December 17 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Published serially in the spiritualist journal Banner of Light in 1860, Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny is the first coming-of-age novel, written and published in English by an American Jewish woman, to depict Jews in the United States and transforms what we know about the history of early American Jewish literature. The novel never appeared in book form, went unmentioned in Jewish newspapers of the day, and studies of nineteenth-century American Jewish literature ignore it completely. Yet the novel anticipates many central themes of American Jewish writing: intermarriage, generational tension, family dysfunction, Jewish-Christian relations, immigration, poverty, the place of women in Jewish life, the nature of romantic love, and the tension between destiny and free will. Jonathan Sarna, who introduces the volume, discovered Cosella Wayne while pursuing research at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. This edition is supplemented with selections from Cora Wilburn’s recently rediscovered diary, which are reprinted in the appendix. Together, these materials help to situate Cosella Wayne within the life and times of one of nineteenth-century American Jewry’s least known and yet most prolific female authors.
Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, as well as Chief Historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
He is probably best known for his acclaimed American Judaism: A History, winner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award.” It has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”
He is the author or editor of more than thirty books on American Jewish history and life.