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Chesterton’s Jews

Chesterton’s Jews: Stereotypes and Caricatures in the Literature and Journalism of G. K. Chesterton [2013]

Chesterton's Jews3-page-0 - frontG. K. Chesterton was a journalist and prolific author of poems, novels, short stories, travel books and social criticism. Prior to the twentieth century, Chesterton expressed sympathy for Jews and hostility towards antisemitism. He was agitated by Russian pogroms and felt sympathy for Captain Dreyfus. However, early into the twentieth century, he developed an irrational fear about the presence of Jews in Christian society. He started to argue that it was the Jews who oppressed the Russians rather than the Russians who oppressed the Jews, and he suggested that Dreyfus was not as innocent as the English newspapers claimed (Chesterton and the Dreyfus Affair). His caricatures of Jews were often that of grotesque creatures masquerading as English people. His fictional and his journalistic works repeated antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish greed and usurybolshevism, cowardice, disloyalty and secrecy. This short book provides a detailed study of these stereotypes and caricatures in Chesterton’s discourse. It also examines Chesterton’s discussion of the so-called “Jewish Problem”, his belief that “every Jew” should be made to wear distinctive clothing, the claim that Chesterton could not have been antisemitic because Israel Zangwill was his friend, and the claim that the Wiener Library defended him from the charge of antisemitism.

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