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The Virtuous Jewess

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Prof Nadia Valman

British culture has always been fascinated by the figure of the Jewess. This lecture will explore its roots in nineteenth-century theology, and its popularisation through literature. In contrast to the more well- known stereotypes of Fagin and Shylock, the virtuous Jewess was an emblem of the privileged status accorded to both women and Jews in Victorian Protestant culture and demonstrates that Jews could function not simply as an ‘other’ within modern cultures, but also, simultaneously, an ideal self.

Nadia Valman is Professor of Urban Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author of The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (2007) and has co-edited several books on Jews and literary culture including Between the East End and East Africa: the ‘Jew’ in Edwardian Culture (2009), Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature (2013) and British Jewish Women Writers (2014). She is currently Principal Investigator of an AHRC-funded research project, Making and Remaking the Jewish East End.

This season’s lecture series seeks to explore the connection of visual narratives in the context of beauty, ugliness and morality with representations of Jews and Jewishness in the Western world from the Middle Ages to the present day. We aim to examine the subject from different historical, social and artistic perspectives ranging from medieval mythology to Orientalism, Zionism, Feminism or modern aesthetics, and through the lens of a selection of diverse media including painting, photography and comics.

The remaining lectures this season will be held at Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU, and will also be available on Zoom.

Admission is free. Lectures will begin promptly at 6.30pm. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Overview of the 2023 Lecture Series

2023 Lecture Series Flyer (PDF)