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Title: Disraeli and religion
Author: Kearney, Megan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis offers a new understanding of Benjamin Disraeli's religious thought. Historians remember Disraeli as a mercurial self-fashioner, who adopted various personae throughout his public life. In focusing on his eccentric self-fashioning as a political actor and novelist, many scholars have removed Disraeli from his nineteenth-century intellectual contexts in their analyses of his ideology. No full-length study of Disraeli's religious position yet exists; instead, writers have subsumed his ideas about Judaism into analyses of his strategic presentation of Jewishness, and dismissed his Christian religious practice as politically expedient. This study takes a different approach. Rather than asking whether Disraeli can be considered a Christian or a Jew, it examines the complicated religious ideas that emerge from his body of written work, and especially from his novels. Disraeli's Judeo-Christian theism was panoramically and imaginatively conceived, and therefore less invested in complex Victorian ecclesiastical politics than the religious beliefs of some of his parliamentary contemporaries. Nevertheless, his publicly-expressed ideas about faith can be comfortably situated within the dynamic religious atmosphere of nineteenth-century Britain. The main arguments are offered in Chapters 2-5, which consider salient religious themes in Disraeli's work: his inflection of the Bible in his early novels, his figurative notion of Zionism, his religious conception of chosenness, his interest in ‘Neology' and biblical criticism, the religious assumptions that undergird his language of race, and his view of England's soil and constitution as sacred. Chapter 1 provides important contexts for these discussions by outlining the manner in which Disraeli's work intervened in the religious debates of his time. Placing Disraeli's religious ideas in these contexts not only fills an important gap in Disraeli scholarship; it also addresses methodological issues in writing religious history. Twentieth-century histories focused on Disraeli's Romanticism, orientalism, racial otherness, and political ideology at the expense of his engagement with the religious testimonies and traditions of his time. This thesis therefore offers an important corrective to both Disraeli studies and Victorian historical scholarship.
Supervisor: Foot, Sarah R. I. ; Skinner, Simon A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available