Civil Antisemitism, Modernism, and British Culture, by Lara Trubowitz

By Lara Trubowitz

This booklet sheds new mild on 'civil antisemitism' in twentieth-century Britain, a vital and seriously overlooked strand of anti-Jewish rhetoric formed by way of longstanding traditions of etiquette and civility. targeting the years ahead of global battle II, Trubowitz exhibits how civil antisemitism was once crucial either to the dissemination of proto-fascist political and literary discourses, and to structural and stylistic practices inside literary modernism. The booklet contains chapters on Djuna Barnes, Wyndham Lewis, and Virginia Woolf, early twentieth-century immigration laws, fascist conspiracy novels, and modern far-right teams resembling the English Defence League.

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Although antithetical, together the two suppositions supplied British lawmakers in 1904 and 1905 with a strategic rationale for legislating the flow of immigration. The first supposition gives officials a set of characteristics they can define as inherently non-British, enabling them to subject any entity with these characteristics to immigration regulations. The second supposition lends an urgency to the passage of the laws: lawmakers need to protect Britain from the threat of a plague-like influx of Jews whose very presence threatens to turn “[s]treets and districts [that were] formerly entirely English .

As Bush asserts, “these inherited legal categories had practical consequences” (1228). Evans-Gordon’s slippage from immigrant to wanderer is therefore best interpreted not merely as the reproduction of an old common law convention, but as the appropriation of this convention for distinct contemporary legal and political means. That categories of identity be presented as definitive is demanded by the criterion of legal discourse itself: the clear demarcation of the object of legislation that, in the case of Jews, means translating impermanence into a set of traits 34 Civil Antisemitism, Modernism, and British Culture permanent enough to warrant legal attention.

Jews suffer from an invasion of people of their own faith whom they do not want to see here and who are an unnecessary burden” (735). 27 Indeed, Jewish desire for anti-immigration laws becomes the proof Lawson requires to depict support for immigration legislation as philosemitic in nature: “There is no question that those who have the longest heads and those who have most at heart the interest of English Jews are not opposed to this Bill, and in fact are anxious to see this stain removed from the fair fame of those for whom they care so much” (735).

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