Colloquium with Kathy Lavezzo: “‘Wandering Christians’ and Accommodated Jews: Domesticity, ‘the Jew,’ and the Future of Early Modern England”
1640 witnessed the publication of an anonymous—and brilliantly satirical—chapbook, The Wandering Jew Telling Fortunes to Englishmen. The title of the pamphlet suggests its interest in the Wandering Jew, a stereotype that had currency in England since the turn of the century. But in fact, the booklet concerns the journeying of a motley group of dissolute and notably greedy Londoners to the cozy abode of a homey Jew. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Jew’s home draws Christians who seek to learn their futures. My presentation takes this chapbook as a heuristic for major issues covered in my book, The Accommodated Jew: Antisemitism from Bede to Milton. The chapbook makes explicit a trend that, I argue, forms a major component of the long history of medieval and Early Modern English antisemitic writing: a tendency of the English to imagine accommodated Jews (that is, Jews in houses) in order to accommodate themselves to an emerging urban, bourgeois and profit-driven society. Understood broadly, this presentation speaks to ongoing debates about the way imaginative writing responds to historical problems, the supposed alterity of medieval to Early Modern culture, and “the Jew” as a charged object of cross-identification.