Courses Spring 2015
Introduction to Jewish Culture NEW
This introductory course focuses on the cultural syncretism and the global diversity of Jewish experience. It provides a comparative understanding of Jewish culture from antiquity to the present, examining how Jewish culture has emerged through the interaction of Jews and non-Jews, engaging a wide spectrum of cultures throughout the Jewish world, and following representations of key issues such as sexuality or the existence of God in different eras. The course's interdisciplinary approach covers Bible and Talmud, Jewish mysticism, Zionism, Jewish cinema, music, food, modern literature, and graphic arts. All readings and films are in English.
Ancient Judaism from Alexander to the Rise of Islam
This course offers an introduction to the development of ancient Judaism during the eventful millennium from the establishment of the Torah as the constitution of the Jewish people in the fifth century BCE--an event that some have seen as marking the transition from biblical religion to Judaism--to the completion of the other great canonical Jewish document, the Babylonian Talmud, in perhaps the sixth century CE.
The 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.
American Jewish History
Over the past thre and a half centuries Jewish immigrants have described America both as "the promised land" and "the land of impurity." This course examines these conflicting descriptions as it explores developments in Jewish life in America from the mid seventeenth century through the late twentieth century.
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.
Religion and Law
Leora Batnitzky and Yonatan Brafman
A critical examination of the relation between concepts of "religion" and "law," as they figure in the modern state. The course will survey theoretical tools for thinking about these issues and their historical development before applying them to case studies in Europe and the Middle East. With the benefit of these comparative studies, and a new historical and philosophical insights, we will then address religion, politics and law in contemporary America.
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.
Intimate Geographies: Space and Place in Modern Hebrew and Arabic Literature
What are the meanings of space and place for people in a region where geography is overwhelmingly politicized? This course will explore the fictional and autobiographical poetics of social space as expressed in literature and film from Israel and the Arab world. Although these works focus on dramas of love and loss, friendship and the family, we will also see how political conditions influence personal and collective experiences of space. Along the way, we will gain additional insights from theoreticians who have explored the meanings of space as a place, as a condition, and as a practice. All readings are in English translation.
Scripture and Tradition among Early Rabbis and Christians
Scholars commonly define rabbinic Judaism by recourse both to the notion of "Oral Law," a received tradition, and to scriptural interpretation - midrash. The first part of the course examines these two authority paradigms, calling into question the entrenched scholarly assumption that they are complementary. Textually, our focus is the tannaitic legal commentaries ascribed to the schools of Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiva. The second part of the course examines the role of received tradition in early Christian circles, with special attention paid to the Apostolic Father Papias.
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