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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Bad Jew/Good Jewess

Summary

Nineteenth-century literary culture has, in recent years, proved a rich resource for antisemitism studies. From the satanic imagery with which Dickens surrounds his Jewish archcriminal Fagin to Trollope's suspicion of assimilated arrivistes to the racial terror invoked by Bram Stoker's Dracula at the fin de siècle, research has uncovered the persistent threads of hostility to Jews that found expression in novels. And thanks to the work of Sander Gilman, we also know how widely discourses of the diseased and degenerate Jewish body were disseminated through medical and sociological as well as literary texts in the period. What is equally striking about this scholarship, however, is its almost universal assumption that “the Jew” in the text is male. When Todd Endelman writes, for example, that the intellectual arsenal of European antisemitism can be reduced to “a handful of accusations about Jewish character and behavior: Jews are malevolent, aggressive, sinister, self-seeking, avaricious, destructive, socially clannish, spiritually retrograde, physically disagreeable, and sexually overcharged,” the Jew in such descriptions is implicitly masculine. Perceptions of Jews, indeed, are frequently seen as projections of anxieties about masculinity. As Gilman writes in The Jew's Body, his focus is on “an image crucial to the very understanding of the Western image of the Jew at least since the advent of Christianity”: “the male Jew, the body with the circumcised penis.” Where the Jewish woman has been the object of study, masculinity has still been the focus.

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