Introduction: The Nation and the Spectral Wandering Jew
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Leo Pinsker’s famous 1882 essay promoting Zionism entitled ‘Auto-Emancipation’ identifies the key elements of the present study — national identity and belonging, the principal trope of the undying and uncanny Wandering Jew spectre who haunts European nations, and the Jewish Question, which Michael Ragussis rightly characterizes as plural and incorporating ‘a variety of Jewish questions (religious, legal, racial, and so on)’ (‘Secret’: 298). With the Enlightenment era genre of British Gothic fiction as its principal domain of focus, this study engages with the related questions of why, in what ways, and with what implications, the legendary Wandering Jew, Ahasuerus, haunts modern Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This infamous, transgressive antichrist, associated with what Edgar Rosenberg has called ‘the Ur-crime of the Crucifixion’ (27), was cursed to immortality until the Millennium for mocking Christ as he carried the cross to Calvary.1 In that instance, he figuratively assumed the cross as an ambivalent representative of ‘a deicide nation … on whose redemption the fate of mankind’ was said to hang (Fisch: 15).2 He has since been repeatedly crucified for his Original Sin (Horkheimer and Adorno: 49–50).
KeywordsNational Identity Jewish Identity French Revolution Secret Society British Nation
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