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The Enemy Image of the Jew in World Literature

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Organizer: Wisam Chaleila

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This seminar seeks to examine the motif of the multiple enemy images of the Jew in American and European literatures / world literature. The enemy image of the Jew is usually illustrated as a threatening, menacing, and antagonistic force to others (i.e. Gentiles). This portrayal is particularly associated with usury, materialistic if not sexual exploitation, capitalism, the ugliness of both shape and manner. Not only is the Jew portrayed as “moneylender” and mercenary, but also as one who promotes capitalism contributing to the protagonists’ fall and misery. The depiction of the Jew also involves opposing metaphors in social and linguistic spheres, such as we versus he/they, or us versus him/them, creating imagery boundaries between two parties: the normal and the uncanny. For example, in The House of Mirth Edith Wharton’s Jewish character is not only illustrated as foreign, ugly, repulsive, vulgar, and opportunist, but also he is epitomized by the third person while the Gentile characters are categorized by the first person. Shakespeare’s Shylock is another instance of such utilization of language. The questions we are trying to answer are (but not limited to): 1. How does the enemy image portrayed in literature surpass the fictional world? How did/does this negative depiction of the Jew formulate and articulate one’s perspective, attitude, and standpoint toward/against Jews. 2. What similarities/differences could be traced between different/similar periods of literature? American and European literature? 3. What are/were (if any) the political, social, and cultural discourses that concurred such portrayal of the Jew?  3. Are there other ugly images in contemporary literature? How are they different/similar to that of the Jew?

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