Constructions of 'the Jew' in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 / Edition 1

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Literary critics and cultural historians have for too long written the question of race out of mainstream accounts of English literature. In Constructions of "the Jew" in English Literature and Society Bryan Cheyette combines cultural theory, discourse analysis and new historicism with close readings of works by Arnold, Trollope and George Eliot, Buchan and Kipling, Shaw and Wells, Belloc and Chesterton, T. S. Eliot and Joyce to argue that the Jew lies at the heart of modern English literature and society: not as a stereotype, but as the embodiment of confusion and indeterminacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...perhaps the most comprehensive work of its type thus important book. By way of his concerted effort to demonstrate the deconstructive nature of 'Semitic discourse,' Cheyette evinces just how 'Jew obsessed' both Britain and Europe had become by the late-Victorian era." Neil R. Davison, James Joyce Quarterly

"By connecting discourse about Jews with various debates about cultural ends and values, Cheyette successfully makes a theme that usually gets dismissed as a marginal, extraliterary problem seem central and constitutive." Jonathan Linsberg, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

"...Cheyette considers a wide range of authors to establish the centrality of racial issues in the formation of English identity. He illustrates his argument with thorough and carefully documented discussions on the texts...." Naomi Sokoloff, Religious Studies Review

" articulate, comprehensive, scholarly examination....Replete with judicious close readings and detailed social and cultural contextualizations of the literary texts, and with an exhaustive bibliography, Cheyette's study is intellectual history at its best....[A] well-conceived, well-executed, eminently readable study." Brian W. Shaffer, English Literature in Transition

"[This] is decidedly not another book about Jewish stereotypes. Nor is it simply concerned with exposing the anti-Semitic strains within English literature from 1875-1945. in fact, it is more historical, more subtle, and certainly more revealing, than either one of these two approaches would have been. It is really a book about attempts to formulate a new vision of Englishness in the modern period. Representations of 'the Jew', in Cheyette's terms, are the site par excellence on which this vision is played out....Cheyette brings together issues connected with 'race,' culture, history and writing in a fascinating way, breaking down the autonomy of each to reveal the constant interconnections. This is analysis at the cutting edge of the interface between literature and politics." Max Silverman, New Statesman and Society

"Cheyette has read widely. I doubt if many disobliging remarks about Jews have escaped his attention. He drags into daylight the nastiest aspects of many admired writers." Sunday Telegraph

"His book is a new way of reading the image of 'the Jew' in British high culture as well as Jewish high culture in Britain, and the author and Cambridge University Press are both to be commended for it." Jewish Quarterly

"What makes Bryan Cheyette's account of the literary expression of this racial prejudice so chilling is his evidence that across the whole spectrum of political opinion, the image of Jews changed to suit the convictions and anxieties of those observing them." Guardian

"Bryan Cheyette...has dug deep into the literature of the period, and come up with some choice exhibits; he is also good at teasing out the inconsistencies and moral contortions which so often lie behind them." The Times Literary Supplement

"The overall impression Cheyette gives is of patience, persistence and refusal to oversimplify a fraught and often painful subject, and to do justice to his complex and intricate argument it is necessary to get to grips with its detail." Patrick Parrinder, London Review of Books

Jewish Book World
The unwieldy title notwithstanding, Cheyette has written one of the most originalworks of literary criticism on the representation of Jews in literature. Unlike earlier studies, Constructions of "the Jew" focuses less on the obvious Jewish stereotypes created by some of our greatest writers, from Shakespeare to Dickens, than on the more artful constructions of such seemingly less anti-Semitic authors as Anthony Trollope, Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, James Joyce, and others. Liberal as these authors were, Cheyette's goal is to demonstrate how even for them "race-thinking about Jews" constituted "a key ingredient in the emerging cultural identity of modern Britain."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521558778
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: semitism and the cultural realm; 2. The promised land of liberalism: Matthew Arnold, Anthony Trollope and George Eliot; 3. Empire and anarchy: John Buchan and Rudyard Kipling; 4. The 'socialism of fools': George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells; 5. The limits of liberalism: Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton; 6. Modernism and ambivalence: James Joyce and T. S. Eliot; 7. Conclusion: semitism and the crisis of representation; Bibliography; Index.

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