Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Religion & Culture / Religious Studies
Faculty of Arts
This dissertation analyzes approximately fifty American films that feature predominantly heterosexual interfaith/intercultural romantic, sexual or marital relations between Jewish and Gentile protagonists. It asks what political or social ideals can be illustrated by these portrayals, and how these films can be taken cumulatively to explore trends in modern life. The author places liberalism at the heart of the mainstream Hollywood discourse on intermarriage, and shows how films that run counter to the expectations of liberal romances may reflect communitarian critiques of liberal tenets.
The issue of intermarriage is contextualized with a discussion of the endogamous tradition in Judaism, and by an exploration of American liberalism. Tools used to read the films include genre theory, representational discourses and Thomas Wartenberg’s narrative theory of the unlikely couple in film (1999) as a mode of social critique. Main political philosophy theorists engaged include Michael Walzer and Charles Taylor. Some of the key films explored are Keeping the Faith (2000), the 1927 and 1980 versions of The Jazz Singer, and Crossing Delancey (1988).
This dissertation does not argue that these films are made with explicitly liberal or communitarian goals, but that they are evocative of the efforts of Americans to contend with modern issues. While close reading of the films themselves was the main goal and method of the work, the author makes suggestions for ways in which future work can examine the impact of these films on the Jewish community, especially in terms of gender relations.
Drawing on scholarship of the Jewish image in film, this work builds on previous knowledge in the fields of Jewish cultural studies and film studies by giving extensive attention to the intimate relations between Jews and Gentiles. By addressing not only the Hollywood “happy ending” but also the negative outcomes, this work advances new ways of seeing resistance to universalizing tendencies in romance and a critique of the historically dominant liberal ideology in American film.
Pearse, Holly A., "But Where Will They Build Their Nest? Liberalism and Communitarian Resistance in American Cinematic Portrayals of Jewish-Gentile Romances" (2010). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1103.