Theory
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Love will tear us apart—again—and Ian Curtis, who wrote that line, killed himself with Iggy Pop’s Dostoevsky-inspired album The Idiot on the record player. Recalling this tragic conjunction, David Stromberg’s Idiot Love is a searching exploration of the intricate entanglements of creativity, ignorance, discovery, and destructive despair. Stromberg takes on the dynamics of intimacy and powerfully reclaims heartache as a real-life subject which humanities scholarship must learn to love again—and as a near-death experience that can tear us together again.”
Ortwin de Graef, Professor of English Literature, Director, Doctoral School for the Humanities and Social Sciences, KU Leuven


“In his monograph Idiot Love, David Stromberg delivers a stunning contribution to Love Studies, one that navigates between the extremes of inchoate experience and abstract philosophy, the joyful and the tragic, Narcissus and Cassandra, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and Catherine Breillat’s Bad Love. Building upon the strong foundation of Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic work, Stromberg skillfully weaves together language from literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to forge a singular discourse for readers’ better understanding of the complex dynamics of intimacy.”
­­–Thomas Beebee, Editor-in-Chief, Comparative Literature Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature and German, Penn State University