Englishness and Extraterritoriality: British-Jewish Writing and Diaspora Culture

Ezra Mendelsohn

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XII: Literary Strategies: Jewish Texts and Contexts

Published in print April 1997 | ISBN: 9780195112030
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854608 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Englishness and Extraterritoriality: British-Jewish Writing and Diaspora Culture

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This chapter examines in detail the English tradition of Jewish extraterritoriality and briefly discusses an historical alternative to this form of writing. It makes the distinction between American Jewish and British Jewish writing which can be seen in terms of an opposing relationship to the past. It is argued that the American novel “tends to rest in contradictions and among extreme ranges of experience,” whereas the English novel “gives the impression of absorbing all extremes, all maladjustments and contradictions into a normative view of life.” Ann Masa has shown that this distinction can be applied equally to Jewish literature. The very impossibility of absorbing the Jewish past into a territorial Englishness—or even Britishness—has led to the continuation of a culture of Jewish extraterritoriality.

Keywords: English tradition; Jewish extraterritoriality; American Jewish writing; British Jewish writing; Ann Masa; Jewish literature; territorial Englishness

Chapter.  9918 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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