Literary London Reading Group

Mapping Jewish London in Amy Levy’s ‘Reuben Sachs’ (1888)


Thank you to those who attended our first event of the term in October! We’re looking forward to seeing many of you again on Friday, November 18th at 6 pm- 7.30pm in Senate House, room 234 for the Literary London Reading Group’s second meeting of the year. We welcome Dr. Naomi Hetherington, who will be discussing Mapping Jewish London in Amy Levy’s Reuben Sachs. 


Amy Levy was an important late-Victorian Jewish, feminist and urban writer. Her novel Reuben Sachs (1888) caused controversy on its initial publication for its representation of London’s Jewish community. Whilst the mainstream press praised the novel for its realistic portrait of contemporary Jewish life, the Jewish papers were outraged by Levy’s unflattering portrait of her co-religionists. Levy’s novel continues to provoke critical debate today regarding its use of late nineteenth-century evolutionary and racial discourse and the uncertainty of its narrative viewpoint. This session will set up a cultural and critical context for reading Levy’s Jewish novel through a brief introduction to her life and work and the discussion of selections from Levy’s essays on Jewish topics published anonymously in the Jewish Chronicle. We will then consider the history and geography of Jewish London and how different Jewish and non-Jewish spaces and places are represented in Levy’s novel. Finally, we will read two poems ‘A London Plane-Tree’ and ‘In the Mile End Road’ from Levy’s collection of urban verse published a year after Reuben Sachs and consider the relationship between different racial, sexual and gendered identities in her cartography of London.

Our Speaker

Dr Naomi Hetherington is University Tutor in English and Humanities in the Department for Lifelong Learning at the University of Sheffield.  Her interests include religion, gender and sexuality in late-Victorian literature and culture, Victorian popular fiction and the literary New Woman.  She has published a number of essays and encyclopaedia entries on Amy Levy and has co-edited Amy Levy: Critical Essays with Nadia Valman (Ohio UP, 2010). She is currently lead editor on a new Routledge Historical Resource on Victorian Religion and Literature and is writing a monograph on the figure of the freethinking New Woman.


Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs (London: Persephone Books, 2001) pp. 1-5, 10-17, 37-79, 140-148

Amy Levy, “A London Plane Tree,” “In the Mile End Road” (from A Plane Tree and Other Verses and Love, Dreams, & Death)

Amy Levy, “The Jew in Fiction,” “Middle Class Jewish Women of To-day” (from Appendix A in the Broadview edition of Reuben Sachs)

We’re looking forward to seeing you all on the 18th!

Eliza and Hannah


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