Literary London Reading Group

19 March 2013, 18:00 - 19:30

Event Type:
Room 234 (Senate House)
Venue Details:

Senate House 
Malet Street 
London WC1E 7HU


Nadia Valman (Queen Mary): 'Israel Zangwill’s Whitechapel'

Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People, Israel Zangwill’s sprawling fictional ethnography of Jewish immigrant life in late-nineteenth-century Whitechapel, was first published in 1892 to great critical and commercial success. Blasting into increasingly politicised public debate about immigration, it gave voice for the first time to Jewish perceptions of living in London’s East End. Through the representation of a diverse and fractured community, Zangwill made questions of modern Jewish identity a weighty, engaging literary subject. Less noticed, however are the ways that in Children of the Ghetto Zangwill rooted the immigrant experience in the environment of the East End itself. The novel’s story is told as much through its locations as its plots, the East End settings of buildings and streets where the particularities of immigrant collective life come into especially sharp focus.

Reading: Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto, Proem, Book I chapters 1, 2 and 22, Book II chapter 11.  Text available at

Nadia Valman is Senior Lecturer in English at Queen Mary, University of London. She has published widely on Anglo-Jewish literature including the monograph The Jewess in Nineteeth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge UP, 2007) and several co-edited volumes, the latest of which is Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature: A Reader (Stanford UP, 2013). She is currently researching the literature of London’s East End.