"Essenced to language" : the margins of Isaac Rosenberg
Isaac Rosenberg was more than just a war poet, and a general failure to take this into consideration has contributed to the belated recognition of the distinctions of his work. He started writing long before the Great War and, as a working-class London Jew, he schooled himself to respond to issues of class, culture, art and poetry. It was this combination of dependency and self-sufficiency which sustains his mature work; and which gave him a sense of himself as an Anglo-Jewish poet. In order to illuminate Rosenberg, Chapter One considers the conditions ofthe Jewish community in the East End of London at the turn of the century, and examines the writer's attitudes to the Zionism in vogue at the time. Chapter Two investigates the striking echoes of Freudian psychology which feature in Rosenberg's work, and which are related to the Jewish heritage of both writers. Chapter Three investigates Rosenberg's feminine principle, suggesting that, as part of an Orphic vision of art, it fused an allegorical 'female god', with seductive females familiar from Jewish narratives, effectively combining English and Hebrew cultures. Chapter Four traces Rosenberg's working-class literary heritage, and suggests that his treatment of class differs from his Gentile contemporaries in that it parallels Freudian and Marxist perceptions, while manifesting a modem Jewish insight. Chapter Five details the role class and race played in the critical marginalising of Rosenberg; special attention is given to the 'Georgian' literary ideals of the period, against which Rosenberg reacted and which influenced his reputation and the reception of his poetry. Chapter Six focuses on Rosenberg's debts of origin, and his 'anxiety of influence', uncovering his revision of his precursors, in light of a modem urban, and Jewish perspective. The thesis concludes by examining Rosenberg's idea of language as a vehicle for mental essence, suggesting that the roots for this perception lie in the painter's mind, along with class and race associations.