Friday, 16 September 2016

[#50] Elisa Narin van Court, ‘Invisible in Oxford: Medieval Jewish History in Modern England’, Shofar, 26 (2008), pp. 1-20.

Academic Entry:

An outline of the use of signs in identifying the Anglo-Jewish past and the politics of the language which is used in those.

General Entry:

It’s been a long few weeks for me, finishing my MA and, given that I don’t have PhD funding, looking for a proper job. Consequently, I thought I’d curl up on this rather windy Friday evening with a bottle of Scotch and read start reading the latest edition of one of my favourite journals which I haven’t had time to read since it came out: Shofar. Before we go any further I can answer that question you have: ‘Yes, I am that sad’. I don’t read Shofar because it prints a plethora of articles which fall within my area of interest – as I shall get to in a moment, it absolutely does not. What I like about Shofar is its interdisciplinary nature. I remembered this as I was reading the front matter and this got me to thinking about how interdisciplinary medieval Anglo-Jewish studies is at the moment, with people rewriting everything from moneylending, literature, legal history and the impact of the rabbis. As a result, after reading the first two (very good) articles, I did a search for articles concerning medieval Anglo-Jewry, and was baffled to find that there was only one article, though it’s a very good one, which came up. So I think it’s fair to say that historians of medieval Anglo-Jewry have failed to engage with this particular journal which I think is tragic, and as such I think that it’s about time that a few more articles (or even better, a special issue of articles) relating to my favourite topic, appeared in this journal. So, onto this particular essay which considers the use of signs within the heritage industry in England. Van Court starts by elucidating how difficult it could be to find those modern markers which are used to highlight the medieval Anglo-Jewish past in Oxford – I visited the city a few years ago and encountered the same problems. Subsequent to this, van Court explores the signs which have been raised in York, Norwich and Lincoln. Although this essay does, in part, draw attention to such signs, its primary aim is to provide a discourse upon the politics of signage, what is written? Why? On the whole, I have a serious problem with the sanitisation of history within the heritage industry, and agree with van Courts arguments. Having said that, however, I think that much more could have been done to consider the role of the medieval Anglo-Jewish past in the cultural memory of each of the cities. That being said, van Court ends by saying that this article was the first stage of a broader research project – though I have been unable to find any follow up publications by her.

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