Irish Questions and Jewish Questions

“Beatty’s and O’Brien’s comprehensive collection corrects and amplifies our understanding of the historically significant relationship between the Irish and Jews, one that has been largely governed by the linking analogy of the title, but, as these critics show, with insufficient nuance. These impressive essays represent in divergent ways what Stephen Watt describes in his contribution as the ‘multi-disciplinary bristle of a nascent Irish-Jewish studies.’ ” —Marilyn Reizbaum, Bowdoin College

“Boldly revisionist—challenging and deconstructing the notion that Ireland was friendly to Jews, the authors offer a more nuanced and complex image of the ambiguous and often unsettling relationship between Irish and Jews.” —Eugenio Biagini, coeditor of The Cambridge Social History of Ireland since 1740

 

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The Irish and the Jews are two of the classic outliers of modern Europe. Both strug- gled with their lack of formal political sovereignty in nineteenth-century Europe. Simultaneously European and not European, both endured a bifurcated status, perceived as racially inferior and yet also seen as a natural part of the European landscape. Both sought to deal with their subaltern status through nationalism; both had a tangled, ambiguous, and sometimes violent relationship with Britain and the British Empire; and both sought to revive ancient languages as part of their drive to create a new identity. The career of Irish politician Robert Briscoe and the travails of Leopold Bloom are just two examples of the delicate balancing of Irish and Jewish identities in the first half of the twentieth century.

Irish Questions and Jewish Questions explores these shared histories, covering several centuries of the Jewish experience in Ireland, as well as events in Israel- Palestine and North America. The authors examine leading figures of both national movements to reveal how each had an active interest in the successes, and failures, of the other. Bringing together leading and emerging scholars from the fields of Irish studies and Jewish studies, this volume captures the most recent scholarship on their comparative history with nuance and remarkable insight.

Extract in the Dublin Review of Books

 

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