From Anglo-First-Wave Towards American Second-Wave Jewish Feminism : Negotiating with Jewish Theology and its Commitments in the Writing of Amy Levy and Lily Montagu

Devine, Luke (2010) From Anglo-First-Wave Towards American Second-Wave Jewish Feminism : Negotiating with Jewish Theology and its Commitments in the Writing of Amy Levy and Lily Montagu. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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From Anglo-First-Wave towards American Second-Wave Jewish Feminism: Negotiating with Jewish Feminist Theology and its Communities in the Writing of Amy Levy and Lily Montagu (June 2010), by Luke Devine. Submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This doctoral thesis seeks to elucidate the relationship between the fin de siecle Anglo-Jewish writing of Amy Levy and Lily Montagu and Second­Wave Jewish feminist theory and activism. The thesis does not claim that Second-Wave feminists were wholly unaware of this earlier stage of activism, but rather that the conceptual - as opposed to historical - links between the two phases are under-examined. Accordingly, the thesis calls into question assumptions that the rise of Jewish feminist theology can be predominantly situated in 1970s America through the work of Rachel Adler, Marcia Falk, and Judith Plaskow. Instead, the study demonstrates that the possibility of Jewish feminist theology, and aspects of Jewish feminist spirituality and theory, should also be traced to England, particularly in Levy's midrashic poetry, and Montagu's figuration of the feminine aspect of the divine presence, the Shekhinah. This hypothesis is substantiated first by locating the writing and activism of Amy Levy and Lily Montagu within their historical context, and in doing so, seeks to challenge historiographical estimations of Levy's religiosity, and assumptions about the marginality of Montagu's role in the rise of Liberal Judaism. In opposition to much of the extant historiography, the thesis demonstrates that Levy's writing is less anti-Judaic and more profoundly inflected by the religious concerns of German Reform Judaism than has previously been supposed. While Levy incorporates aspects of the religious tradition such as Messianic redemption, Montagu, rather than being intellectually reliant on Claude Montefiore, developed proto-feminist theological discourse utilising both the rabbinic and mystical traditions. Both of these women's writings constitute a genre whose female subjectivity evidences a concern for justice and authority that prefigures numerous aspects of Second-Wave Jewish feminist theory and its spiritual, theological, and theoretical underpinnings. As this abstract suggests, my research invites some reappraisal of Amy Levy as an alienated Anglo-Jewish woman unable to locate the divine presence in the tradition, or in the Reform and Orthodox institutions of her day, yet unwilling to compromise her spirituality, or for that matter, her Jewishness. Likewise, my study encourages reassessment of Lily Montagu - her theological writing, her activism, and her role in the Liberal Jewish movement- demonstrating that, like Levy, she was unable to locate the divine presence in a purely masculinist theology, and was as much concerned as Levy to broaden the definition of Jewish spirituality to incorporate the needs and aspirations of assimilated women estranged by the androcentrism of the tradition's sacred texts, liturgies, and halakhic practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: A print copy of this thesis is available for reference use only.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Jewish feminism; Judaism; Jewish theology
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Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BM Judaism
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creatives
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2022 11:19
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:56

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