Singing in a Foreign Land
Anglo-Jewish Poetry, 1812-1847
Jewish Culture and Contexts
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
264 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780812250343
- Published: August 2018
In Singing in a Foreign Land, Karen A. Weisman examines the uneasy literary inheritance of British cultural and poetic norms by early nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish authors. Focusing on a range of subgenres, from elegies to pastorals to psalm translations, Weisman shows how the writers she studies engaged with the symbolic resources of English poetry—such as the land of England itself—from which they had been historically alienated.
Weisman looks at the self-conscious explorations of lyric form by Emma Lyon; the elegies for members of the British royal family penned by Hyman Hurwitz; the ironic reflections on hybrid identities written by sisters Celia and Marion Moss; and the poems of Grace Aguilar that explicitly join lyric effusion to Jewish historical concerns. These poets were well-versed in both Jewish texts and mainstream literary history, and Weisman argues that they model an extreme example of Romantic self-reflexivity: they implicitly lament their own inability fully to appropriate inherited Romantic ideals about nature and transcendence even while acknowledging that those ideals are already deeply ironized by such figures as Coleridge, Shelley, and Wordsworth. And because they do not possess a secure history binding them to the landscape of British hearth and home, they recognize the need to create in their lyric poetry a stable narrative of identity within England and within the King's English even as they gesture toward the impossibility—and sometimes even the undesirability—of doing so.
Singing in a Foreign Land reveals how these Anglo-Jewish poets, caught between their desire to enter the English lyric tradition and their inability as Jews to share in the full religious and cultural Romantic heritage, asserted a subtle cultural authority in their poems that recognized an alienation from their own expressive resources.
Introduction. Hath Not a Jew
Chapter 1. Emma Lyon's Spacious Firmament
Chapter 2. Mourning, Translation, Pastoral: Hyman Hurwitz
Chapter 3. The Early Efforts of Celia and Marion Moss
Chapter 4. Grace Aguilar and the Demands of Lyric
Coda. Amy Levy's Impossible Modernity
"Karen Weisman's Singing in a Foreign Land provides an elegant and convincing account of the ways that Anglo-Jewish authors negotiated their identity as 'foreigners' in Britain during the early 19th century. She focuses on five authors—Emma Lyon, Hyman Hurwitz, Cecilia and Marion Moss, and Grace Aguilar—who inherited the self-reflexivity of British Romantic literature and yet reflected the profound displacement that English Jews felt during these years . . . [T]hroughout the text, Weisman helpfully draws attention to sources of Jewish ritual life (such as liturgical acts of confession) in reading Anglo-Jewish poetics . . . [A]n illuminating book."—Reading Religion
"This is a strikingly original monograph, as it advances the persuasive thesis that Anglo-Jewish writing is vexed by an ambivalent relation to its own literary traditions, English and Jewish . . . Singing in a Foreign Land is a path-breaking study: future work on Anglo-Jewish writing must reflect on what Weisman has done, and her central argument about the vexed and self-conscious relation of the Jewish writers with their expressive resources is the place where scholars will have to start. Weisman has brought to this project not just her knowledge of Romanticism but a sophisticated understanding of Judaism in its historical context."—Keats-Shelley Journal
"Ground-breaking and beautifully written, Singing in a Foreign Land is an extraordinary contribution to our knowledge of religious diversity during the Romantic era. Karen A. Weisman is better equipped than any critic today to give us a fine-tuned picture of Romantic Jewish cultural production, one that refuses to see it as either merely oppositional or conformist."—Mark Canuel, University of Illinois at Chicago
"I know of no other book that covers this ground of Anglo-Jewish Romantic poetry. With her meticulous scholarship and skillful readings, Karen A. Weisman shows how Anglo-Jewish Romantic poets engaged with the inherited traditions of pastoral, elegy, and lyric in a way that has earned them a place in that very tradition."—Judith W. Page, University of Florida