Abby Bender: Irish-Jewish Studies at the Border

Thu, April 12, 2018

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT

Glucksman Ireland House NYU

1 Washington Mews

New York, NY 10003

Irish-Jewish Studies at the Border: Precarious Solidarity from James Joyce to Ruth Gilligan

From poetry to politics, the widespread Irish belief that the Irish and the Jews had suffered more than other people persisted into the first decade of the twentieth century, when indeed, it was so common as to be cliché. Then, the analogy seemed to disappear with the birth of Irish Independence. While there has been a surge of critical and creative writing about Irish-Jewish history in the past couple of years, there is also an increasing sense that the literal and figurative connections are now, more concretely, coming to an end. In this context of shifting cultural alliances I consider the controversy around Ruth Gilligan’s 2016 novel, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, in which Gilligan imagines the Irish Jewish community from a position outside it (much to the dismay of some scholars of Jewish-Irish history). Yet like Joyce’s UlyssesNine Folds explores the possibilities of cross-cultural Jewish-Irishness, and also its limits and ironies.

Abby Bender is the author of Israelites in Erin: Exodus, Revolution, and the Irish Revival (Syracuse UP, 2015). She is Assistant Director of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program and Assistant Professor of the Practice in English at The College of Mount Saint Vincent; previously she taught Irish literature at Glucksman Ireland House from 2007-2016. Her new book project looks at representations of breastfeeding in Irish literature and culture.

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