Graduate Courses 2018 - 2019
Some graduate courses may be open to undergraduates with the consent of the instructor.
BIBL 43804 Deuteronomy 1-4: Composition, Redaction, Textual Transmission
Spring T/Th 3:30–4:50 pm
This course will examine the complex compositional and textual history of Deuteronomy 1-4. We will consider the role these chapters play in the pentateuchal Deuteronomic source, their relationship with corresponding texts in Exodus and Numbers, and the relevance of the ancient witnesses for understanding their composition and redaction.
BIBL 46200 Prophetic Vision and Divine Visitation
Winter M 3:00–5:50 pm
Readings in literary theory, followed by a critical survey of texts of prophetic commissioning or of direct interaction with the deity, in prose and in poetry, across the Hebrew Bible.
PQ: One year of Biblical Hebrew
BIBL 54700 Critical Methods in the Study of the Hebrew Bible
Winter M 3:00–5:50 pm
This course will consider the development and application of critical methods in the study of the Hebrew Bible. We will focus especially upon the questions that each critical method is meant to address and what kinds of conclusions can plausibly be drawn from their use. We will apply these methods to texts from the book of Exodus. However, this is not a course on Exodus, and we will actually read very little of Exodus together during this quarter.
PQ: Strong biblical Hebrew; languages of ancient Bible translations also desirable
BIBL 55100 Hebrew Bible Colloquium
Winter W 3:00–5:50 pm
Students will develop together their written-argument skills by substantially improving and expanding a graded paper from a prior course in Hebrew Bible. The course will entail reading and presenting each other's work, providing together critical feedback, and new research and writing.
PQ: One graded paper from a previous course with the instructor. Consent required.
BIBL 55900 Biblical Historical Texts
Spring T/Th 9:30–10:50 am
This is a reading course in biblical texts that narrate the past. We will consider the nature of biblical historiography as we read a selection of historical texts from across the biblical canon. All biblical texts will be read in Hebrew.
PQ: One year of Biblical Hebrew.
CMLT 34105 Letters to Zion
Autumn W 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 30402 Poetics of Midrash
Autumn Th 9:30am-12:20pm
Idents: JWSC 21402, THEO 30402, RLVC 30402
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.
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 35004 Readings in Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy b. Yaqzan
James T. Robinson
Winter T 5:00 –7:50 pm
A study of Ibn Tufayl’s twelfth-century philosophical/mystical romance about a boy spontaneously generated on a desert island who achieves knowledge of God through empirical study of nature. The many themes in Hayy ibn Yaqzan will be studied in relation to the philosophical literature that formed it and in light of recent modern scholarship about it.
HIJD 35500 Introduction to Kabbalah
Autumn R 6:30–9:30 pm
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.
HIJD 45101 History and Memory in Jewish Thought
Autumn T 6:30–9:30 pm
The course will explore the relationship between culture memory and history in the religious and secular Jewish imagination. We will begin our deliberations with some reflections on the role of memory in traditional Jewish literature; consider how critical historiography and modern historical consciousness affect cultural memory; discuss Zionist reconstructions of the past; read 20th-century Jewish thinkers on the problem of “historicism”; and probing the limits of representation of traumatic history.
HIJD 45302 Franz Rosenzweig’s Shorter Theological Writings
Winter T 6:30–9:30 pm
Among Rosenzweig’s shorter writings, we will read his epistolary exchange with Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, “Judaism despite Christianity”; his programmatic essay “The New Thinking”; his satirical elaboration of his critique of philosophical idealism, Understanding the Sick and the Healthy, and his commentary on the poetry of Jehuda Halevy.
HIJD 45400 Readings in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed
James T. Robinson
Winter Th 5:00–7:50 pm
Idents RLST 21107, HREL 45401, RLVS 45400
A careful study of select passages in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, focusing on the method of the work and its major philosophical-theological themes, including: divine attributes, creation vs. eternity, prophecy, the problem of evil and divine providence, law and ethics, the final aim of human existence.
HIJD 46010 Martin Buber's Philosophy of Religion
Autumn W 4:30–7:20 pm
The course will consider Buber's extensive writings on the relation between religion and philosophy, particularly as it bears upon his conception of God and faiths.
INRE 36001 Society, Politics, and Security in Israel
Autumn T/R 3:30–4:50 pm
Idents: JWSC 28139, PBPL 28139
This course examines Israel's unique DNA through a thorough examination of its history, society, politics and security challenges. We shall explore these traits as manifested in the defining chapters of Israel's history, since the early stages of the Zionist driven immigration of Jews to the Holy Land, through the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, until present time. Students will work with primary sources, diverse theoretical perspectives, and rich historiographical material to better understand the Israeli experience, through domestic, regional and international perspectives. Particular attention will be given to the emergence of the Israeli vibrant society and functioning democracy in the background of continuous conflict and wars. The course will explore topics such as: How Israel reconciles between the imperatives and narratives of democracy and Jewishness, between collective ethos and heterogeneous tribalism, and between protracted security challenges and resilience. We will also discuss the multifaceted aspects of the changing Israeli security doctrine and practice, in light of regional threats and international involvement.
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.