The other anti -Semitism: Philo -Semitism in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature and culture

Rebecca Shapiro, Purdue University


This study investigates the means by which Jews were stereotyped in English literature and culture, and how these portrayals were affected by social and political unrest and also economic prosperity and religious toleration. Anti-Semitism changed from negative scripts toward philo-Semitism, a "love" of Jews. The conflict signified by the need simultaneously to expel and absorb the Jews reveals not a "Jewish Problem," but an "English Problem" in managing its own identity. This project augments readings by Ragussis and Felsenstein by its feminist and gendered treatment of Jews.^ Chapter 2 examines rhetoric in works reacting to the Jewish Naturalization Bill. These derogated the male Jew on a physical level for his circumcision, which was extrapolated to indicate emasculation. Despite this image of weakness, Jewish men were feared as usurpers of English property. Chapter 3 investigates why the philo-Semitic publications of the Society to Promote Christianity Amongst the Jews and Amelia Bristow's conversionist novel Emma de Lissau targeted Jewish women in particular. Chapter 4 shows that in Maria Edgeworth's novels Castle Rackrent and Harrington, negative tropes applied to Jews transmute to a philo-Semitic variety. After the anti-Semitism of Castle Rackrent, Edgeworth asserts that in Harrington she has created a sympathetic portrait of Jews. But because the heroine is discovered never to have been Jewish, old stereotypes are maintained. Chapter 5 explores Walter Scott's suggestions in Ivanhoe that national identity is capital that exists in limited amounts and is not reproducible. Scott shows the potential for its appropriation when he imagines Rebecca playing an integral role in the new English nation. This is problematic to the English because Judaism's law of matrilineal descent determines that Rebecca's descendants would be Jewish. ^




Major Professor: Geraldine A. Friedman, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Literature, English|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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