Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
Volume 24, Number 2, Winter 2006
Special Issue: The Cultural and Historical Stabilities and Instabilities of Jewish Orientalism
Guest Editor: Ranen Omer-Sherman
Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824. Hebrew melodies.
Nathan, Isaac, 1792-1864.
Jews -- Music -- History and criticism.
Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824 -- Musical settings -- History and criticism.
Because it is based upon an uncompromising East/West binary, Edward Said's Orientalism falls a bit short when considering the figure of the Jew. Hebrew Melodies, a collaborative effort by the composer Isaac Nathan and the poet Lord Byron, provides an example through which to reconsider the middle ground of Jewish Orientalism. For Nathan, the project was a means to revisit the melodies "performed by the Antient Hebrews before the destruction of the temple." For Byron, although he was initially enthusiastic, it was a passing interest, allowing him to read the East yet again as a fetish object. "They will call me a Jew next," he quipped. The act of transcription marks a further complication to both the Hebrew Melodies and the 'this or the other' mentality of another binary, a metrical one. As "the theme of choral song," much of the Hebrew Melodies itself seems to search for its own space in which words and verse and music can not only coexist but also shape how the others are understood.
This essay examines The Rebel Queen, a novel written by Walter Besant and illustrated by Adolph Birkenruth for serialization in TheIllustrated London News in 1893. The text and images tell the story of Francesca Elveda, a young woman who does not know that she is Jewish because her mother—estranged from the faith herself—keeps her identity from her. The turning point of the narrative is Francesca's realization that she is in fact Jewish. As her heritage is revealed to her, tensions arise between the visibility and invisibility, the stability and the instability, of Jewish identity. This paper argues that the complexity of The Rebel Queen rests in the way it relies on a racial worldview even as it contests antisemitism. Equally multi-faceted is the novel's representation of patriarchy: although the author is attracted to Jewish culture because he admires its preservation of male dominance, his female characters are more developed and more sympathetic than his male characters. While realist in style, the philosemitic dimension of The Rebel Queen imparts an undercurrent of Orientalism.
Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-1881 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Jews in literature.
Philosemitism in literature.
Though converted to Christianity at an early age, Benjamin Disraeli, the popular novelist and prime minister under Queen Victoria, was outspokenly philosemitic. Fueled by contemporary ethnology and race theories, Disraeli argued that the Jews were a superior, "aristocratic" race destined to become the spiritual and intellectual guide for modern Europe. Enabling such claims was Disraeli's skillful manipulation of Orientalist discourse, whereby he routinely reversed its stereotypical privileging of West over East. Following the example of Thackeray's "Codlingsby," however, this essay argues that Disraeli's "strategy of reversals" ultimately failed because it did not adequately comprehend traditional Western associations and meanings of "aristocracy," a fundamental misunderstanding that, for Disraeli's political enemies and critics, exposed him yet again as foreigner, Oriental, and Jew.
With the publication of Orientalism (1978) Edward W. Said initiated a profound shift in the relations between critical approaches to literary culture and the study of European imperialism. Central to Said's argument and his subsequent analysis is his identification of a clear, precise division between East and West or Orient and Occident. I question the extent to which this geographical paradigm works for the study of representations of Jewish people and history in Charlotte Tonna's Judah's Lion (1843). Drawing from both Zionist and imperial narratives, Tonna's Evangelical novel depicts the journey of an English Jew, Alick Cohen, to the Holy Land where he is so thoroughly moved by the powerful presence of British imperial interests there that he converts to Christianity. In order to understand this novel's depictions of Jewish history and culture imagined in relation to the British imperial arena, I suggest that we must think within and beyond Said's East/West divide, reading the relations between Semitic and Orientalist discourses as another grid through which European identity emerges. Unlike Said's argument in Orientalism, I maintain that Judah's Lion functions as a Western Christian discourse that draws from rather than against an Orientalized Jewish narrative of the return to a land that was wrongly taken. It is a discourse that is relevant to Orientalism, but not wholly explained by it.
Arabic literature -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism.
Arabic literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
Arabic literature -- Israel -- History and criticism.
Jews, Iraqi -- Israel.
In modern times Iraqi Jews, writing in Arabic, were producing literary works that quickly became part of the mainstream of modern Arabic literature. Following the establishment of the state of Israel, many Iraqi-Jewish intellectuals, poets, and writers emigrated to the new state. On their arrival in Israel they faced a new linguistic situation in which the language (Hebrew) imposed upon them was limited to a single religion, a single nation, and a single ethnic entity, as opposed to the situation in Iraq, where Arab cultural and national identity encompassed Jews together with Muslims and Christians. Advocates of Western-orientated cultural identity also bewailed the "danger" of the "Arabization" of Israeli society. The immigrants thus faced a fierce clash between their original Iraqi-Arab narrative and the Jewish Zionist Western-oriented dominant master narrative—the natural Iraqi Jewish-Arab identity was split into Arab versus Jew. As a result, the literature 20th-century Iraqi Jews produced in Arabic has been gradually disappearing. The demise of Arabic literature among Jews has precipitated a controversy regarding whether Arab culture can be considered a "correct" source of inspiration for the Israeli Hebrew culture.
Shami, Yitzhak, 1888-1949 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Yitzhak Shami (1889–1949) wrote fiction in Eretz-Israel, but from an unusual perspective for the times—the Mizrahi perspective. He chooses for himself a complex speaking position—a speaking site located in the space between two cultural options. One is Hebrew Jewish literary writing, the norm of which is perceiving the Arab as an enemy endangering the materialization of the Zionist project. But at one and the same time his stories expose a profound commitment to give voice in Hebrew to Arab culture, and a strong fascination for it. This dual position comes to its solution through the portrayal of the major protagonists. His systematic mode of resisting the West and avoiding its rule over Arab culture, expressed especially in his novella "Fathers' Revenge," is by placing in the center of his stories, instead of an autonomous, independent subject typical to the national literature, characters who turn out to be fragmented and decentered, and who finally fall apart.