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1492: The Poetics of Diaspora

Date

2001

Authors

Docker, John

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Continuum Publishing Company

Abstract

An ambitious and wide-ranging book by a well-known author that ranges from discussions of literary texts to an examination of Genesis, Mediterranean cookery, The Thousand and One Nights, Zionism and Anti-Zionism, Jewish mysticism and English Romanticism.1492 takes as a premise the 'lost world' of a shared Indian, Arab and Jewish culture which was destroyed in the early modern period by the expansion of Europe. For Docker, as for Salman Rushdie in The Moor's Last Sigh, the crucial event of 1492 was not the discovery of the Americas but the almost simultaneous final defeat of Moorish Spain in the fall of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews of Spain. Besides destroying the great Islamic-Judaic culture in Spain, it marked the beginning of nationalisms based on race, religion and language. Like the Crusades, it created a notion of Europe in opposition to a previous Mediterranean civilization and one of its direct results was the Spanish inquisition. 1492 was also the beginning of several diasporas and, in the course of examining several 19th-and 20th-century works that deal with the 'Wandering Jew' (Ivanhoe, Ulysses), the author goes on to look at a number of literary texts as a vehicle for speculating about various consequences and complications for cultural and intellectual history which followed from this 'lost ideal.

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