Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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CAROLE S. KESSNER
From Parnassus to Mount Zion:
the Journey of Emma Lazarus
On the Centenary of Her Death
I
n
1949
t h e
Jewish Book Annual
printed an essay by Albert
Mordell celebrating the 100th birthday of Emma Lazarus.1Now,
in this same publication, we commemorate the centenary of her
death. Thirty eight years have intervened — marking the brief
span of the poet’s life. Since 1949 some half-dozen articles, (the
best of which is the chapter on Emma Lazarus in Louis Harap’s
book
The Image of theJew in American Literature
),2 two short books,
and two academic theses have appeared. But now we seem to
have arrived at a new and more serious (as well as a more
popular)3 interest in the work and life of this first American Jew­
ish woman poet, essayist, activist. Undoubtedly, the new interest
is the consequence of a concomitant centenary — that of the
Statue of Liberty. For if today there is recall of the name of Emma
Lazarus at all, it is as the poet of the last five lines of the famous
sonnet embossed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, “The
New Colossus”:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
1 Albert Mordell, “The 100th Birthday o f Emma Lazarus: July 22,
1949-November 19, 1 8 8 7
Jewish Book Annual: 1948-1949,
vol. 7, pp. 79-88.
2 Louis Harap,
The Image of theJew in American Literature: From Early Republic to
Mass Immigration
(Philadelphia, 1974), pp. 284-99. Hereinafter referred to as
Louis Harap. The most complete study to date is Dan Vogel,
Emma Lazarus,
(Boston, 1980).
3 In conjunction with the hundredth anniversary celebration of the Statue o f
Liberty, a documentary television film on the life o f Emma Lazarus is being
produced by Jane Weiner.