Richa Dwor can pinpoint the exact moment she fell in love with researching Anglo-Jewish literature and culture.
The Douglas College English instructor was sitting in her Modern Jewish History class at UBC nearly a decade ago when she as assigned a book report. On the list of books was Romance and Reform in Victorian England by Michael Galchinsky.
“I saw the title of this book and I thought, ‘it’s Jewish women, it’s Victorian and I have to read it,'” Dwor, who is wrapping up her first semester at the College, recalled. “So I did, and it opened my eyes. I’ve always loved Victorian novels – I was majoring in English – and that book showed me that in this huge field of study, there is something that could be my thing.”
Now, Dwor has written her own book, which she will be launching at the College’s New Westminster Campus Nov. 20.
Entitled Jewish Feeling: Difference and Affect in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Women’s Writing, Dwor explores the impact of literary works by Jewish female authors and brings affect theory to Jewish Studies to trace Jewish difference in literary works by nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish authors.
“What I’ve done is look at the writing of Jewish women to consider how they are navigating religious identity and, in particular, national identity,” Dwor says. “The argument of the book is controversial and I think it’s an original argument that in certain Jewish reading practices we can detect affect.”
Dwor – who has been researching the subject for nearly a decade and holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Nottingham – notes that affect can be detected in the way the authors write to generate feeling and to further perpetuate the openness of the text for interpretation.
“That is an important idea in Rabbinic forms of interpretation of sacred text,” she says. “Through comparison, I show that the way that these women conceive of affect in text is different and distinctive – it comes from a tradition of religious thought rather than a gendered idea of sentimentality.”
Dwor will launch her book on Nov. 20 at Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus, 700 Royal Ave., in the Amelia Douglas Galley at 4pm. The free event is open to the public.