Beyond Sefarad: Philo-Sephardism and the Early Twentieth-Century Spanish Novel

Cohn, Adam, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Anderson, Andrew, University of Virginia

“Beyond Sefarad: Philo-Sephardism and the Early Twentieth-Century Spanish Novel” examines how the modern Sephardic diaspora is reimagined in Spanish narrative texts written by authors of a broadly liberal persuasion. By envisaging the Sephardic present, these authors look back at medieval Iberian history in order to contemplate possible futures for Spain. This dissertation aims to complicate our understanding of Spanish philo-Sephardism, or the idea that Sephardic Jews were a distinct group worthy of admiration, by exploring the contradictory ways in which the novel as a genre intervened in the debates about the place of the Sephardim in the nation-state. I contend that while philo-Sephardism was often a tool for colonial expansion, the novels studied in this dissertation intuited the unstable position in which the nation-state placed Jewish individuals and critiqued Spain’s opportunistic rapprochement with Sephardic Jews. Therefore, in one way or another, these texts all look beyond Sefarad—medieval Iberia and thereby modern Spain—as a complete, perfect, attainable, or even desirable ideal.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Philo-Sephardism, Spanish literature, Spain, Sephardic studies
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