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Title: Almost English: Jews and Jewishness in British children's literature
Authors: Travis, Madelyn Judith
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis examines constructions of Jews and Jewishness in British children’s literature from the eighteenth century to the present. It demonstrates that this literature has often sought to determine the place of Jews in Britain, and that this endeavour is linked to attempts to define the English sense of self. This discourse is often politicised, with representations influenced as much by current events and political movements as by educational objectives. The main focus of the thesis is on works published from World War II through 2010, with Chapter One providing a historical context for the later material and offering an overview of key motifs from the eighteenth century to World War II. Works by authors such as Maria Edgeworth, E. Nesbit and Rudyard Kipling are discussed alongside rare texts which have not been examined before. Chapters on gender, refugees, multiculturalism and heroes and villains reveal developments as well as continuities from earlier periods. The chapter on multiculturalism draws on unpublished interviews with authors including Adele Geras, the late Eva Ibbotson and Ann Jungman. The sometimes competing and conflicting representations in literature which has been influenced by the impact of the Enlightenment, the Empire, the Holocaust, cultural diversity and 9/11 demonstrate that there has been no teleological progression over the centuries from anti-Semitism to acceptance, or from ‘outsider’ to ‘insider’. Instead, many of the recurring themes in these texts reveal an ongoing concern with establishing, maintaining or problematising the boundaries between Jews and Gentiles. This tension is present in a substantial body of texts across age ranges, genres and time periods. It demonstrates that the position of Jews in Britain has been ambivalent, and that this ambivalence has persisted to a surprising degree in view of the dramatic socio-cultural changes which have taken place over two centuries.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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