Saxon Success and Jewish Defeat in Ivanhoe - 1 Stephen Dworkin Professor Strabone ENG 329 Nations Within Nations Saxon Success and Jewish Defeat in

Saxon Success and Jewish Defeat in Ivanhoe - 1 Stephen...

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1Stephen DworkinProfessor StraboneENG 32912/17/10Nations Within Nations: Saxon Success and Jewish Defeat in IvanhoeAs students of history we are often presented with the problem of newness. How, between the paces of what we see as the steady the march of process through time, a community that identifies as inherently new, as uniquely defined against the stories and people that make up its past, springs up has been the subject of many a writer. Walter Scott’s Ivanhoeis also obsessed with this question. The novel stakes out an imagined historical process that results, inevitably, in the formation of the self-identifying English people of Scott’s time. Ivanhoepostulates that the creation of the English nation is the result of a kind of ethnic and cultural alchemy, two major ingredients of which are self-identifying Jews and Saxons. The novel sees the development of hybridity and sympathy between different ethnic groups as a key stage in the construction of nationality, though it is brought about by individual leaders following Christian ideals of justice rather than by whole communities. Ivanhoerepresents an imagined representation of the loss of divisive racial identity and compares the mix of Saxons with Normans to what is seen as the tragic isolation and isolationism of the Jews as divergent realities in the process towards nationhood. Scott is attempting to solidify his portrayal of English history through illustrating the necessity for oppressed groups to move towards a merging of ethnicities for them to be successful.In Scott’s medieval England the Jews sit at the bottom of the social and political ladder and are the most oppressed people portrayed in the novel. One of the pieces of Scott’s writing that strikes post-World War II readers most strongly is his almost unbelievably progressive
2sympathy towards the Jewish people. “There was no race existing on the earth, in the air, or the waters, who were the object of such an unintermitting, general, and relentless persecution as the Jews of this period” he writes (Scott 106). But this progressive ideology is shattered by Scott’s following remarks:In spite of every kind of discouragement...the Jews increased, multiplied, and accumulated huge sums, which they transferred from one hand to another by means of bills of exchange...The obstinacy and avarice of the Jews being thus in a measure placed in opposition to the fanaticism that tyranny of those under whom they lived, seemed to increase in proportion to the persecution with which they were visited; and the immense wealth they usually acquired in commerce...was...used to extend their influence, and to secure to them a certain degree of protection (106). Despite the positive spin placed on this explanation of the Jews’ endurance, Scott is still discussing them with the language used in common stereotypes. Though their position is often controlled by force, Jews can only obtain power and “protection” through money and “avarice.”

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