According to James Schroeter examples of Cather’s anti-Semitism (xenophobia) can be gleaned from short stories such as “The Old Beauty” (1948), hinting at Jewish vulgarity and viciousness (rather than saying it blatantly): one of the scoundrels is depicted as a banker who is “vulgar,” “repulsive,” and “foreign-looking
Fitzgerald presents Meyer Wolfshiem as a fictional representation of Arnold Rothstein 1 (The Brain): a notorious racketeer and the bigwig of the Jewish mafia. By the same token, unlike Cather, Dreiser is highly vocal regarding his stereotypic labeling, connecting “the Irishman” or “the Swede” with revoltingness and vulgarity. Jerome Loving sees Dreiser with his racist remarks denouncing liberalism and considering it futile as American society is already imperiled, being taken over by countless “types,” among which are Jews, Arabs, and blacks. What is more, he regards the Jews as the most intimidating “type,” suggesting the creation of a “separate Jewish state” instead of “their integration of other countries” (368–369). ” Along the same lines, Hutchins Hapgood’s response after getting a letter from Dreiser containing such declarations was: “if Dreiser hadn’t signed the letter, I might have thought it was written by a member of the Ku Klux Klan or a representative of Hitler” (Loving, 2005 , p. 370). Loving maintains that it is not that Dreiser hated blacks, but rather that he conceived of them as “genetically inferior […] and thus an emerging social problem” (74).
David Daiches refers to Cather’s association with William Jennings Bryan, a populist, who had a great formative impact on her political thinking as well as on many of her works, leading her to examine America’s lost glory and contemplate the ills of commercialism and industrialism (Daiches, 1951 , p. 12). One of the Populist platforms in 1892 states that the land is an American heritage and that all aliens should be disallowed to own it, and that those of them that already own land should give it back to its real owners: the settlers. Another statement demands for a further restriction of immigration to America (Gerteis Goolsby, 2003 , pp. 8–10). Similarly, John Randall connects Cather’s “anti-Semitism” with her populist stance and her adoption of the Populist movement principles (Randall, 1960 , p. 6–12). Although Cather for the longest time has been regarded as “apolitical” in her writings, Susan Rosowski argues that, on the contrary, Cather was political and that she wrote to produce social change (1990, p. 72). ” In another story, “Scandal” (1919), the character Stein is portrayed negatively as physically abhorrent, socially crude, greedy, and immoral (367). Nevertheless, James Woodress claims that calling Cather an anti-Semitic is an exaggeration, yet he admits that Cather had “a typical Midwestern bias against Jews in the aggregate.” He argues that Cather’s characters, Miletus Poppas in “The Diamond Mine” (1915), and Siegmund Stein in “Scandal” (1916) “owe[ed] something to Cather’s subconscious resentment of bourg,” the Jewish husband of her friend Isabelle (283–284). This same allegation was already voiced by Joseph Leon Edel in Willa Cather: A Critical Biography, but concerning Marsellus in The Professor’s House (Brown Edel, 1953 , p. 112). Cather might have resented bourg, although she has written to Carrie Sherwood that her relationship with Hambourg was going well and that she had “really learned to like him” (Woodress, 1987 , p. 287). However, it is an exaggeration by some critics to link Hambourg to all the Jewish figures Cather creates in her works.
3. Racism versus Xenophobia
Coskun Tastan explains that “The term xenophobia is derived from a combination of two words: The Greek word xenos (stranger) combined with the suffix-phobia (fear).” According to him xenophobia is about the “unfamiliar face” or “the unrevealed qualities” of the object whereas racism involves “the well-known, tangible face” (3). These two connected yet polarized terms will therefore be used in the discussion according to their function: unknown qualities as opposed to well-known ones and covert features versus overt ones. To elaborate this a little further, if we take the specific example of Jewishness, I might say that Meyer Wolfshiem is a Jew with obvious “known” carnal features, i.e. a big nose. Jay Gatsby and Louie Marsellus, on the other hand, have lost their obvious known Jewish features, therefore they are xenoi. In “The Uncanny” published in 1919, Freud addresses xenophobia (though he does not mention the word) in depth. He claims that the uncanny (or xenos) “tends to coincide with what excites fear [phobia] in general” not because it is strange but, on the contrary, because it is connected to something that is familiar. He links the fear of the uncanny (xenophobia) with the Oedipus complex, which arouses “fears about the eye [that] are derived from the fear of castration” (Freud, 1953 , p. 175). 2 This statement does not contradict the fact that the uncanny is xenos, because the uncanny was originally “heimlich” but useful content not anymore. Tastan explains the dichotomy entailed in the uncanny-the known by giving the example of the Jew whose features are visible (heimlich) based on historical records. However, when this Jew loses “the qualities that used to make him known” he becomes unheimlich or xenos (Tastan, 2012 , pp. 91–2).