Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

The Heart of the Nation looks at Grace Aguilar (1816–1847), a popular nineteenth-century Jewish author, as a case study in issues faced by Victorian Britain’s Jewish community. It argues that Aguilar predicted eventual changes to women’s roles, new perspectives on Israel, and the acceptance of modernity. She repeatedly expressed an unwavering commitment to traditional Judaism, but she hoped to modernize orthodoxy by rethinking women’s roles. In many ways, Aguilar anticipated the reforms of contemporary movements such as Modern and Open Orthodoxy and outreach organizations like Chabad Lubavitch, but distinctively, women occupy a central place in her worldview. In her works, Aguilar presents a version of orthodox Judaism wherein Jews could actualize the goals of modernization, such as taking part in secular culture, achieving rights for women, and defining national identity, all while upholding Judaism’s central beliefs and practices. She not only grappled with modernity but also with women’s role in modernization. In particular, Aguilar sees Jews as a distinctive cultural group, and she underscores women’s prominent role as the purveyors of Jewish cultural traditions.

Committee Chair

Weltman, Sharon

Available for download on Friday, October 23, 2076

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