Segments in this Video

Introduction: "Alien Invaders": Jewish Figures in Deronda's Britain (04:09)


In this lecture, Ruth Wisse will explore how the Jewish theme is introduced in "Daniel Deronda." Jews are first mentioned when Gwendolen pawns her jewelry; in literature, they are associated with monetary transactions.

Threat from Above and Below (02:33)

Jews immigrated to Britain from Europe in the later 19th century and segregated themselves in cities, attracting xenophobic attention. There were also wealthy families like the Rothschilds competing for influence.

Herr Julian Klesmer (04:31)

Catherine Arrowpoint marries her music tutor Herr Klesmer for love. He represents an artist, a wandering Jew, and a new aristocracy of merit. Wisse reads a passage in which he equates musicians to legislators.

Music before Women (02:40)

Klesmer is dazzled by Gwendolen but recoils when she offends his artistic excellence. Mordecai functions as the cohane; Klesmer is the Levite. These Jewish religious classifications improve the British, as well as the Jews.

Resident Alien (04:52)

Klesmer does not deny his Jewishness nor marry Catherine for money; he belongs to a new caste system in which artists are superior to aristocrats. Wisse discusses Klesmer's role to expose and foil anti-Jewish prejudice in British society.

Mirah Cohen (05:50)

Klesmer holds the penniless refugee to high artistic standards, and admits she is a musician. However, he does not seek out Jewish community while she finds strength in her Jewish identity.

Maintaining Separateness (05:25)

Wisse discusses a passage when Daniel visits Mirah at the Meyricks. Mrs. Meyrick does not understand her refusal to convert to Christianity; Mirah explains the meaning of her family, religion, ethnicity, and identity.

Irreducible Complexity (04:29)

Wisse compares George Eliot's philosophical framework in the scene where Mirah refuses to convert to Christianity to that of Moses Hess' "Rome and Jerusalem." Daniel connects her with the Murano family. Mirah proclaims the book's theme of Jewish national self-affirmation.

National Self-Liberation (05:20)

Mirah argues for Jewish separateness at the Meyricks, while European parliaments considered implications of Jewish peoplehood. Mirah demands minority rights, while Klesmer represents civic assimilation. Accepting Jewish separateness required a new British liberality.

Mirah's Supporting Role (04:55)

Wisse compares Mirah to Gwendolen in terms of upbringing, identity, and morality. Mirah's character introduces the challenge of Jewish national autonomy. Gwendolen's reaction to Jewish exclusivity is the novel's ultimate concern, as she represents the future of British society.

Credits: “Alien Invaders”: Jewish Figures in Deronda’s Britain (00:07)

Credits: “Alien Invaders”: Jewish Figures in Deronda’s Britain

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“Alien Invaders”: Jewish Figures in Deronda’s Britain

Part of the Series : Ruth Wisse Teaches Daniel Deronda
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In the third part of an eight part lecture series on “Daniel Deronda,” Professor Ruth Wisse analyzes Julian Klesmer and Mirah Lapidoth in terms of their contributions to Jewish emancipation. An expert on Yiddish and Jewish literature and winner of the National Humanities Medal, Wisse discusses how Jewish people were seen as a threat in Victorian England, from both poor immigrants and from influential families. Part of a new caste system placing artists above aristocrats, Klesmer exposes and foils anti-Jewish prejudice in British society. His willingness to assimilate by marrying a Gentile contrasts Mirah’s strong familial, ethnic, and religious identity. Mirah’s character raises the challenge of Jewish national autonomy and highlights the issue of maintaining separateness.

Length: 46 minutes

Item#: BVL133164

ISBN: 978-1-64023-759-9

Copyright date: ©2017

Closed Captioned

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