Abstract

This essay focuses on the consistently deployed but previously unnoticed figure of the Jew in the post–Uncle Tom’s Cabin plantation novel, whether “anti-Tom” or abolitionist in orientation. I argue that this character does complex ideological work in these novels, in particular as they stage economic tensions between the North and the South. On the one hand, the Jew as depicted in this work embodies the threat of Northern capitalism, which many in the South viewed as an overwhelmingly powerful force. On the other hand, the Jew of these novels acts as a figure for Southern ambivalence about capitalism; indeed, he was in many instances a projected form of economic envy and self-division. In this the Jew was the figure through whom the South could, however reluctantly, come to terms with the capitalist underpinnings of the Southern slave economy and thus its own inextricable relationship to the North and, indeed, the many countries involved in the global slave trade.

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