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Between Nationalism, Transnationalism, and Cosmopolitanism in Daniel Deronda’s Klesmer

Victoria C. Roskams

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Published Date:

January 2022


George Eliot, Cosmopolitanism, Music History, Composers, Wagnerism, Judaism


The composer Julius Klesmer in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, ‘a felicitous mix of the German, the Sclave, and the Semite’, and a self-confessed ‘Wandering Jew’, embraces a mode of transnational living and working that challenges the English narrowness of Gwendolen Harleth at the same time as it complicates the novel’s overall journey towards proto-Zionism through Mordecai and Daniel. In this paper, I show how central the figure of the composer is to the novel’s negotiation of nationalism, transnationalism, and cosmopolitanism. The novel’s musical allusions, especially comparisons to specific historical composers, strengthen Klesmer’s identity as, simultaneously, a representative of an array of Jewish musical talent and a proponent of cosmopolitanism which transcends national and racial boundaries. Moreover, Klesmer provides an intersectional counterpoint to the female Jewish musicians in the novel, exposing the allowances of the Zionist project – which I also consider in tandem with Eliot’s essay ‘The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!’.

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58 - 80

Date of Publication:

January 2022

About the author

Victoria C. Roskams

Victoria C. Roskams is a DPhil candidate at Mansfield College, University of Oxford. Her thesis considers the representation and significance of the figure of the composer in nineteenth-century Anglophone novels including George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and George du Maurier’s Trilby, with supplementary material from across Europe. The thesis traces the development of this curious literary figure from Romantic to fin-de-siècle literature. Her work is interdisciplinary, combining literary criticism with musicology, and employing an understanding of music both as an aesthetic force within the novel and as a cultural-historical context interacting with the novel’s production.

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