Part of the Jewish Encounter series
Emma Lazarus’s most famous poem gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty, but her remarkable life has remained a mystery until now. She was a woman so far ahead of her time that we are still scrambling to catch up with her–a feminist, a Zionist, and an internationally famous Jewish American writer before thse categories even existed.
Drawing upon a cache of personal letters undiscovered until the 1980, Esther Schor brings this vital woman to life in all her complexity. Born into a wealthy Sephardic family in 1849, Lazarus published her first volume of verse at seventeen and gained entrée into New York’s elite literary circles. Although she once referred to her family as “outlaw” Jews, she felt a deep attachment to Jewish history and peoplehood. Her compassion for the downtrodden Jews of Eastern Europe–refugees whose lives had little in common with her own–helped redefine the meaning of America itself.
In this groundbreaking biography, Schor argues persuasively for Lazarus’s place in history as a poet, an activist, and a prophet of the world we all inhabit today–a world that she helped to invent.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Emma Lazarus and the Three Anne Franks
I · 1849–1876
The Shadow of Victory
Footsteps in Newport
Your Professor, My Poet
A Place in Parnassus
I I · 1876–1881
In the Studio
The Woman as She Really Was
An Ancient, Well-Remembered Pain
The Critic’s Only Duty
The Devil Discovered
Fresh Vitality in Every Direction
Progress and Poverty
I I I · 1882–1883
Russian Jewish Horrors
Shylocks and Spinozas
The List of Singers
A Single Thought & a Single Work
An Army of Jewish Paupers
The Semite and the Hebrews
The Poet of the Podolian Ghetto
IV · 1883–1887
The Other Half (as It Were) of Our Little World-Ball
Mother of Exiles
Revolution as the Only Hope
The Inward Dissonance
The Vacant Chair
But If She Herself Were Here Today . . .
Appendix: Texts of the Poems
About Esther Schor
Esther Schor, a poet and professor of English at Princeton University, is the author of The Hills of Holland: Poems and Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, and the Forward. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
From the Hardcover edition.
“Schor brings to life the complicated, passionate woman who left us our proudest national image. A work of great empathy an meticulous historical research.”
–Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley
“In this luminous, enthralling biography, Esther Schor recovers one of the outstanding women of nineteenth-century letters, who while inventing her life as an American Jewish writer discovered a larger poetic mission for the entire nation.”
–Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
“Esther Schor, herself a poet of authentic distinction, has composed a very moving and highly useful biographical critique of Emma Lazarus, a permanent poet in American and in Jewish tradition.”
–Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
“It is a rare book indeed that so skillfully melds biography, literary analysis, and cultural history. In describing Emma Lazarus and her circle, Schor tells the story of American Jewry in the nineteenth century, paints a portrait of literary New York in one of its heydays, explicates many beautiful and long-neglected poems, and instills in us a canny affection for a subject who is forceful and sometimes overbearing but also brilliant and compassionate. Schor’s prose is as lyrical and rich in images as the poetry she describes in this intimate, often touching volume.”
–Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression