Jewish Civilization 2017-2018

Jewish Civilization 2017-2018

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 2017

JWSC 20120 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (= 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. J. Stackert T/Th 11:30 am - 12:20 pm (S106)

JWSC 20223 Narratives of Assimilation (= 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. Bozena Shallcross. T/Th 5:00 - 6:20 pm (Cobb 106)

JWSC 20233 Jews, Palestinians, and Israel: Three Moralities, Historiographies & Roadmaps (=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.
Chaim Gans T/Th 12:30 - 1:50 pm (Pick 506)


Winter Quarter 2018

JWSC 20121 The Bible and Archaeology (= 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). David Schloen T/Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm (OI 208)

Spring Quarter 2018

JWSC 20224 Jewish Spaces and Places, Real and Imagined (= 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. Leora Auslander W/F 3:00 – 4:20

JWSC 20234 Jewish Writers in the Russian Tradition (=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. William Nickell