Bookbeat: April 2005
Imperfect Sympathies: Jews and Judaism in British Romantic Literature and Culture
Judith Page, a scholar of the poet William Wordsworth, came to sympathy by
a roundabout route. While working on an obscure poem by the poet called "A Jewish Family," she uncovered an unpublished journal by Wordsworth's daughter which discusses the real family. "I became curious," she says. "What did Wordsworth think of Jews and did he have any kind of contact with Jews?"
For the 18th century, sympathy was a way of viewing the world, says Page. When people spoke about human action and behavior they often used sympathy as a point of reference. "The Romantics picked it up and even extended the notion by politicizing it, so it gets connected in the imagination of the period with political revolution and growing democracy. The interesting question to ask is how does it relate to that culture's treatment of others and how others' lives are imagined."
Page, an associate professor of English and interim director of the Center for Jewish Studies, used canonical writers and Jewish writers of the period to explore Jewish relationships to Englishness. She was struck by the limitations of sympathy; for the non-Jewish writers an endorsement of sympathy was tied to a strong ambivalence about Jews and Judaism. "Jews presented a difficult challenge—they were part of the culture, not some distant colonized other. Jews couldn't win either way; well-dressed Jews were criticized for trying to be like Englishmen, and the poorer, less well-dressed Jews were demeaned because they were poorer and did not speak English well. In theory, sympathy worked very well, but specific instances presented a challenge."
Page found Edmund Kean's Shylock in the Merchant of Venice to be one of the most intriguing and successful examples of Romantic sympathy for the outcast. For William Hazlitt, the critic and political radical, writing about Kean as Shylock was a pivotal moment, says Page. "It's as if he takes the inspiration of seeing Kean and develops the possibility of civil emancipation of Jews from the dignity he finds in the Merchant of Venice. In a more general sense it is a kind of convergence between psychology and philosophy of sympathy with the revolutionary ideas that the Romantics embraced."
Closer to our own times, Page believes a personal connection with sympathy brought many post-Holocaust scholars to the Romantics. She realized that the scholars who influenced her most when she began her career were all Jewish. In trying to answer why, Page found the idea of sympathy important. "In Wordsworth there is this sense that sympathetic connection is a way of repairing loss. There is a real tragic sense of loss that pervades the Romantics. But there is also a constant attempt to find a way to repair the world and bring wholeness to it, very much in line with a major Jewish idea that we are placed in a world that is shattered and that part of human responsibility is to find a way to begin to repair it. I think that these writers in the mid part of the 20th century were attracted to that."
Transforming the American Polity: The Presidency of George W. Bush and the War on Terrorism
edited by Richard S. Conley, Department of Political Science
(Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005)
The horrific events of September 11, 2001 fundamentally altered the course of American politics. As the symbols of the nation's economic and military power came under attack in New York and Washington, the presidency of George W. Bush was swiftly transformed into a wartime administration. Many factors—including Bush's use of prerogatives as commander in chief, Congress's delegation of broad authority to him, and his political skill—decisively shifted the balance in the constitutional order to the White House. Evaluating Bush's use of constitutional and extraconstitutional power in the first wartime presidency of the 21st century, and the impact on governance, is the objective of the contributions in this volume.
Greek Americans of Florida
A study of the Greeks and Greek Americans in Florida is long overdue. That history has several unique points. It can claim the site of the first large-scale Greek immigration to the New World (New Smyrna Beach), the only National Shrine of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (St. Photios National Greek Orthodox Shrine), the one true Greek village in the United States (Tarpon Springs), and a vibrancy that has seen more than thirty parishes established in the state. This is the story of one of the many immigrant groups that came to Florida: the Greeks.