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Distinguished Barnard College Professor Will Discuss “British Israelism” Nov. 21

For release: November 12, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Dr. Achsah Guibbory
Dr. Achsah Guibbory

Dr. Achsah Guibbory, the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English at Barnard College, will present “British Israelism: Three Centuries of a Forgotten History” at the next University of Memphis Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities lecture. She will speak Thursday, Nov. 21, in the Fogelman Executive Center, room 136. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lecture at 6 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the adjacent Fogelman Executive Center garage on Innovation Drive.

Guibbory offers her explanation of how over the course of three centuries, England came to see itself as a new “Israel,” God’s elect nation ­– a notion that spread across Britain, Palestine and America.  This idea emerged in the 17th century and flourished in the years between the World Wars. According to Guibbory, the Hebrew Bible, with its narratives on Israel, was used to construct England’s national identity. Initially the notion of England as God’s elect nation was contested by the more radical religious sects, such as the Quakers, who resisted identifying God’s people with any nation. Despite this resistance, British Israelism traveled to New England in the 17th century and developed into a full-fledged ideology in 19th century Britain. With this premise, British missionaries diligently worked to convert Jews not just in England, but across Europe, Palestine and the entire Middle East.

At Barnard, Guibbory specializes in teaching courses on Milton, Donne, 17th century literature and nation formation, Christian/Jewish relations, and religious identities in the early modern period.   In addition to her work on British Israelism, Christian Identity, Jews, and Israel in Seventeenth-Century England, her other publications include Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton and The Cambridge Companion to John Donne. She also has authored numerous journal articles and contributed book chapters on 17th century literature and culture.

Guibbory’s talk is this year’s Naseeb Shaheen Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the University of Memphis Department of English. Her appearance also is made possible by University Public Service funding.

For more information on this event or the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities, visit www.memphis.edu/moch or email moch@memphis.edu

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Last Updated: 11/12/13