British culture has always been fascinated by the figure of the Jewess. This lecture will explore its roots in nineteenth-century theology, and its popularisation through literature. In contrast to the more well- known stereotypes of Fagin and Shylock, the virtuous Jewess was an emblem of the privileged status accorded to both women and Jews in Victorian Protestant culture and demonstrates that Jews could function not simply as an ‘other’ within modern cultures, but also, simultaneously, an ideal self.
Nadia Valman is Professor of Urban Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author of The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (2007) and has co-edited several books on Jews and literary culture including Between the East End and East Africa: the ‘Jew’ in Edwardian Culture (2009), Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature (2013) and British Jewish Women Writers (2014). She is currently Principal Investigator of an AHRC-funded research project, Making and Remaking the Jewish East End.