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Inventing the Israelite: Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France

Inventing the Israelite Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France

Winner of the 2010 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies, sponsored by the Modern Language Association.

In this book, Maurice Samuels brings to light little known works of literature produced from 1830 to 1870 by the first generation of Jews born as French citizens. These writers, Samuels asserts, used fiction as a laboratory to experiment with new forms of Jewish identity relevant to the modern world. In their stories and novels, they responded to the stereotypical depictions of Jews in French culture while creatively adapting the forms and genres of the French literary tradition. They also offered innovative solutions to the central dilemmas of Jewish modernity in the French context—including how to reconcile their identities as Jews with the universalizing demands of the French revolutionary tradition. While their solutions ranged from complete assimilation to a modern brand of orthodoxy, these writers collectively illustrate the creativity of a community in the face of unprecedented upheaval.

About the author

Maurice Samuels is Professor of French at Yale University. He is the author of The Spectacular Past: Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France (2004).