Courses Fall 2015
Great Books of the Jewish Tradition
Yaacob Dweck and Moulie Vidas
This course is intended to introduce students to the classical Jewish tradition through a close reading of portions of some of its great books, including Bible, the rabbinic midrash, the Talmud, Rashi's commentary on the Torah, Mishneh Torah, the Zohar, and the Haggadah. We will pay particular attention to the role of interpretation in forming Jewish tradition.
Jerusalem is considered a holy city to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this course, students will learn the history of Jerusalem from its founding in pre-biblical times until the present. Over the course of the semester, we will ask: What makes space sacred and how does a city become holy? What has been at stake - religiously, theologically, politically, nationally - in the many battles over Jerusalem? What is the relationship between Jerusalem as it was and Jerusalem as it was (and is) imagined?
Who Wrote the Bible
The course will introduce students to the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") in its ancient Near Eastern setting. Key concepts often associated with the Hebrew Bible, such as God, damnation, sin, and history, will be scrutinized through a careful reading of a selection of Biblical texts including the Creation and Garden of Eden narratives in Genesis, the laws of Leviticus, the prophecies of Ezekiel and the poetry of Song of Songs. Particular attention will be paid to the transformations that the texts underwent through a continuous process of transmission and interpretation.
Jews, Christians, and Conversion in the Early Islamic World NEW
This seminar examines Jews' and Christians' lives in the medieval Islamic world through the lens of religious conversion. In the seventh century, a mix of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and pagans lived in the Middle East. Four hundred years later, most of these people's descendants were Muslims. This shift changed what it meant to belong to a religious community, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We will examine this enormous historical change and its effects, focusing first on the long process of conversion to Islam after the Arab conquests, and then on the contexts of individual and mass conversions in medieval Islamic societies.
Elementary Biblical Hebrew I
Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible in the original language. During the semester, students will learn the script and the grammar, develop a working vocabulary, and read a selection of Biblical passages. The course is designed specifically and exclusively for beginners with little or no previous knowledge of the language. Students with prior experience in the language should contact the instructor about course alternatives.
Jewish Messianic Movements in the Early Modern Period NEW
Traditionally, Judaism has included an inherently redemptive quality. The Biblical Exodus serves as the supreme example of national redemption, while the Torah and later rabbinic literature speak of both national and individual redemptions. Messianism became a basic tenet of Jewish belief in the medieval period and served as a significant motivator during the early modern period. This course will explore Jewish messianism between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Themes to be discussed include: Jewish unity across political and ethnic boundaries, power dynamics of rabbis and lay leaders, and individual religious expression.
Modern Jewish History: 1750-Present
This course surveys the breadth of Jewish experience from the era of the Enlightenment to the contemporary period. Tracing the development of Jewish cultures and communities in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States against the background of general history, the lectures focus on themes such as the transformation of Jewish identity, the creation of modern Jewish politics, the impact of anti-semitism, and the founding of the State of Israel.
Stolen Years: Youth under the Nazis
This course examines the gendered experiences of childhood & adolescence under the Nazis in World War II as witnessed, remembered, and represented in texts and images through a variety of genres and different nationalities. We include historical studies, diaries, testimonies, memoirs, fiction (semi-autobiographical or otherwise), photos, and film (documentary & feature) of 1st and 2d generations. While we focus on the fate of Jewish youth, who were deliberate targets of genocidal policy, not just unintended victims, we will also attend to others in the occupied countries. In final projects, students may elect to study other theaters of war.
East-Central European Jewish Biographies NEW
On the basis of life and work of several prominent Jewish figures, the course will address history, art and politics of 20th century East-Central Europe. The reading list will include, chronologically, Franz Kafka, Rosa Luxemburg, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Michael Sebastian, Paul Celan, Marek Edelman, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Ilya Ehrenburg, Joseph Brodsky and American intellectual Susan Sontag. The classes will combine the texts of the authors themselves and about them. Hannah Arendt's texts will be running throught the first half of the semester.
Summer Seminar 2015
Exploring Universals: Ritual and Linguistic Structures
Napthali Meshel (Religion and Judaic Studies, Princeton University) and Anand Mishra (Classical Indology, Heidelberg University)
Rituals and languages are primary human accomplishments that point towards the existence of complex underlying structures. Are there universal principles that direct rituals and languages? If so, how can one comprehend or formulate them? Is there a rigorous 'Universal Grammer' common to languages and non-linguistics ritual systems?
Observe traditional rituals performed in Varanasi (Benares Hindu University, Dr. Patanjali Mishra). Analyze ancient ritual texts and current practices from Jewish and South Asian traditions. Applications welcome from students from diverse backgrounds, including: religion, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, and the social sciences. No prior knowledge of Sanskrit or Hebrew required.
For more information and application please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 5-25, 2015
Funded by the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project
Program in Judaic Studies and Program in South Asian Studies