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Ben Hur

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Edward Blum

on 26 February 2013

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Transcript of Ben Hur

Troubled Jewishness Haunted Whiteness Historical Backdrops
Ultimate Meaning "Wherever on the land men go, and on the sea ships, the face and figure of the Jew are familiar. The physical type of the race has always been the same." (38)
"The spirit of the Jew, hardened though it was by days and nights of suffering, and so embittered by wrong that its dreams of revenge took in all the world, melted under the stranger's look,"
"Art thou a Jew?" ... "I am that, and better, I am a disciple of the Christ" Doubted Manliness "slender, even delicate"
"lashes of great length sometimes seen on children, but seldom, if ever, on men."
"the tearful woman-like face of the Christ"
"He owns nothing, and envies nobody his owning."
"this unmartial figure" Slave narrative in a post emancipation society
Post Civil War nation, but still violent
Massive popularity of Moody and Sankey revivals
Emergence of industrial and consumer capitalisms
Growth of international travel
Uncertainty as to place of Jews vis-a-vis America and Christianity
Ultimately, Ben-Hur shows that even when presented as "white," Jesus could be a destabilizing force in American culture. His geography, ethnicity, words, deeds, and what was done to him did not align with what we call "white supremacy."

The face:
"looking up, he saw a face he never forgot"

A white Jesus:
"The head ... was draped with hair long and slightly waved, and parted in the middle, and auburn in tint, with a tendency to reddish-golden where most strongly touched by the sun. Under a broad, low forehead, under black well-arched brows, beamed eyes dark-blue and large"

A haunting stranger:
"Who is this man? And what? Messiah or king? Never was apparition more unroyal."
"the head and face of the man ... were the real sources of the spell they caught in common with all who stood looking at him."
"The skin, where it could be seen, was ghastly white." "Studying the Face
of the Stranger" Uncle Tom's Cabin, illustrated edition “There is absolutely nothing to determine the personal appearance of Jesus. … to his form, his height, the character of his face, or of any single feature of it, there is not the slightest allusion.” - Henry Ward Beecher, The Life of Jesus, the Christ (1871) A Tale of the Haunted Whiteness, Doubted Manliness, and Troubled Jewishness of Ben-Hur's Christ

Edward J. Blum
San Diego State University
@edwardjblum Madison Grant Emil Hirsch
Full transcript