Identity, Diaspora, and the Secular Voice in the Works of Isaac D’Israeli

  • Stuart Peterfreund


Those who in our time discuss the Jewish literary voice and/or literary identity1 proceed in the main without a clear sense of what it was like to be an educated, self-aware, and primarily secular European Jew seeking to establish or locate a literary identity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Without an autonomous homeland for more than sixteen centuries and counting, European Jewry’s own foundational narratives tell over and over a tale of exile and belatedness. The chronicle of lost homelands includes the losses of Eden, the pre-Noachian earth, the monolingual Plains of Shinar, and the united kingdom of Israel, not to mention a wandering exile of forty years in the desert, after escaping enslavement that followed upon what had been a place of honor in ancient Egypt. Then there were the expulsions in Europe—from England in 1290, from France in 1394, and from Spain in 1492—to conjure with, as well as the constant persecution of the Jews by the Inquisition, especially in Mediterranean Europe.


Literary History Early Nineteenth Century Cultural Space European Literature Critical Practice 
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  1. 1.
    Sander Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York: Routledge, 1991), 10–11.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    James Ogden, Isaac D’Israeli (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), 5.Google Scholar
  3. 24.
    Alexander Pope, Alexander Pope, ed. Pat Rogers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 21.Google Scholar
  4. 50.
    Luiz Costa-Lima, “Auerbach and Literary History,” Literary History and the Challenge of Philology: The Legacy of Erich Auerbach, ed. Seth Lerer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 54.Google Scholar

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© Sheila A. Spector 2005

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  • Stuart Peterfreund

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