Special Issue "Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 August 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Peter Lawson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
Interests: Modern and Contemporary British-Jewish; European-Jewish and Holocaust Literature: poetry, drama and the novel

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

For this Special Issue of Humanities, contributions are invited on the theme of Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020. Submissions on poetry, drama and the novel are all welcome.

This Special Issue showcases the high quality and wide variety of contemporary British-Jewish writing, while setting it in the context of British diasporic literary production. Contributors are encouraged to address how ‘British-Jewish’ relates to ‘European-Jewish’ literature through such themes as refugees, immigrants, ‘semitic discourse’ (Bryan Cheyette’s term) and antisemitism, British ‘identity’ in Europe, Jewish ‘identity’ in Britain, the legacy of twentieth-century world wars and the Holocaust.

It is intended that essays will supplement existing editorial and critical texts on contemporary British-Jewish literature by such scholars as Bryan Cheyette (Contemporary Jewish Writing in Britain and Ireland (1998)), David Brauner (Post-War Jewish Fiction: Ambivalence, Self-Explanation and Transatlantic Connections (2001)) and Ruth Gilbert (Writing Jewish: Contemporary British-Jewish Literature (2013)). As the editor of a contemporary British-Jewish poetry anthology (Passionate Renewal: Jewish Poetry in Britain since 1945 (2001)), I particularly welcome submissions which address British-Jewish poetry. Essays on British-Jewish drama – which, like poetry, tends to attract less critical attention than novels – are similarly welcome. Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970-2020 will publish timely and original insights into this paradigmatically hybrid British-European literary genre.

Dr. Peter Lawson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Modern
  • Contemporary
  • Jewish
  • British
  • British-Jewish
  • European
  • European-Jewish
  • Holocaust
  • Literature
  • Poetry
  • Drama
  • Novel
  • Refugees
  • Immigrants
  • Semitic
  • Antisemitic
  • Identity

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Article
Tom Stoppard: European Phantom Pain and the Theatre of Faux Biography
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020080 - 01 Jun 2021
Viewed by 926
Abstract
The paper reads Stoppard’s work in the 21st century as further testimony of the gradual politicisation of his work that began in the 1970s under the influence of Czech dissidents, and particularly as a result of his visits to Russia and Prague in [...] Read more.
The paper reads Stoppard’s work in the 21st century as further testimony of the gradual politicisation of his work that began in the 1970s under the influence of Czech dissidents, and particularly as a result of his visits to Russia and Prague in 1977. It also provides evidence that Stoppard, since the 1990s, had begun to target emotional responses from his audience to redress the intellectual cool that seems to have shaped his earlier, “absurdist” phase. This turn towards emotionalism, the increasingly elegiac obsession with doubles, unrequited lives, and memory are linked to a set of biographical turning points: the death of his mother and the investigation into his Czech-Jewish family roots, which laid bare the foundations of the Stoppardian art. Examining this kind of “phantom pain” in two of his 21st-century plays, Rock’n’Roll (2006) and Leopoldstadt (2019), the essay argues that Stoppard’s work in the 21st century was increasingly coloured by his biography and Jewishness—bringing to the fore an important engagement with European history that helped Stoppard become aware of some blind spots in his attitudes towards Englishness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
Representations of Shylock in Arnold Wesker’s The Merchant, Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name and Clive Sinclair’s Shylock Must Die
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020059 - 25 Mar 2021
Viewed by 700
Abstract
Given the centrality of Shakespeare to the Western canon and, more specifically, to the idea of a national English literary tradition, and given that Shylock is one of his most (in)famous creations, it is hardly surprising that he has proved irresistible to a [...] Read more.
Given the centrality of Shakespeare to the Western canon and, more specifically, to the idea of a national English literary tradition, and given that Shylock is one of his most (in)famous creations, it is hardly surprising that he has proved irresistible to a number of Anglo-Jewish authors. Attempts to rehabilitate Shylock and/or to reimagine his fate are not a recent phenomenon. In the post-war era, however, the task of revisiting Shakespeare’s play took on a new urgency, particularly for Jewish writers. In this essay I look at the ways in which three contemporary British Jewish authors—Arnold Wesker, Howard Jacobson and Clive Sinclair—have revisited The Merchant of Venice, focusing on the figure of Shylock as an exemplar of what Bryan Cheyette has described as “the protean instability of ‘the Jew’ as a signifier”. Wesker, Jacobson and Sinclair approach Shakespeare’s play and its most memorable character in very different ways but they share a sense that Shylock symbolically transgresses boundaries of time and space—history and geography—and is a mercurial, paradoxical figure: villain and (anti-)hero; victim and perpetrator; scapegoat and scourge. Wesker’s play is more didactic than the fiction of Jacobson and Sinclair but ultimately his Shylock eludes the historicist parameters that he attempts to impose on him, while the Shylocks of Shylock is My Name and Shylock Must Die transcend their literary-historical origins, becoming slippery, self-reflexive, protean figures who talk back to Shakespeare, while at the same time speaking to the concerns of contemporary culture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
“The Ghost Language Which Passes between the Generations”: Transgenerational Memories and Limit-Case Narratives in Lisa Appignanesi’s Losing the Dead and The Memory Man
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040132 - 02 Nov 2020
Viewed by 717
Abstract
This article aims to uncover the tensions and connections between Lisa Appignanesi’s autobiographical work Losing the Dead (1999) and her novel The Memory Man (2004) and to point out that, in spite of belonging to different genres, they share several formal, thematic, and [...] Read more.
This article aims to uncover the tensions and connections between Lisa Appignanesi’s autobiographical work Losing the Dead (1999) and her novel The Memory Man (2004) and to point out that, in spite of belonging to different genres, they share several formal, thematic, and structural features. By applying close-reading and narratological tools and drawing on relevant theories within Trauma, Memory, and Holocaust Studies, I would like to demonstrate that both works can be defined as limit-case narratives on the grounds that they blur literary genres, fuse testimonial and narrative layers, include metatextual references to memory and trauma, and represent and perform the transgenerational encounter with traumatic memories. Moreover, Appignanesi’s creations will be contextualised within the trend of hybrid life-writing narratives developed by contemporary British-Jewish women writers. Accordingly, these authors are contributing to the expansion of innovative liminal autobiographical and fictional practices that try to represent what it means to be a Jew, a migrant, and an inheritor of traumatic experiences in the post-Holocaust world. Finally, I launch a further reflection on the generic hybridisation characterising those contemporary narratives based on the negotiation of transgenerational memories, which will be read as a fruitful strategy to problematize the conflicts created when the representation of the self and (family) trauma overlap. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
Making the Call: Art and Politics in Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 118; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040118 - 13 Oct 2020
Viewed by 754
Abstract
Set in Germany during the denazification processes following World War Two, Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides (1995 play, 2001 film) pits German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler against a relatively uncultured American interrogator, Steve Arnold, to, as Harwood says, examine the role of an artist under [...] Read more.
Set in Germany during the denazification processes following World War Two, Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides (1995 play, 2001 film) pits German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler against a relatively uncultured American interrogator, Steve Arnold, to, as Harwood says, examine the role of an artist under a totalitarian state and an American’s mistreatment of the world-renowned maestro. While there is certainly a contrast between the old world, represented by the classical music of Furtwängler, and the new, represented by Arnold’s affinity for jazz, there is much more at stake in both the play and the film. As the interrogation progresses, Arnold, who worked as an insurance claims adjuster during his civilian days, senses Furtwängler’s arguments about art as apolitical, are what he calls “airy-fairy” excuses. Arnold knows Hitler favored Furtwängler, used his music to inspire his atrocities, and gave Furtwangler access to almost anything he wanted. Critics frequently praise the play and film for its balanced presentation of the two sides. However, by examining the play and the film in terms of Aristotelian tragedy, this essay makes clear that Furtwängler’s refusal to take sides has grave consequences, consequences that only the crude, “ugly American” Arnold is willing to discuss. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
British Jewish Writing in the Post-2016 Era: Tom Stoppard, Linda Grant and Howard Jacobson
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040116 - 28 Sep 2020
Viewed by 604
Abstract
This article analyses the ways in which British Jewish writing has responded to the watershed events of 2016: the vote to leave the EU in the United Kingdom, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. It argues that such [...] Read more.
This article analyses the ways in which British Jewish writing has responded to the watershed events of 2016: the vote to leave the EU in the United Kingdom, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. It argues that such a response demands varied generic and narrative forms, as exemplified in three case studies. Tom Stoppard’s 2020 play Leopoldstadt is a historical drama about twentieth-century Austrian history, but the moment of its staging and its links to the playwright’s biography convey its cautionary relationship to the present. Linda Grant’s 2019 novel A Stranger City is set in a post-2016 London that has become unfamiliar to its inhabitants, while Howard Jacobson’s Pussy of 2017 is a satire aimed at Trump’s electoral success. In each case, cultural turmoil is represented in terms of Jewish history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
Between or Beyond? Jewish British Short Stories in English since the 1970s
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030110 - 11 Sep 2020
Viewed by 615
Abstract
Looking at short stories by writers as diverse as Brian Glanville, Ruth Fainlight, Clive Sinclair, Jonathan Wilson, James Lasdun, Gabriel Josipovici, Tamar Yellin, Michelene Wandor, and Naomi Alderman, and extending from the center of Jewish British writing to its margins, this article seeks [...] Read more.
Looking at short stories by writers as diverse as Brian Glanville, Ruth Fainlight, Clive Sinclair, Jonathan Wilson, James Lasdun, Gabriel Josipovici, Tamar Yellin, Michelene Wandor, and Naomi Alderman, and extending from the center of Jewish British writing to its margins, this article seeks to locate the defining feature of their ‘Jewish substratum’ in conditions particular to the Jewish post-war experience, and to trace its impact across their thematic plurality which, for the most part, transcends any specifically British concerns that may also emerge, opening up an Anglophone sphere of Jewish writing. More specifically, it is argued that the unease pervading so many Jewish British short stories since the 1970s is a product of, and response to, what may very broadly be described as the Jewish experience and the precarious circumstances of Jewish existence even after the Second World War and its cataclysmic impact. It is suggested that it is prompted in particular by the persistence of the Holocaust and the anxieties the historical event continues to produce; by the confrontation with competing patterns of identification, with antisemitism, and with Israel; and by anxieties of non-belonging, of fragmentation, of dislocation, and of dissolution. Turned into literary tropes, these experiences provide the basis of a Jewish substratum whose articulation is facilitated by the expansion of Jewish British writers into the space of Anglophone Jewish writing. As a result, the Jewish British short story emerges as a multifaceted and hybrid project in continuous progress. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
Article
Rachel Lichtenstein’s Narrative Mosaics
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030088 - 21 Aug 2020
Viewed by 704
Abstract
Rachel Lichtenstein’s books, along with her multimedia art, represent her explorations of her British Jewish identity and her place in British Jewish culture as an imaginative odyssey. Her work represents research, stories, and traces from London’s Jewish past and multicultural present as well [...] Read more.
Rachel Lichtenstein’s books, along with her multimedia art, represent her explorations of her British Jewish identity and her place in British Jewish culture as an imaginative odyssey. Her work represents research, stories, and traces from London’s Jewish past and multicultural present as well as from Poland and Israel, her family’s accounts, and the testimony of recent immigrants and long-time residents. Lichtenstein is a place writer whose artistic projects subject her relationship to the Jewish past and East End to critical interrogation through a metaphorical method composed of fragments that represent varied segments of Jewish history and memory as well as wandering as a narrative of personal exploration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
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Article
How Jewish Refugee Critics Changed British Literary Criticism, 1970–2020
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030080 - 14 Aug 2020
Viewed by 512
Abstract
During the mid- and late 20th century, a small group of Jewish refugee critics changed the way British culture thought about what kind of literature mattered and why. These outsiders went on to have an enormous impact on late 20th-century British literary culture. [...] Read more.
During the mid- and late 20th century, a small group of Jewish refugee critics changed the way British culture thought about what kind of literature mattered and why. These outsiders went on to have an enormous impact on late 20th-century British literary culture. What was this impact? Why in the last third of the 20th century? Why did British literary culture become so much more receptive to critics like George Steiner, Gabriel Josipovici, Martin Esslin and SS Prawer and to a new canon of continental Jewish writers? The obstacles to Jewish refugee critics were formidable. Yet their work on writers like Kafka, Brecht and Paul Celan, and thinkers like Heidegger and Lukacs had a huge impact. They also broke the post-war silence about the Holocaust and moved the Jewish Bibl from the margins of English-speaking culture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary British-Jewish Literature, 1970–2020)
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