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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

b) Remembering the Jews of medieval Christendom

3) Representations of medieval Anglo-Jewry in the modern world

Dean A. Irwin

Texte intégral

1The Jews arrived in medieval England in around 1066 and were expelled in 1290. During that period, a tradition of writing about the Jews in the narrative sources emerged, and a number of themes became commonplace (notably the ritual murder allegation). This literary tradition did not cease with the Expulsion. Rather, as historians like Gavin I. Langmuir have demonstrated, these narratives continued to be developed until at least the nineteenth century. For example, Chaucer referred to the murder of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln in his The Canterbury Tales, and later it became commonplace for medieval narratives to be included in popular ballads and tales. This tradition did not come to an end with the end of the Victorian period either. There has, however, been no attempt among historians to determine the ways in which the Jews of medieval England were presented in twentieth- and twenty-first-century narratives. Consequently, this paper will explore the representation of Jews in historical fiction novels since the Second World War. More than nineteen novels have been produced since then which focus particularly upon medieval Jews. This paper seeks to explore two related features. First, it considers how these narratives fit into a longer history of representing the Jews in literature. Second, it explores the ways such novels inform modern perceptions of Jews in the modern world.


2Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
Langmuir 1972


Canterbury Christ Church University

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