"The image of the Jew in English literature, as in the Western imagination, has at its base the figure of the Christ-killer. All representations of the Jew in Christian culture are constructed in the light of this irreducible definition." -- from the introduction In a collection of insightful critical essays, Derek Cohen, Deborah Heller, and the contributing authors explore the different ways in which writers of English literature have amplified, varied, or denied this archetypical perception. While the authors approach this subject from diverse perspectives, the essays are unified by an awareness of the common tradition out of which representations of Jews have developed and illustrate the tradition's continuity and modifications. Studying the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Trollope, George Eliot, Joyce, and a selection of texts from the ninth to the sixteenth century, the essays show how constructs of Jewishness fit into a writer's pre-existing concerns and patterns of representation and how even later, more favourable depictions are over-simplified reactions to this attitude.
Some of the authors directly address the question of what constitutes anti-semitism in a literary work. All take into account the social and historical contexts in which the individual works took shape. Their main concern, however, is not to produce a social history but to illustrate how even the greatest writers draw on stereotypes embedded in the popular imagination and to focus on the internal dynamics of individual works, thereby recuperating classical portrayals within a contemporary critical perspective.
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- ID: 9780773507814
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