Smoothing the Jew

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Smoothing the Jew

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Author: Jeffrey A. Marx


ISBN: 9781978836341

Date: 14th June, 2024


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  2. Types
  3. History of Art
  4. History and Criticism


The turn of the nineteenth century in the United States saw the substantial influx of immigrants and a corresponding increase in anti-immigration and nativist tendencies among longer-settled Americans. Jewish immigrants were often the object of such animosity, being at once the object of admiration and anxiety for their perceived economic and social successes. One result was their frequent depiction in derogatory caricatures on the stage and in print.   Smoothing the Jew investigates how Jewish artists of the time attempted to "smooth over" these demeaning portrayals by focusing on the first Jewish comic strip published in English, Harry Hershfield's Abie the Agent . Jeffrey Marx demonstrates how Hershfield created a Jewish protagonist who in part reassured nativists of the Jews' ability to assimilate into American society while also encouraging immigrants and their children that, over time, they would be able to adopt American customs without losing their distinctly Jewish identity.

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