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Judaic Civilization 2013-2014

Two sequences of Judaic Civilization will be offered for 2013-2014: Jewish History and Society and Jewish Thought and Literature.  Both sequences meet the general education requirement in civilization studies; taking the courses in sequence is not required.


Jewish History and Society I-II-II

Students explore the role of “place” in the construction of identity, whether as a centering force or an oppositional one, as communities consolidate, disband, migrate, and encounter others. Courses focus on the constructions of place in the ancient kingdom of Judea, in the recent Jewish diasporas of East Central Europe and America, and in the modern state of Israel. Students engage a wide range of sources: ancient and modern, verbal and visual, literary and historical.

JWSC 20001 (= NEHC 20401/30401, HIST 22113, CRES 20001, RLST 20604, BIBL 31400). 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.

JWSC 20002 (= HIST 22406, NEHC 20402/30402, CRES 20002). 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.

JWSC 20003 (= NEHC 20403/30403, SLAV 27001/37001, POLI 27001/37001). Jewish History and Society III. Narratives of Assimilation. Engaging the concept of liminality—of a community at the threshold of radical transformation—the course analyzes how East Central European Jewry, facing economic uncertainties and dangers of modern anti-Semitism, seeks another diasporic space in America. Projected against the historical backdrop of the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, the immigration narratives are viewed through the lens of assimilation, its trials and failures; in particular, we investigate how the creative self reacts to the challenges of radical otherness, such as the new environment, its cultural codes and language barriers. In particular, we discuss the manifold strategies of artistic (self)-representations of the Jewish writers, many of whom came from East Central European shtetls to be confronted with assimilation to the American metropolitan space and life style. During this course, we inquire how the condition called assimilation and its attendants– secularization, acculturation, cosmopolitanism, etc.—is adapted or resisted according to the generational differences, a given historical moment or inherited strategies of survival and adaptation. We seek answers to the perennial question why some émigré writers react negatively to the social, moral and cultural values of the host country and others seize them as a creative opportunity. Students are acquainted with problems of cultural and linguistic isolation, hybrid identity formation and cultural transmission through a wide array of artistic genres—a novel, short story, memoir, painting, and illustration. Selected readings from Zygmunt Bauman, Benjamin Harshav, and Ryszard Nycz will provide students with the fundamentals of assimilation theory. The course draws on the autobiographical writings of Russian-Jewish, Polish-Jewish and American-Jewish authors such as Sholem Aleichem, Anzia Yezierska, Isaac B. Singer, Eva Hoffman and others; all texts are read in English. B. Shallcross. Spring.


Jewish Thought and Literature I-II-III

Students in this sequence explore Jewish thought and literature from ancient times until the modern era through a close reading of original sources. A wide variety of works is discussed, including the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and texts representative of rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewish philosophy, and modern Jewish culture in its diverse manifestations. Texts in English.

JWSC 20004 (= BIBL 31000, RLST 11005, NEHC 20404). 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.

JWSC 20005 (= NEHC 20405/30405). 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.

JWSC 20006. Jewish Thought and Literature III: The Jewish Interpretation of the Bible in the Middle Ages. J. Robinson. Spring.