From apology to revolt: Benjamin Farjeon, Amy Levy and the Post-emancipation Anglo-Jewish novel, 1880-1900*

By the 1880s, with large-scale immigration from Eastern Europe, a post emancipation ‘Jewish question’ was being debated, calling into question the liberal verities according to which British Jews had been granted full civil and political rights in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Anglo-Jewish novel had helped to promote the liberal image of the Jew as a good British citizen in the decades leading up to emancipation. However, by the 1880s, many Anglo-Jewish novelists moved from a position of apology, to ‘revolt’ against Anglo-Jewry’s image of itself. In this paper I want to concentrate on Benjamin Farjeon (1838-1903) and Amy Levy (1861-89), as their fiction represents the extremes of apology and ‘revolt’ respectively. These writers will be discussed in relation to other Anglo-Jewish novelists and in terms of Anglo-Jewry’s official pronouncements on the role of the Anglo-Jewish novel.

The earliest Anglo-Jewish novels were a product of the debate

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