Collection: Amy Levy
AMY LEVY (1861–1889) was a complex, unconventional intellectual who embodied a diverse array of identity positions. Scholars have analysed her in the contexts of religion, secularism, politics, feminism, literature, and culture, precluding a single account of her biography. Moreover, Levy’s Jewish identity and the extent of her engagement with Jewish texts and traditions has been the subject of considerable debate. The wideranging corpus she produced in her short life includes polemical essays, novels, short stories, and poetry, which explore topics ranging from ballroom etiquette to antisemitism, but even her most seemingly apolitical texts
are inflected by her own awareness of being Jewish and subject to antisemitism. In the German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, Levy found someone who had experienced identity crises much like her own, and someone who could help her understand, speak to, and engage with her Jewish
identity. Drawing on Heine, well aware of the limits of her own agency, Levy explored and subverted notions of identity, minority, and constructs of national humour, contesting
antisemitic representations in contemporary literature. Through her writing, which is couched in biblical, diasporic, and Jewish cultural traditions, she managed to develop subtle counternarratives by experimenting with identity positions, satire, and literary stereotypes. Accordingly, this collection positions Levy in a tradition of Jewish literature characteristic of diasporic modernity, facing the challenges of a literary and political culture of antisemitism and hegemonic Christianity, alongside discourses of assimilation and secularism.