The literary creations of Elizabeth Gaskell have had an irrefutable legacy that, from the mid-twentieth century, marked her out amongst critics as one of the most important and esteemed writers of the Victorian era. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of her literary career was that she seemed to just fall into it at the age of 38. After the tragic death of her infant son William, her husband, also named William, suggested she start writing as a means of distraction from her grief.
When we think of xenophobia, often we are susceptible to oversimplifying it, without considering the intersectionality of gender and race. Historically, antisemitism has largely existed within a repressive hetero-normative framework of gender identity and sexuality. Considering Antisemitism in Victorian England then, it’s important to take on a gendered perspective, looking at the relationship between Judeophobia and conceived ‘masculinity’.
To be a woman is not a place of neutrality. To be a woman in literature, to read of your body as a site of battles and uprisings, of famine and protest, destroys any sense of impartiality. There is a long-standing tradition of gendering the nation: the motherland, the mothership, the innate feminine sense of home. But what happens when this sense of gender becomes so deeply tied in with a sense of nation that the two have become almost inseparable?
It is not often an author has the capacity to create a shift in cultural conscience. This ability is reserved for the most creative and talented minds: writers that can not only entertain, but revolutionise, galvanise, and place a spark of being into society’s mindset. Having said this, writing craft alone will not suffice, the conditions must be prime and the masses in a place to welcome the change that may arrive.