Courses Spring 2017
Modern Hebrew Literature
This course follows the development of modern Hebrew prose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How was Hebrew refashioned from a liturgical to a modern literary language capable of narrating novels and conveying contemporary dialogue? Who were the revolutionary writers who accomplished this feat and what ideological struggles accompanied it? We will begin with the haskala (Jewish enlightenment), continue with the tehiya (revival) and early writing in the yishuv (Jewish community in pre-State Palestine), and conclude with dor ha-medina (the "independence generation") and maturation of modern Hebrew. Reading knowledge of Hebrew required.
This course focuses on major issues raised by but also extending beyond Holocaust survivor testimony, including the communication of trauma, genres of witnessing, the ethical implications of artistic representation, conflicts between history and memory, the fate of individuality in collective upheaval, the condition of survival itself, and the crucial role played by reception in enabling and transmitting survivors' speech.
Great Books of the Jewish Tradition
Martha Himmelfarb and David Sclar
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.
Kabbalah: Concepts and History
This course surveys the major concepts and historical developments of Jewish mystical traditions in the last thousand years. We will explore both theosophical (contemplative) and ecstatic (experiential) Kabbalah, including the ideas and practices of major figures, groups, and movements.
Wise Guys: Readings in Biblical Wisdom Literature
We will read selected passages of Biblical Wisdom Literature (primarily from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). Particular attention will be paid to techniques of generating ambiguity in Wisdom Literature. The course is open to students who have completed JDS 302, as well as students with intermediate/advanced Biblical Hebrew.
Israel’s Enslavement and Exodus from Egypt: Exodus 1-15
Intensive study of the account of Israel's enslavement and Exodus from Egypt as contained in the Biblical Book of Exodus. A detailed examination of the text, language, literary form, content, theology and stages of composition, with the aim of identifying the questions posed by the Biblical text and evaluating the methods employed and the solutions proposed by commentators and critics in their attempts to answer them.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
This course will examine the history of the encounter and conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine/Israel from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries. The story is at once fascinating and tragic, the meeting of ancient peoples and cultures in a wholly new political and ideological environment. The course follows the history of the modern conflict over the Holy Land from its inception in the Late Ottoman period through the present with an eye to the evolving causes of the tensions, the numerous attempts to resolve them, and the various forces and factors that have thus far precluded a comprehensive peace.
Jewish Thought and Modernity: Spinoza to Levinas
This course examines Jewish contributions and reactions to the configuration of social, cultural, intellectual, economic, and political factors known as modernity. It explores how these factors challenged traditional Jewish life and how Judaism was variously reinterpreted to adapt and respond to them. It consists of a historical and thematic survey of modern Jewish thought, spanning from the rise of Enlightenment rationalism to the more recent existentialist and postmodern turns. In the process, it probes the nature and continuing relevance of the concept of modernity as well as interrogates the category of "Jewish" thought.