Spector, Sheila A. 1946-
SPECTOR, Sheila A. 1946-
PERSONAL: Born 1946.
Jewish Mysticism: An Annotated Bibliography of theKabbalah in English ("Garland Reference Library of Social Science" series), Garland (New York, NY), 1984.
Wonders Divine: The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Myth, Bucknell University Press (Lewisburg, PA), 2001.
Glorious Incomprehensible: The Development ofBlake's Kabbalistic Language, Bucknell University Press (Lewisburg, PA), 2001.
(Editor) British Romanticism and the Jews: History,Culture, Literature, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Sheila A. Spector's Jewish Mysticism: An Annotated Bibliography of the Kabbalah in English is a comprehensive English-language listing of published books and journal articles on the Kabbalah that provide insight into these studies from both a Jewish and a Christian perspective. The volume's six chapters, titled "General Reference Works," "Introductory Surveys," "Topics in Jewish Mysticism," "The History of the Kabbalah," "Major Scholars," and "The NonJewish Kabbalah" cover a period of four centuries. The book contains a three-part index that identifies primary materials, authors and editors, and subjects, and the fifteen-page introduction offers a history of the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
Don Karr reviewed both Wonders Divine: The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Myth, and Glorious Incomprehensible: The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Language for the Esoteric Web site. Karr noted that works on Blake's use of kabbalah are rare and called Spector's work "most welcome" in that it "offers a stage-by-stage analysis of Blake's absorption of kabbalistic concepts, showing true incorporation—as opposed to reworking, gloss, or mere affinity. As Spector presents it, kabbalistic elements and doctrine naturally correspond with the characters, concepts, and methods in Blake's writings, though, it must be admitted that, in reading Blake without benefit of Spector's guidance, these equivalences are not so obvious."
Karr wrote that, in Wonders Divine, Spector argues that "the progressive transformation of Blake's personal myth from a Miltonic to a kabbalistic orientation reflects the evolution of the basic principles upon which Blake's intentional relationship was predicated." The critic added that in Glorious Incomprehensible, Spector demonstrates "how Blake's language evolved from an original state of pre-intentionality in which he intuited some sort of relationship between language and thought, to a conscious awareness of the fact of intentionality, through a reflexive analysis of the concept underlying the material language system, and culminating, ultimately, in what amounts to an attempt to create a new language system, through which he might apprehend the 'ultimate' referent."
Spector served as editor of British Romanticism and the Jews: History, Culture, Literature, a study of the period during which Romanticism overlapped the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah. At the beginning of this period, in 1753, the Jewish Naturalization Act was passed and nearly immediately repealed; at the end, in 1858, the Jewish Emancipation Act took effect. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Kelly Grovier wrote that "it is along the intersecting planes of well-established Romantic preoccupations and less widely discussed Jewish ethnic anxieties that Sheila Spector's illuminating and well-edited collection is mapped."
In the first section, titled "Cultural Contexts," Alan H. Singer opens with a chapter that examines the rhetoric of Marine Society founder Jonas Hathaway and the anti-Semitism of Methodist minister William Romaine, who accused Jews of not only being anti-Christian, but worse, being anti-British. Mark L. Schoenfield writes of the 1810 suicide of Anglo-Jewish financier Abraham Goldsmid and of journalist William Cobett, who profited from sullying Goldsmid's ethnic identity.
Grovier wrote that the chapters of the second section, "British Romantics and the Haskalah," "are about the deliberate appropriation by British authors of religious and secular manifestations of Judaica." Christopher Moylan writes of the "bone of luz" legend referenced in Talmudic sources, and Esther Schor studies the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Grovier felt that the chapters focusing on possible anti-Semitism in the writings of Marie Edgeworth and Charles Dickens "promise to invigorate and unsettle future studies of their work."
The third section of British Romanticism and the Jews, titled "Jewish Writers and British Romanticism," begins with Michael Scrivener's study of David Levi's replies to Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley. It includes essays by Stuart Peterfreund on the writings of Isaac D'Israeli, and Judith Page on Hyman Hurwitz's translations of Hebrew tales. Both of these subjects sought balance between their ethnicity and their nationality.
Grovier named as two of the strongest contributions Elizabeth Fay's examination of the writings of Grace Aguilar and Spector's study of Benjamin Disraeli's novel Alroy, "as a fictionalized defence of his own apostasy." Grovier felt that "it is to the credit of such a fine collection that one's only real regret is that there isn't more."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
AB Bookman's Weekly, April 29, 1985, review of Jewish Mysticism: An Annotated Bibliography of the Kabbalah in English, pp. 3243-3244.
American Reference Books Annual, 1985, Susan J. Freiband, review of Jewish Mysticism, p. 484.
Choice, April, 1985, L. P. Lerman, review of JewishMysticism, p. 1147.
Times Literary Supplement, December 20, 2002, Kelly Grovier, review of British Romanticism and the Jews: History, Culture, Literature, p. 22.
Esoteric Web site,http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/ (December 1, 2003), Don Karr, reviews of Wonders Divine: The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Myth, and Glorious Incomprehensible: The Development of Blake's Kabbalistic Language.*