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The Jew's Daughter

A Cultural History of a Conversion Narrative

Efraim Sicher - Contributions by Noa Sophie Kohler

A new approach to thinking about the representation of the Other in Western society, The Jew’s Daughter: A Cultural History of a Conversion Narrative offers an insight into the gendered difference of the Jew. Focusing on a popular narrative of “The Jew’s Daughter,” which has been overlooked in conventional studies of European anti-Semitism, this innovative study looks at canonical and neglected texts which have constructed racialized and sexualized images that persist today in the media and popular culture. The book goes back before Shylock and Jessica in TheMerchant of Venice and Isaac and Rebecca in Ivanhoe to seek the answers to why the Jewish father is always wicked and ugly, while his daughter is invariably desirable and open to conversion. The story unfolds in fascinating transformations, reflecting changing ideological and social discourses about gender, sexuality, religion, and nation that expose shifting perceptions of inclusion and exclusion of the Other. Unlike previous studies of the theme of the Jewess in separate literatures, Sicher provides a comparative perspective on the transnational circulation of texts in the historical context of the perception of both Jews and women as marginal or outcasts in society. The book draws on examples from the arts, history, literature, folklore, and theology to draw a complex picture of the dynamics of Jewish-Christian relations in England, France, Germany, and Eastern Europe from 1100 to 2017. In addition, the responses of Jewish authors illustrate a dialogue that has not always led to mutual understanding. This ground-breaking work will provoke questions about the history and present state of prejudiced attitudes in our society. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 322Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-2778-1 • Hardback • May 2017 • $100.00 • (£70.00)
978-1-4985-2779-8 • eBook • May 2017 • $99.99 • (£70.00) (coming soon)
Efraim Sicher is a professor of English and comparative literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
  • Genesis: Eve and Anti-Eve
  • The Books of Esther: The Jewesses of Toledo
  • Daughteronomy: Conversion and Exchange in Early Modern England
  • Exodus: The Jew’s Daughter in Germany (with Noa Sophie Kohler)
  • Second Daughteronomy: Romance and Conversion in Nineteenth-Century England
  • A Song of Songs: The Orientalization of the Belle Juive
  • Epilogue In the Name of the Daughter: The Belle Juive Strikes Back

    Ugly Jewish father; beautiful daughter with a Christian boyfriend—what could possibly go wrong? Efraim Sicher has written an original as well as exhaustive study of one of the core images of anti-Semitism. How is Jewishness in the eye of the anti-Semite gendered and how does the conversion of the daughter (think Shylock’s Jessica) herald the victory of Christianity over Judaism? A must read in our age of renewed anti-Semitism and misogyny!
    Sander L. Gilman, author of "Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity" (2016)

    This exhaustively researched study, the scholarship of which ranges over literary works from the 13th to early 20th century, is a definitive guide to how the cultural icon of “the Beautiful Jewess” became a primary ground of European “objectification based on hostile stereotyping . . . that constructs gender difference along racialized lines.” The Jew’s Daughter is destined to become an essential work for scholars of Jewish Cultural Studies, Gender Theory, and Critical Race Studies alike.
    Neil Davison, author of "Jewishness and Masculinity from the Modern to the Postmodern"

    Sicher makes a powerful argument about the role of the father-daughter pairing as a centerpiece in the construction of Jewish representation. More than an analysis of conversion or anti-Semitism, this study leads us on an encyclopedic journey across time and space to explore an understudied pattern of constructed Jewish difference. The Jew and his daughter, Sicher demonstrates, have an impressive history of shaping discourses of gender, sexuality, race, and nation throughout Europe.
    Heidi Kaufman, University of Oregon