Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate Jewish Studies Courses 2017 - 2018

To go to the College Catalog, please click on this link.

Please click here for a list of past courses.

1. Jewish Civilization Courses

Since Academic Year 2015–2016, courses in Jewish Civilization are numbered JWSC 20120–20199 for ancient or medieval period courses and JWSC 20220–20299 for modern period courses. Jewish civilization courses may be taken in any order and may be used to fulfill the College’s general education requirement in civilization studies. To fulfill the general education civilization requirement, at least one course must pertain to the ancient or medieval periods (JWSC 20120–20199) and at least one course must pertain to the modern period (in the range JWSC 20220–20299).

Note: Students who have already taken one or two courses from the previous JWSC civilization studies sequences (JWSC 20001-20003 or JWSC 20004-20006) and wish to complete the civilization requirement may take an additional JWSC civilization course from the set of eligible courses, as defined above, provided that they end up having taken at least one JWSC course in the ancient or medieval period and one in the modern period, and provided that they do not take the same course twice under two different numbers.

Autumn Quarter

JWSC 20120 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
Jeffrey Stackert
T/Th 11:30 am - 12:20 pm (S106)
Ident: RLST 11004, NEHC 20504/30504, BIBL 31000
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.

JWSC 20223 Narratives of Assimilation
Bozena Shallcross
T/Th 5:00 - 6:20 pm (Cobb 106)
Ident: REES 27003, REES 37003, RLST 26623
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 North 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 why efforts of social, cultural and economic inclusion cannot be mistaken with imposing on a given minority the values of majority. One of the main points of interests is the creative self ‘s reaction to the challenges of radical otherness, such as the new environment, its cultural codes and language barriers. 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 again with economic hardship and assimilation to the American metropolitan space and life style. During this course, we inquire how the condition called assimilation and its attendants—integration, secularization, acculturation, cosmopolitanism, etc.—are adapted or resisted according to the generational differences, a given historical moment or inherited strategies of survival and adaptation. The course draws on the writings of Polish-Jewish, Russian-Jewish, and American-Jewish authors in English translation.

JWSC 20233 Jews, Palestinians, and Israel: Three Moralities, Historiographies & Roadmaps
Chaim Gans
T/Th 12:30 - 1:50 pm (Pick 506)
Ident: PLSC 28510/38510, NEHC 24800/34800
A distinction will be made between mainly three approaches to Zionism: essentialist-proprietary, constructivist-egalitarian, and critical-dismissive. This will be followed by an explication of these approaches’ implications for four issues: pre-Zionist Jewish history; institutional and territorial arrangements in Israel/Palestine concerning the relationships between Jews and the Palestinians; the relationships between Israeli Jews and world Jewry; and the implications of these approaches for the future of Israel/Palestine and the future of Judaism.

Winter Quarter

JWSC 20121 The Bible and Archaeology
David Schloen
T/Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm (OI 208)
Ident: NEHC 20121/30121, RLST 20408
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 20120 (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible).

Spring Quarter

JWSC 20224 Jewish Spaces and Places, Real and Imagined
Leora Auslander
W/F 3:00 – 4:20 pm
Ident: HIST 23410
What makes a ghetto, a ghetto? What defines a Jewish neighborhood? What determined the architectural form of synagogues? Making extensive use of Jewish law and customary practice, cookbooks, etiquette guides, prints, films, novels, maps, memoirs, architectural drawings and photographs, and tourist guides, this course will analyze how Jews (in all their diversity) and non-Jews defined Jewish spaces and places. The focus will be on Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, but we will also venture back into the early modern period and across the Mediterranean to Palestine/Israel and North Africa, and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Americas. We will study both actually existing structures—synagogues, ritual baths, schools, kosher (and kosher-style) butcher shops, bakeries and restaurants, social and political clubs, hospitals, orphanages, old age homes, museums, and memorials—but also texts and visual culture in which Jewish places and spaces are imagined or vilified. Parallel to our work with primary sources we will read in the recent, very rich, scholarly literature on this topic. This is not a survey course; we will undertake a series of intensive case-studies through which we will address the larger issues. This is a limited-enrollment, discussion-based course. No previous knowledge of Jewish history is expected.

JWSC 20234 Jewish Writers in the Russian Tradition
William Nickell
Ident: REES 26067/36067
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.

2. Other Undergraduate Courses

ANTH 25150/35150 Anthropology of Israel
Morris Fred
Ident: CMES 35150, JWSC 24149, NEHC 25147/35147, MAPS 35150
This seminar explores the dynamics of Israeli culture and society through a combination of weekly screenings of Israeli fiction and documentary films with readings from ethnographic and other relevant research. Among 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; evolving attitudes about gender and sexuality; the struggle for minorities’ rights; and Arab-Jewish relations.
PQ(s): Undergrads must be upper division (3rd and 4th years)

CMLT 29402/39402 Language is Migrant: Yiddish Poetics of the Border
Anna Elena Torres
Ident: JWSC 29402
This course examines Ashkenazi Jewish literary narratives about geopolitical borders and border-crossing though travel and migration, engaged with questions about the linguistic borders of Yiddish itself. As a diasporic language, Yiddish has long been constructed as subversively internationalist or cosmopolitan, raising questions about the relationships between language and nation, vernacularity and statelessness.  This course explores the questions: How do the diasporic elements of the language produce literary possibilities? How do the “borders” of Yiddish shape its poetics? How do Yiddish poets and novelists thematize their historical experiences of immigration and deportation? And how has Yiddish literature informed the development of other world literatures through contact and translation?  Literary and primary texts will include the work of Anna Margolin, Alexander Harkavy, Peretz Markish, Dovid Bergelson, Yankev Glatshteyn, Yosef Luden, S. An-sky, and others. Theoretical texts will include writing by Wendy Brown, Dilar Dirik, Gloria Anzaldúa, Wendy Trevino, Agamben, Arendt, Weinreich, and others. The course will incorporate Yiddish journalism and essays, in addition to poetry and prose. All material will be in English translation, and there are no prerequisites.

JWSC 25901 Joseph and His Brothers: The Biblical Accounts
Baruch Schwartz
Ident: RLST 20912, BIBL 35901
Close reading of the “Joseph Cycle” in Genesis 37–50. Detailed examination of the literary form, content, theology and composition of the Biblical text, with the aim of identifying the questions it poses and evaluating the methods employed and the solutions proposed by commentators and critics in their attempts to answer them. This course is designed for students who have some familiarity with the critical study of the Hebrew Bible (i.e., for those who have taken Introduction to the Hebrew Bible or equivalent). Knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is desirable but not required. If you have any question as to whether you qualify, please consult the instructor.

JWSC 28750 Memory Bound: Jewish Memory and the Binding of Isaac
David Gottlieb
Ident: RLST 26622
The story of the Binding of Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19) is perhaps the best known narrative in the Hebrew Bible. It may also be the least appreciated for its ongoing influence on Jewish identity and memory. We will apply social and memory theory to the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19), and its interpretations in rabbinic literature, historical chronicles, and literature, in order to better understand the ways in which foundational narratives and cultural identities engage in a process of continuous mutual interpretation. We will also examine how technology and social media are customizing memory, and dramatically reshaping cultures and their collective memories.

REES 27019/37019 Holocaust Object
Bozena Shallcross
Ident: ANTH 23910/35035, HIST 23413/33413, JWSC 29500
In this course, we explore various ontological and representational modes of the Holocaust material object world as it was represented during World War II. Then, we interrogate the post-Holocaust artifacts and material remnants, as they are displayed, curated, controlled, and narrated in the memorial sites and museums of former ghettos and extermination and concentration camps. These sites which—once the locations of genocide—are now places of remembrance, the (post)human, and material remnants also serve educational purposes. Therefore, we study the ways in which this material world, ranging from infrastructure to detritus, has been subjected to two, often conflicting, tasks of representation and preservation, which we view through a prism of authenticity. In order to study representation, we critically engage a textual and visual reading of museum narrations and fiction writings; to tackle the demands of preservation, we apply a neo-materialist approach. Of special interest are survivors’ testimonies as appended to the artifacts they donated. The course will also equip you with salient critical tools for future creative research in Holocaust studies.

RLST 20230. Jerusalem: The "Holy" City
Marshall Cunningham
What makes a city “holy?" How is religious space created and contested? How can one city be claimed by three faiths? This course will attempt to answer these questions and many others by tracing the religious history of Jerusalem–a religious center for Jews, Christians, and Muslims–from its founding under King David to the modern Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For roughly three thousand years, Jerusalem has served as a site of creation, interaction, and conflict for these traditions and millions of their adherents. Using primary and secondary materials, along with theoretical works, we will analyze Jerusalem as an object of study in relation to common themes of Religious Studies like sacred space, pilgrimage, and myth.