Please join the American Studies Consortium for a book chapter workshop and lunch with Prof. Julian Levinson:
"'The Seventh Angel Woke Me':
Adah Isaacs Menken
and the Return of Israelite Prophecy"
3241 Angell Hall
Lunch will be provided. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by .
This chapter is part of my current book project, tentatively titled New World Israelites: Reshaping Jewish Identity in Protestant America. The book considers emblematic instances where Jewish and Christian cultural works have engaged with prevailing religious discourses, establishing specifically American ways of reading Jewishness. In particular, the book traces the lines of influence connecting Protestant biblio-centrism to ideas about modern Jews. From this perspective, modern Jewishness comes to be modeled on the image of the “Old Testament prophet” – a figure imbued with a divine mission to correct the world’s moral failings and to strengthen the bonds uniting the “chosen people,” however defined.
The chapter under discussion, “’The Seventh Angel Woke Me’: Adah Isaacs Menken and the Return of Israelite Prophecy,” explores an emblematic case of these cultural and religious dynamics. Here I explore the prophetic-Jewish self-invention of a Baptist-born woman who became the nation’s most celebrated and notorious stage performer of the 1860s. Drawing on discourses ranging from Reform Judaism, sentimental Protestant poetics, and Whitmanian poetic forms, Menken wrote a series of free-verse poems from the perspective of a “prophet of Israel.” These works establish a model of modern Jewish identity that will be picked up in numerous subsequent works by Jews in America.