ABSTRACT

Scholars of postwar American Jewish history have traditionally focused on highbrow texts in charting the shifting ways that “Jews,” as a category, has been defined and characterized. Including postwar middlebrow publications in our analysis offers a more comprehensive picture of the changing discursive representation of Jews during the twentieth century. Despite the fact that Gentleman's Agreement rarely receives more than a line or two of mention in scholarly accounts of postwar Jews, it is a text that ably demonstrates the power that popular novels wield in shaping cultural sensibilities. Hobson was not the only 1940s novelist to publish an anti-Semitism themed novel, and her connection to a larger body of such literature contributes to the value of Gentleman's Agreement. The novel's best-selling status (and its adaptation into an Academy Award-winning film) is what makes it exceptional among this genre. The making of Gentleman's Agreement, with all of the debate and opposition it aroused, indicated tectonic shifts within publishing circles and the wider American culture about how to treat the topic of Jews and anti-Semitism.

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