My research interests include Restoration and eighteenth-century literature and intellectual history, Jewish studies, gender and women’s studies, and the digital humanities. These interests come together in my work under the rubric of access. Whether I am considering questions of eighteenth-century Anglo-Jewish citizenship; women writers or characters who challenge patriarchal modes of discourse, such as in my forthcoming article on Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina (1725); or the material and digital conditions under which we in the academy produce scholarship and teaching, my work is motivated by my understanding of accessibility as a fundamental characteristic of both civil society and humanistic study.
My dissertation project, Jewish Cosmpolitanism and Citizenship in the Jewish Imagination, 1655-1755 argues that Jewish thinking helped shape a liberal, tolerant and cosmopolitan British identity rooted in a secular, rather than in a religious, ethics. My project shows how, in response to Britain’s growing mercantile and colonial empire, British writers repurposed Jewish histories and political philosophy to promote toleration as key to maintaining a distinctly Protestant British identity accommodating of non-Christian cultures. Chapter one shows how Menasseh ben Israel’s Humble Addresses to the Lord Protector (1655) uses the Jewish political philosophical tradition of secular citizenship to capitalize on English interest in Jewish thought to make a case not only for readmission, but also for a specifically Jewish form of a social contract based on secular ideas of citizenship. In chapter two, I argue that John Toland’s Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews (1714) uses alternative Anglo-Jewish history to suggest that excluding foreigners and non-Christians, especially Jews, is detrimental to the nation. Chapter three argues that by erasing the Surinam colony’s large Jewish population in Oroonoko (1688), Aphra Behn strategically re-narrates the colony’s political and social history to call out both Christian intolerance and the necessity of breaking down the false divisions of race and religion that separate Jews from the rest of European society. Chapter four considers Eliza Haywood’s depiction of the first openly Jewish female protagonist in British literature in The Fair Hebrew (1729) and argues that the text’s use of anti-Jewish stereotypes evidence a corrupt patriarchal system that fears the power of the Jewish Other in much the same way it fears female agency. I take up Haywood again in Chapter five, and show how in The Invisible Spy (1754), she uses the panic caused by the passage of the Jewish Naturalization Bill of 1753 to propose that moral hypocrisy within British society is far more dangerous than Jewish naturalization. I conclude my manuscript with an epilogue that anticipates later Enlightenment literature written by and about Jews, examining the development of philo-Semitism in Richard Cumberland’s The Jew (1794) alongside increasing Jewish self-representation of citizenship in the Historical Essay on the Colony of Surinam (1788). Ultimately, my project rewrites not only our understanding of how Jews became a part of the fabric of “Britishness,” but also our understanding of the extent to which Jewish thought informed British liberalism and national identity in the eighteenth century.
My work in gender and women’s studies crosses the boundaries between traditional scholarship and the digital humanities. I am working on an article on the role of Jane Austen fan fiction in teaching Austen. This article has been solicited for a proposed anthology focusing on pop cultural depictions of the eighteenth-century. In addition to my articles on Haywood and Austen, I developed ABOPublic: An Interactive Forum for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830. This digital humanities project seeks to build a community of public and professional scholars who share work on women and the eighteenth century. We publish in categories ranging from traditional scholarship, to the eighteenth century in popular culture, to digital and public pedagogies. Its mission, ultimately, is to increase the accessibility of both eighteenth-century and feminist studies to a wider audience.
Currently, I am revising my second chapter into an article, and plan to revise portions of my chapter on Haywood’s The Fair Hebrew into another. I will also revise my dissertation into a monograph by adding chapters that explore more literary, philosophical, and historiographical texts of the Restoration and the first half of the eighteenth century. For example, both John Milton’s Samson Agonistes (1671) and John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel (1681) use biblical stories of heroic Jews to explore the relationship between the individual (whether citizen or Other) and the state. Similarly, the period between 1720 and 1755 saw not only a proliferation of Jewish characters, such as in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana (1724) and Tobias Smollett’s Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), but also the continuing interest in Jewish historiography, such as De Blossier Tovey’s Anglia Judaica (1738) and Martin Parker’s The Wand’ring Jew’s Chronicle (1730-1750). Incorporating these texts will draw a more complex picture of how Britain imagined both Jewish and non-Jewish citizenship in the first half of the eighteenth century.
I currently plan two projects to follow my book project. The first will be a monograph that extends my discussion of Jewish citizenship, self-representation, and the development of philo-Semitism in my dissertation’s epilogue to a book-length study. In addition to full length explorations of Cumberland’s The Jew and the Jewish sponsored Historical Essay on the Colony of Surinam, I will include chapters on texts such as Charles’ Macklin’s Love à la Mode (1759), the anonymous (attributed to Smollett) The Israelites; or, The Pampered Nabob (1785), the English translation of Gotthold Lessing’s Nathan the Wise (1779), Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1820) and Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington (1817).
My second project will be to develop a digital resource that reimagines the hypertextuality of The Orlando Project by mapping intertextual relationships between literary and other primary, archival resources. My own interdisciplinary work makes use of important archival databases to draw connections between and among texts and larger British society, including archives such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, Eighteenth Century Journals, and The Old Bailey Online. I propose a resource that would not only bring these sources together, but would map relationships among individual database entries and eighteenth-century literary texts. So, for example, in teaching The Fair Hebrew, a student (or researcher) could search for both an online version of the text and for secondary sources that illuminate a particular aspect of that text. This project will provide useful tools for both researchers and students in the eighteenth-century studies classroom.