In this essay I will explore how this perceived Jewish spiritual stasis is visualized in the two earliest extant images of the Wandering Jew
, both from thirteenth-century England.
The Legend of the Wandering Jew
New York: Mentor Books, 1961.
(51) The textual sources for the legend of the Wandering Jew
date from the thirteenth century.
Although the Citizen's identification of Bloom with the wandering Jew
might seem a relic of medieval Jew-baiting, it actually conforms closely to twentieth-century anti-Semitism.
Given this association of Oregon with the inevitable progress of westward expansion, it is notable that in "A Select Party," the allegorical figure that Hawthorne imagines traversing the Oregon Trail is neither a renegade fur trader nor a missionary but rather the legendary Wandering Jew
. As folklorist Rudolf Glanz has noted, the motif of the wandering Jew
gained a popularity in the United States "altogether unmatched in its European counterpart" (106-107).
This situation and these problems, which have accompanied the new wandering Jew
for the past two centuries, are spectacularly exhibited in the life and work of Heinrich Heine.
Before long, the first wandering Jew
is on the road again, headed to Egypt in search of food.
Adolf Leschnitzer notes that whereas in most European countries the legend of the wandering Jew--the Wandering Jew
, le juif errant, Juan Espera en Dios, Ebreo errante--is traditional and well known, it was recoded early--in 1694--in German-speaking lands as the saga of the "eternal Jew." (22) The attribute "eternal" cries out for redemption: for Christianity, it embodies the refusal on the part of Jewish people to accept the coming of Jesus as the son of God.
However, the Propaganda Ministry's The Wandering Jew
, as a purported historical overview, offered a racist interpretation of Jews as rootless parasites that was characteristically Nazi.
The story of the Wandering Jew
might be a myth, but he symbolises his race - forced to flee their homes and wander from Biblical times, through all the centuries since.
In Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh depicts the esurient Anthony Blanche, modeled on Harold Acton and Brian Howard, as a mysterious creature, who, we are informed, carries with him the burden of the Wandering Jew
. More tersely, Kingsley Amis dispatches young Irving Macher as a "Hebrew jackanapes" in One Fat Englishman.
They want us to live the experience of the Wandering Jew
, detached from our reality and our history, with slogans derived from the American empire in one of its greatest phases of decline.