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Graduate Courses 2013 – 2014

Some graduate courses may be open to undergraduates with the consent of the instructor.

Beginning- and intermediate-level language courses in Aramaic, classical and modern Hebrew, and Yiddish are listed under Undergraduate Courses but can be taken for graduate credit.

Divinity School courses will be updated once they are available.

Please click here for an archive of past courses.

Click here to be re-directed to the Graduate Course Listings.

BIBL 31000. Jewish Thought and Literature I: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a complex anthology of disparate texts and reflects a diversity of religious, political, and historical perspectives from ancient Israel, Judah, and Yehud. Because this collection of texts continues to play an important role in modern religions, new meanings are often imposed upon it. In this course, we will attempt to read biblical texts apart from modern preconceptions about them. We will also contextualize their ideas and goals through comparison with texts from ancient Mesopotamia, Syro-Palestine, and Egypt. Such comparisons will demonstrate that the Hebrew Bible is fully part of the cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East. To accomplish these goals, we will read a significant portion of the Hebrew Bible in English, along with representative selections from secondary literature. We will also spend some time thinking about the nature of biblical interpretation. J. Stackert. Autumn.

BIBL 31400 (= NEHC 30401). Jewish History and Society I. Ancient Jerusalem. The course will survey biblical, archaeological, and other early sources, as well as scholarly literature, to trace a history of ancient Jerusalem and to probe the religious significance of the city, its king, the temple that stood there, the activities that took place in and around it, and ideas that developed about it. Along the way, the course will model the modern, academic study of biblical literature, of the history and society of ancient Israel and Judea, and of religion. S. Chavel. Autumn.

BIBL 46502. The Deuteronomic Source PQ: First-year Hebrew. This course is an exegetical study of selected texts from the pentateuchal Deuteronomic source (Deut 1:1-32:47) (in Hebrew). We will focus on the setting of this text within the larger pentateuchal plot, its legal revision, its historical context, and the purpose of its authors against their source texts. J. Stackert. Spring.

BIBL 44608. The Book of Hosea. PQ: 1 yr. biblical Hebrew. Readings in the book of Hosea.  Analysis will focus on textual interpretation, features of biblical prophetic literature, characteristics of the prophet Hosea, and his religious, political and social message in the historical context of eight century BCE Israel. S. Chavel. Autumn.

BIBL 47901. Job and Theology: Between Biblical Hermeneutics and Philosophical Theology (= THEO 47901, HIJD 47901).  A close study of the theology of the book of Job, with an emphasis on religious phenomenology; tradition and the crisis of tradition; the idea of the question; and theological (re)constructions. The Hebrew text will be referred to and examined, but English translations used; knowledge of Hebrew not a prerequisite. M. Fishbane. Autumn.

BIBL 54700. Critical Methods in the Study of the Hebrew Bible. PQ: BIBL 31000; good knowledge of biblical Hebrew. This course will consider the development and application of the various critical methods employed for biblical studies (textual criticism, source criticism, form criticism, tradition history, redaction history, new literary criticism, etc.). Each student’s study will culminate in a commentary-style treatment of a text chosen from the book of Exodus. J. Stackert. Autumn.

BIBL 55100. Hebrew Bible Colloquium. PQ: Contact Instructor for Approval. This course is for advanced students and will focus on writing research papers. S. Chavel. Winter.

BIBL 55800. Novellas in the Hebrew Bible. PQ:  1 year Biblical Hebrew. This course will introduce narratology and then treat Jonah, Ruth, and Esther. S. Chavel. Winter.

HCHR 42203 (=HIST 42203). Kings, Culture, and the Three Religions of Medieval Spain. This course will approach the artistic, scientific, literary, political and religious projects of the Christian monarchs Alfonso X “the Wise” (King of Castile from 1252-1284) and James “the Conqueror” (King of Aragon from 1213-1276). It will focus on the inter-religious context of these projects, and ask how their cultural dynamics were shaped by the interaction of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities living under their rule. D. Nirenberg. Autumn.

HEBR 30501-30502-30503. Advanced Modern Hebrew I-II-III. PQ: HEBR 20503 or equivalent. This course assumes that students have full mastery of the grammatical and lexical content of the intermediate level. The main objective is literary fluency. The texts used in this course include both academic prose, as well as literature. Students are exposed to semantics and morphology in addition to advanced grammar. A. Finkelstein. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

HEBR 30601 (= LGLN 33001). Advanced Readings in Modern Hebrew. PQ: HEBR 20503 or equivalent. Although this course assumes that students have full mastery of the grammatical and lexical content at the intermediate level, there is a shift from a reliance on the cognitive approach to an emphasis on the expansion of various grammatical and vocabulary-related subjects. After being introduced to sophisticated and more complex syntactic constructions, students learn how to transform simple sentences into more complicated ones. The exercises address the creative efforts of students, and the reading segments are longer and more challenging in both style and content. The language of the texts reflects the literary written medium rather than the more informal spoken style, which often dominates the introductory and intermediate texts. N. Rokem. Winter.

HIJD 30402. (= THEO 30402, RLIT 30402) The Poetics of Midrash. An introduction to the modern literary study of classical rabbinic Midrash; its styles and genres.  Particular attention will be given to issues of hermeneutics and theology. M. Fishbane. Spring.

HIJD 30704 (=RLIT 30704,THEO 30704). Jewish Liturgical Poetry. PQ: Knowledge of Hebrew desired but not required (translations will be provided). An introduction to Piyyut (liturgical poetry) in Jewish antiquity. The course will emphasize the great liturgist and poet Yannai, who flourished in the early Byzantine period. Emphasis will be on the stylistic forms and position of the prayer-poems; transformations of Scripture and Midrash; modes of textuality and intertextuality; and types of theology and pedagogy. Overall, the emergent sense of Tradition will be explored. At the end, attention will be given to the Greek hymns of Romanos and the Syriac hymns of Ephrem. M. Fishbane. Autumn.

HIJD 35200 (= PHIL 35110). Maimonides and Hume on Religion. This course will study in alternation chapters from Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed and David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, two major philosophical works whose literary forms are at least as important as their contents. Topics will include human knowledge of the existence and nature of God, anthropomorphism and idolatry, religious language, and the problem of evil. Time permitting, we shall also read other short works by these two authors on related themes. J. Stern. Autumn.

HIJD 42201. The Study of Modern Jewish Thought: Theory and Method. This survey course will proceed according to two thematic vectors: methodological and historical. Our review of some of the more salient methodological and theoretical issues in the study of ideas, in general, and religion, in particular, will be exemplified by an examination of the principal problems in modern Jewish religious thought (viz., revelation, mitzvoth, election, feminism, and Messianism). P. Mendes-Flohr. Autumn.

HIJD 42600. Spinoza and Mendelssohn. A systematic textual and contextual analysis of Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise and Mendellssohn, Jerusalem. Particular attention will be given to their contrasting conceptions of political theology and its relationshiop to Judaism as a distinctive form of religious worship. P. Mendes-Flohr. Winter.

HIJD 44603. (=ISLM 44603) The Bible in Arabic. J. Robinson. Winter.

HIJD 45202. (= THEO 45202, RLIT 45202) The Citation in Jewish Religious Culture. A phenomenological and textual inquiry into the types, role, and significance of quotations and citations in key genres of Jewish literature: primarily Hebrew Bible; Midrash and Talmud; Liturgical Poetry; Maimonides.  At the end, we shall look at some embedded citations in a modern Hebrew poet (Bialik). M. Fishbane. Spring.

HIJD 46100. Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption – Part 1. The course will be given in two consecutive quarters. The fall quarter will be devoted to Book One of Rosenzweig’s principal work of philosophical theology (a term he rejected), The Star of Redemption. Our reading of Part One will be supplemented by several shorter essays and works by Rosenzweig, e.g.,  “Aesthetic Theology,” the so-called “Urzelle,” “The New Thinking,” Understanding the Sick and Healthy, and select correspondence. P. Mendes-Flohr. Autumn.

HIJD 46200. Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption – Part 2. Part 1 was largely devoted to Rosenzweig’s critique of the Western philosophical tradition and an analysis of his doctrine of “speech thinking.” This part will focus on Books Two and Three of The Star of Redemption, in which he systematically revalorizes foundational concepts of theistic theology, starting with divine miracle and moving on to creation, revelation, and redemption. Our reading of Book Three will highlight his conception of Judaism and Christianity as liturgical communities that are bonded by a dialectical tension engendered by their contrasting but complementary relationship to redemption. Our reading of the Star will be supplemented by his theological disputatio with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Judaism Despite Christianity, and his theological reflections on the poetry of the medieval Spanish Hebrew bard Judah ha-Levy. P. Mendes-Flohr. Winter.

HIJD 51600. (=ISLM 51600) Maimonides on the Problem of Evil. J. Robinson. Winter

HIJD 51500 (=ISLM 51500) Maimonides as Mystic. PQ:  Good knowledge of Arabic or Hebrew.  J. Robinson. Spring.

HIST 33312. Jews in the Diaspora since 1945. This lecture course surveys the main features of the social and political history of the Jews in the Diaspora from 1945 to the present. Among the topics discussed will be: demographic change and migration; the long-term impact of the Shoah; Israel-Diaspora relations; the dissolution of the Jewish communities of the Muslim world; Soviet Jewry; and evolving Christian attitudes towards Jews. B. Wasserstein. Autumn.

HIST 33509 (= GRMN 33514). The Jews of Central and East/Central Europe during the Interwar Period. The course intends to lay the foundations for understanding the historical constellation of the Jews in Central and East-Central Europe in the inter-war period, 1919-1939. First, we consider the structural transformation from empires into nation-states as the backdrop of World War I and its aftershocks, especially the pogroms and anti-Jewish violence that accompanied the rise of ethnic nationalism in newly established nations-states. Next, we concentrate on the year 1919 and the Paris Peace Conference, with the minority-treaties as the “Jewish” theme. Finally, we focus on the dissolution of the political order, using the framework of the League of Nations and its repercussions on Jewish life in the region. The course focus will be to gain knowledge and historical awareness concerning Central and East-Central Jewish life; the course will also consider questions of methodology and theory of Jewish history in the modern age. D. Diner. Spring.

HIST 35902 (= INRE 36000, NEHC 30996). History of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. This lecture course traces the development of the Arab-Israeli conflict from its nineteenth-century origins to the present day. It examines the social and ideological roots of Zionism and Palestinian Arab nationalism, the growth of Arab-Jewish hostility in Palestine during the late Ottoman and British mandate periods, the involvement of the Arab states and the great powers, the series of Arab-Israeli wars, the two intifadas, and the efforts towards negotiated agreements between Israel and the Arab states and between Israel and the Palestinians. B. Wasserstein. Autumn. O. Bashkin. Winter.

HIST 56101 (= GRMN 46114). The Second World War Revisited –  A Jewish Perspective. The course will approach World War II with a specific “Jewish Question,” so to speak. What historical, strategic, and military factors caused the fates of the Jews of Europe and the Mandatory Palestine to differ? In order to understand this and similar questions, a new view of the war and its prehistory is required. This course will consider French and British intentions in and reactions to developments in East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East since 1919, and the entanglement of these developments with those on the European continent. The course will focus on imperial, continental, colonial, and Jewish history, and how these relate to the question of inquiry. D. Diner. Spring.

ISLM 41600. Blood Libel: Norwich to Riyadh. PQ: Willingness to work on a text from one of the following languages–Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Arabic, Modern Greek, or Turkish–at whatever level of proficiency one has attained. This course examines the Blood-Libel from the thirteenth-century to the present,  with special focus upon the Damascus Affair of 1840 and its repercussions in the modern Middle Eastern and European contexts and in polemics today among Muslims, Christians and Jews.  We will review cases and especially upon literary and artistic representations of ritual murder and sacrificial consumption alleged to have been carried out by Waldensians, Fraticelli, witches, and Jews, with special attention to the forms of redemptive, demonic, and symbolic logic that developed over the course of the centuries and culminated in the wake of the Damascus Affair.  Each participant will be asked to translate and annotate a sample primary text, ideally one that has not yet been translated into English, and to use that work as well in connection with a final paper. M. Sells. Autumn

MAPS 35148 (= ANTH 35148, NELC 35148, CMES 35148). Israel in Film and Ethnography. PQ: Limited to third or fourth year undergraduate students and graduate students. Combining weekly screenings of both Israeli fiction and documentary films with readings from ethnographic and other relevant research, this seminar will explore the dynamics of ethnic and religious diversity in modern Israeli society. Some of the (often overlapping) topics to be covered in this examination of the institutional and ideological construction of Israeli identity/ies: the absorption of immigrants; ethnic, class, and religious tensions; the kibbutz; military experience; the Holocaust and other traumas; evolving attitudes about gender and sexuality; and the struggle for minorities’ rights. M. Fred. Winter.

NEHC 30402. Jewish History and Society II. Israel Society and Jewish Cultures - Religiosity, Nation, Migration. The class will discuss the connections between Israeli history and Jewish history. We will explore the history of the state since its establishment, its intellectual elites, their cultural production, as well as the protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins organized by Israeli Jews in Israel during the years 1948-2012. The class will reflect on tensions between Israelis of different origins, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi and Ethiopian communities in particular, and will discuss whether the arrival of various communities of Jews to Israel signified a liberating exodus from an oppressive  exile; we will therefore consider different periodizations of Israeli history in which the moment of arrival to Israel of various migrants/’olim (like Holocaust survivors, Mizrahi Jews, and others) marked the beginning of a difficult journey, aimed at achieving social mobility and citizenship rights in the Jewish state. We will also look at conflicts based on religion, especially the encounters between Haredi, national-religious and secular Jews in Israel. Finally, we will explore Israel’s relations with its Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian subjects in the occupied West Bank. The class will consider instances of politicized violence in Israel, and reflect on the ways in which their analysis could inform our thinking about social identities, nationalism, and religiosity. We will try to read against, and beyond, national Zionist narratives; unpack many national silences regarding the social and economic tensions embodied in these events, and study their implications with respect to visions of pluralism, binationalism, integration, and nationalism in Israel. O. Bashkin. Winter.

NEHC 30403 (= SLAV 37001, POLI 37001). Jewish History and Society III. Narratives of Assimilation. This course offers a survey of the manifold artistic strategies of (self-)representations of Jewish writers from East Central Europe from the perspective of assimilation, its trials, successes, and failures. During this course, we will inquire how the condition called assimilation and its attendants—secularization, acculturation, trans-nationalism, etc.—have been explored by Mary Antin, Anzia Yezierska, Adolf Rudnicki, Eva Hoffman, and others. Students will be acquainted with problems of cultural alienation and linguistic isolation, hybrid identity, and cultural transmission in conjunction with theoretical approaches by Zygmunt Bauman, Benjamin Harshav, Ryszard Nycz. All texts will be read in English. B. Shallcross. Spring.

NEHC 30405. Jewish Thought and Literature II: The Bible and Archaeology.  In this course we will look at how interpretation of evidence unearthed by archaeologists contributes to a historical-critical reading of the Bible, and vice versa. We will focus on the cultural background of the biblical narratives, from the stories of Creation and Flood to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans in the year 70. No prior coursework in archaeology or biblical studies is required, although it will be helpful for students to have taken JWSC 20004 (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible) in the Autumn quarter D. Schloen. Winter.

NEHC 30411-30412-30413. Medieval Jewish History I-II-III. PQ: Consent of the instructor. This three-quarter sequence deals with the history of the Jews over a wide geographical and historical range. First-quarter work is concerned with the rise of early rabbinic Judaism and development of the Jewish communities in Palestine and the Eastern and Western diasporas during the first several centuries CE. Topics include the legal status of the Jews in the Roman world, the rise of rabbinic Judaism, the rabbinic literature of Palestine in that context, the spread of rabbinic Judaism, the rise and decline of competing centers of Jewish hegemony, the introduction of Hebrew language and culture beyond the confines of their original home, and the impact of the birth of Islam on the political and cultural status of the Jews. An attempt is made to evaluate the main characteristics of Jewish belief and social concepts in the formative periods of Judaism as it developed beyond its original geographical boundaries. Second-quarter work is concerned with the Jews under Islam, both in Eastern and Western Caliphates. Third-quarter work is concerned with the Jews of Western Europe from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries. This sequence does not meet the general education requirement in civilization studies. N. Golb. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

PHIL 35112 (= DVPR 35112, HIJD 35112). Philosophy, Talmudic Culture, and Religious Experience: Soloveitchik. Joseph Soloveitchik was one of the most important philosophers of religion of the twentieth-century.  Firmly rooted in the tradition of Biblical and Talmudic texts and culture, Soloveitchik elaborated a phenomenology of Jewish self-consciousness and religious experience that has significant implications for the philosophy of religion more generally.  This course will consist of a study of some of his major books and essays.  Topics to be covered may include the nature of Halakhic man and Soloveitchik’s philosophical anthropology, the problem of faith in the modern world, questions of suffering, finitude and human emotions, the nature of prayer, the idea of cleaving to God.  Soloveitchik will be studied both from within the Jewish tradition and in the context of the classical questions of the philosophy of religion.  Some previous familiarity with his thought is recommended. A. Davidson. Winter.

PHIL 56802. Spinozistic Metaphysics. This seminar will focus on Spinoza’s and subsequent Spinozistic metaphysics, and in particular on substance monism. We will examine the arguments that lead to such a position, its implications, as well as objections and alternatives to it. A. Schechtman. Winter.

RLIT 39802 (= NEHC 39802). The Works of S.Y. Agnon. PQ: Reading knowledge of Hebrew is recommendable but is not required. Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1887-1970) is considered the leading Hebrew prose writer of the 20th century. The recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, he was born in Eastern Galicia, immigrated to Ottoman Palestine at a very young age (1908), then spent more than a decade in Germany, and finally resettled in Palestine and made Jerusalem his home (1924). Agnon’s writings are deeply rooted in the East European Jewish world of his birth, the focus of his fiction moving from description of traditional early 19th century society, to the more secular world at the turn of the century, up to the political, economic and moral collapse of Polish Jewry in the post WWI period. At the same time Agnon was skilled in representing the trials and tribulations to which he and his generation were exposed to in the Land of Israel. His major novel “Temol Shishom” is still considered the ultimate Zionist literary work. Highly erudite in traditional Jewish sources, much of Agnon’s work is shaped by the impact of these texts (Bible, Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah, Hasidism etc.), creating  strong inter-textual relations between the old and the new. Indeed, more than any other Hebrew writer of his time, Agnon is positioned at the intersection between past and present, tradition and modernity.  Notwithstanding their unquestionable Jewish character, his novels and stories are of universal value and considered part of the literary “canon” of modern European literature. The aim of this course is to introduce Agnon to graduate (and, with permission, advanced undergraduate) students. Although the ability to read the works in the original Hebrew is not a prerequisite, those who can will be strongly encouraged to do so. However, English translations of his stories and novels as well as secondary literature in English will be included in the course readings with the intention to make Agnon’s writings more accessible. D. Laor. Spring

RLIT 40201. Levinas and Derrida on Religion and Literature.
PQ: Reading knowledge of French is recommended. This course will examine Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida’s respective treatments of literature with attention to the connections between their conceptions of literature and their early studies of Husserlian phenomenology. It will consider the ways in which their readings of literature relate to their positions on religious discourse and philosophical discourse, considering in particular the role of Judaism for each. Its broader task will be to analyze literature’s role in the translation of religious concepts into philosophical discourse more generally. S. Hammerschlag. Autumn.

RLIT 43300. (= ISLM 43300, CMLT 40200) Comparative Mystical Literature: Islamic, Jewish and Christian. PQ: Willingness to work in one of the languages:  Arabic, Latin, Greek, French, German Hebrew, Aramaic or Spanish. This course will examine Islamic, Christian, and Jewish mystical literature, with one third of the class devoted to each of the three traditions. Our focus will be upon writings from the late 12th to early 14th centuries CE by Ibn al- ̀Arabi, Meister Eckhart, Hadewijch, Marguerite Porete, and Moses de Leon (by attribution). We will also look at some selections from other writings, including Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Class format centers upon close readings of specific primary texts. M. Sells. Winter

RLIT 44302 (= NEHC 44302). The Representation of the Holocaust in Hebrew/Israeli Literature. From the early 1940s to this very day, the mass murder of the Jews in Europe during WW11 has been a major theme in Hebrew/Israeli fiction, poetry and drama.  The many gifted individuals who have contributed to Israeli “Holocaust literature” come from different backgrounds.  Some are survivors (e.g., K. Zetnik, Aharon Appelfeld, Dan Pagis).  Others are natives of East Europe who happened to spend the War years far away from counties under Nazi occupation (e.g., Nathan Alterman, U.Z. Greenberg).  And then there are the native Israeli authors (e.g., Haim Gury, Yoram Kaniuk) who became engaged in the subject only after the war, largely in the aftermath of the Eichmann trial.  Since the 1980’s much of this literature, which is alive to this very day, has been largely produced by writers of the post-Holocaust generation (Yehoshua Sobol, Nava Semel and David Grossman). The aim of this course is to draw a broad picture of this literary-cultural phenomenon, based on selected reading of novels, short stories, poems and plays, all available in English translation.  Literary texts will be studied in the context of the complex attitude of Israeli society towards the Holocaust and in relation to the ideological and political debates in which it has been involved, both during World War 11 and after. Constant reference will be made to films, stage productions, television programs and other media of representation, related, directly and indirectly, to the literary texts. D. Laor. Spring.

RUSS 26207/36207 The Transnational Subject: Jewish Writers and Russian Literature. This  course considers the experience of Jewish national subjectivity under conditions of Russian and Soviet empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While attentive to practices of physical marginalization and assimilation (the Pale of Settlement, Birobidzhan), we will focus mainly on the literary record in works by Dostoevsky, Solovyov, Kovner, Babel, An-sky, Bagritsky, Grossman, Ehrenburg, and Brodsky. The syllabus also includes works in theatre, painting and film, as well as important critical texts on subjectivity and post-colonial theory. W. Nickell. Spring.

YDDH 39800 Reading Yiddish for Research. Students must consult with the instructor the the eighth week of the preceding quarter to determine the subject of the course and the work to be done. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course form. S. Yudkoff. Winter.