Richa Dwor is a Victorianist specializing in Anglo-Jewish literature and culture, exploring how Jewish women’s writings have been influenced by distinctively Jewish reading practices and affect. Her recently published book Jewish Feeling: Difference and Affect in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Women’s Writing (2015) explores this theme in the works of Grace Aguilar (1816-47) and Amy Levy (1861-89). Dr. Dwor is a faculty member at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.
Her paper, "Jewish Women’s Writing as a New Category of Affect," recovers a reading of the works of Jewish women writers, such as Aguilar and Levy, to detect deliberate and innovative Jewish thought and to offer a rebuttal to the assumptions among their contemporaries and ours that because they were prevented from religious study they engaged in none, and because they were the targets of campaigns for their conversion, they merely replicated and assimilated the language of Evangelical Christianity.
Amy Levy (1861-1889)
Amy Levy (1861-1889) was a London-born Anglo-Jewish writer and poet. In 1879, Levy became the second Jewish woman to attend Cambridge, where she encountered and struggled against both antisemitism and gender stereotyping. After leaving Cambridge in 1881, Levy spent several years travelling between Europe and England, writing poetry and participating in various literary clubs. In 1884 she published her collection A Minor Poet and Other Verse, in which many of the poems dealt with sadness and death, reflecting her melancholic disposition and the struggles she encountered as a Jewish woman living in a male-centered Arian society. After several especially energetic and productive years beginning in 1886, Levy was thrown into a severe depression owing to the controversy over her second novel Ruben Sachs (1888) and to pain arising from her personal life. Levy committed suicide on 10 September 1889. The first Jewish woman in England to be cremated, Levy’s ashes were interred in the Kingsbury Road Jewish cemetery in London.
Amy Levy. Review of Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Kind Words: A Magazine for Boys and Girls. London: Sunday School Union, October 1875.
Amy Levy wrote this prize-winning review of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh when she was only thirteen years old. It appears in the October 1875 issue on page 318.
Already recognizing the extent and value of women’s literary abilities, Levy begins her review,
As a poet we see Woman in her most favorable light; her mind is better constituted for that refinement, that delicacy of touch which is so essential to poetry: and though she may lack the grandeur and the strength which characterize bards of the other sex, yet in her own peculiar genius she stands unrivalled.
Women Poets of the Victorian Era. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by Mrs. William Sharp. London, New York: Walter Scott, Limited, .
This volume, edited by Mrs. William Sharp, contains a chapter on Amy Levy.
- Exhibition Text by Mackenzie Sarna