Graduate Courses 2018 - 2019
Some graduate courses may be open to undergraduates with the consent of the instructor.
CMLT 34105 Letters to Zion
Autumn T 1:30-4:00 pm
Idents: CMLT 24105, JWSC 24105
This seminar centers the question: what do we mean when we describe Jewish authors and thinkers from the past as Zionist, anti-Zionist, or non-Zionist? We will approach this question by reading three correspondences: Kafka’s letters to Felice Bauer, and the correspondences between Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt and between Paul Celan and Ilana Shmueli. In each case, the question of Zionism and of Israel looms in the background of the exchange in some way. Our key question is: can we definitively determine the position of each of these letter-writers on the question of Zionism? And do we want to? Or does the form of the correspondence rather open a possibility for a more flexible, complex account of their positions, allowing us to think of them as changing and evolving, indeed as dialogic? In addition to the letters themselves, we will read other texts by these authors and about them, as well as background reading on the letter as genre and as historical document. We will also take note of the fact that these are all exchanges that cross the gender divide and ask how the question of Zionist ideology intersects with issues of gender in Jewish history.
CMLT 36210 Oedipus in Zion: The Oedipal Figure in Modern Hebrew Literature
Idents: CMLT 26210, JWSC 26210
Historians often refer to the emergence of Zionism as an "Oedipal Revolution."
Hence, the secular son's rebellion against his orthodox father is understood as the thrust that triggered the modern Jewish revolution. Alan Mintz aptly described the inter-generational rift between fathers and sons at the turn of the 20th century as a tragic yet inevitable consequence of modernity, underscoring the psychological difficulties and political dilemmas that haunted the sons who were "banished form their father's table."
This seminar will focus on the (highly androcentric) oedipal figure in literary theory and explore its prominence in modern Hebrew literature. Freud's preoccupation with the Oedipus complex at the turn of the century coincided with the emergence of a powerful oedipal narrative in modern Hebrew culture. This confluence provides a fascinating backdrop to the "invention" of the Oedipus complex. We will read a variety of literary texts which rework the oedipal figure from the late 19th century to the 1980s and beyond.
Although Freud's "invention" of the Oedipus complex transpired in a particular cultural and historical setting, it rapidly became a hermeneutic bedrock, a cross-cultural and trans-historical paradigm which illuminates texts as remote from one another as Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Kafka's "Letter to His Father." Freud first conceptualized the Oedipus complex in 1897 while he was immersed in his self-analysis and he continued to redefine its modalities throughout his career. Consequent developments in psychoanalysis – and in critical theory at large – attempted to account for the centrality of the oedipal figure, ascribing it to the social decline of the paternal imago.
Various theoretical formulations of the Oedipus complex will be discussed alongside literary works which implicitly theorize the oedipal question. Why is this figure so central in Hebrew literature and what are its political implications? What role is assigned to women in a culture which defines itself as "oedipal"? Is there a foundational similarity between the Oedipus myth and the biblical story of the binding of Isaac? And how are these competing narratives employed in Israeli culture? How did this figure evolve over the course of the 20th century and what are its political ramifications in different periods and for successive literary generations? We will lay a theoretical foundation for our discussion by reading Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, and Kafka's "Letter to his Father," with commentary by Freud, Girard, and Deleuze and Guattari. Thereafter, we will focus on a selection of Hebrew works of prose fiction which are available in English translation. Students working in Hebrew will be provided with the texts in the original.
CMLT 38110 Queer Jewish Literature
Idents: CMLT 28110, JWSC 28110
Spanning medieval Hebrew to contemporary Yiddish, this course will explore the intersections of Jewish literature and queer theory, homophobia and antisemitism. While centered on literary studies, the syllabus will also include film, visual art, and music. Literary authors will include Bashevis Singer, Qalonymus ben Qalonymus, Irena Klepfisz, and others. Theorists will include Eve Sedgwick, Zohar Weiman-Kelman, Sander Gilman, and others. Readings will be in English translation.
HIJD 32703 Major Trends in Rabbinic Religion
Ident: RLST 20665, JWSC 20152
The course will survey a number of key themes in rabbinic religiosity, such as the nature of creation, love, the purpose of commandments, philosophy and mysticism, within their late antique context. Comparison to pagan and Christian ideas on those themes will highlight common and distinct approaches.
HIJD 35500 Introduction to Kabbalah
Idents: JWSC 24650
A general introduction to the origins and development of Kabbalah, focusing on the classic period of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. We will read samples from the major texts and most important movements, including the Bahir and Isaac the Blind in Provence, the Gerona circle (Ezra, Azriel, Nachmanides), and developments in Castile, from Ibn Latif and Ibn Sahula to Abraham Abulafia and Joseph Ibn Gikatilla to Moses de Leon and the Zohar.
HIJD 40902 Reading the Bible: How and Why did Midrash develop in the Rabbinic Period (1-500 CE)
We will analyze early rabbinic methods of reading Scripture against the backdrop of Christian and pagan readings. Emphasis will be placed on non-legal commentary, aggadic midrash, which so excited late 20th century literary criticism.
REES 37027 Cinema and the Holocaust
Idents: REES 27027, JWSC 29550
The course focuses on the cinematic responses by several leading film directors from East and Central Europe to one of the central events of 20th century history -- the event known as the Holocaust. The Nazis began a cinematic documentation of WWII at its onset, positioning their cameras in places of actual atrocities. Their goal was to produce documentary footage framed by hostile propagandistic schemes; contrary to this ‘method’, the Holocaust feature films are all but a representation of the Jewish genocide produced after the actual, traumatic events of that war took place. In this class we aim at discussing the challenge of representing the Jewish genocide which has often been defined as un-representable. Because of this challenge, the Holocaust films raise questions of ethical responsibility for the cinematic production and a search for relevant artistic means with which to engage the post-traumatic representation. Therefore, among the major tropes we will analyze the voyeuristic evocation of death and suffering; a truthful representation of violence versus the purported necessity of its cinematic aesthetization; as well as the intertwined notions of chance and hope as conditions of survival versus the hagiographic representation of victims. While our main goal is to grasp the potential of cinema for deepening our understanding of the Holocaust, the course simultaneously explores the extensive and continuous cinematic production of the genre and its historical development in various European countries, to mention the impact of censorship by official ideologies in the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. All readings for the core texts are in English; they can be downloaded from Canvas.
REES 37028 David Bergelson’s Strange New World
Born in a shtetl in Kiev province in the Pale of Settlement in 1884, Bergelson began writing in Hebrew and Russian before switching to Yiddish, although his Yiddish always retained the trace of other languages. He lived through the First World War and the Russian revolution and civil war, and survived Hitler, but not Stalin, who had him executed for “nationalism” in 1952. “Yiddish” and “shtetl” may suggest a self-enclosed community of pious Jews, celebrating their rituals in an annual cycle. In Bergelson’s world, however, time is out of joint. Anachronism, belatedness, and untimeliness, both joyful and tragic, unfold as an emotional, sensory, and existential condition in the world his fiction creates and the world in which he lived. For Bergelson Yiddish is the vehicle for questions about time, history, justice, art, and bodily experience. This course provides an introduction to Bergelson’s novels and short stories, from his earliest writing to his Holocaust works.
REES 47000 Time and Memory
At the beginning of the 20th century moderns and modernists announced their break with the past and launched various artistic , philosophical, political, and social experiments that claimed to construct society and the individual anew. The machine, speed, technology, and the future were the watchwords of Futurists and other modernist groups. Revolutionary transformation on all fronts was the way forward. In the same period advances in science and technology radically changed the horizon of possibility. Yet other important artists and thinkers offered the contrasting view that the past remains alive in the present—both in individuals and in human cultures. Memory was key to the future. This seminar focuses on the second tendency by examining the work of three theorists—Henri Bergson, Walter Benjamin, Victor Shklovsky—and three literary authors—Victor Shklovsky, Virginia Woolf, and Osip Mandelshtam.