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The College of Arts Sciences

New & highlighted Jewish Studies courses for fall 2017

April 7, 2017

Below are some of Jewish Studies' new and highlighted fall 2017 course offerings.

Colonial Intersections: Jews and Native Americans (JWST 4745/7475) 

Instructors: Jonathan Boyarin,  Chad Uran

Class time: M 2:30-4:25pm

The colonial expansion of Christian Europe continues to leave its mark on the world of the twenty-first century. Two of the peoples caught up in that colonial project, in very different ways, are Jews and Native Americans. Indeed, these two groups were often conflated in the colonial imagination, with Native Americans imagined as the "lost tribes," and missionary rhetorics first aimed at Jews (and Muslims) being adapted for Native Americans. This course looks at the differing structural positions of Jews (the "other within" Christian Europe) and Native Americans (the "other without"). It also considers these peoples' varying responses to colonialism, and their relations with each other, to ask how we can compare forms of difference while retaining the richness of their distinctive formations.


Modern European Jewish History, 1789-1948 (JWST 2920)

Instructor: Sandy Gutman

Class time: TR 1:25-2:40

Jewish life in Europe experienced a profound transformation as a result of the process of Jewish emancipation which began at the end of the eighteenth century.  While emancipation offered Jews unprecedented social, economic and political opportunities, it also posed serious challenges to traditional Jewish life and values by making available new avenues of integration.  This course will examine the ways in which Jewish and non-Jewish society responded to these new developments from the eighteenth century Enlightenment to the post-World War II era.  Topics will include Jewish responses to emancipation, including assimilation and new varieties of religious accommodation; the development of modern antisemitism; the rise of Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel; the modernization of Eastern European Jewry; the impact of mass immigration; and the Nazi era.


Introduction to Judaism (JWST 2644)

Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin

Class time: TR 10:10-11:25

Jewish communities have been established, flourished and often struggled for millennia, throughout much of the world, and in vital contact with a vast range of other peoples and cultures. This course examines the constant and dynamic tension between that which unites Jews in all these different times and places, and that which makes every Jew a person of his or her own time and place. Our whirlwind tour will take us from ancient Israel, through Babylonia and the world of early Islam, into the medieval origins of Ashkenazi Jewry, down to Ottoman North Africa, and all the way across the Indian Ocean. We will learn how Jewish and other diaspora communities overcome challenges to maintain their distinctive identities, how to engage critically with the ways contemporary scholars the records of these far-flung communities, and how to generate their own critical questions.


American Jewish Women and the Body of Tradition (JWST 2577)

Instructor: Cara Rock-Singer

Class time: MW 7:30-8:45pm

Since the 1970s, Jewish women have remade American Judaism by putting their bodies front and center. In the face of a largely male rabbinic elite, they have created new models of ritual, communal leadership, and textual interpretation both within and outside existing Jewish institutions and denominations. How have women mobilized embodied practice and knowledge in efforts to reinterpret, reclaim, and reinvent Judaism? How have these changes reverberated in communities that explicitly reject feminism? And what can these women teach us about religion, gender, and sexuality in America more broadly? This course will engage the fields of religion; gender, sexuality, and the body; textual and material culture; and feminism within the context of American Jewish life. The course will focus the contemporary United States, but  will also explore layers of Jewish tradition from ancient to modern times and will consider women’s practices  Israel as well. Key themes will include the relationships between gender and power; bodies, texts and objects; individual Jewish practices and communal identity; biology and theology; secularism and spirituality; and the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, and conversion. Exploring how competing visions of Judaism reflect alternative understandings of gender and sexuality, we will probe the meaning of gender equality, how the Jewish experience compares to that of members of other faiths in America, and the challenge that these diverse Jewish projects pose to the American project of secularism.

Related classes of interest:

FWS:  Writing Italy, Writing the Self: Jewish-Italian Literature & the Long 20th Century (ITAL 1113)

Instructor: Kora von Wittelsbach

Class time: MW 2.55-4:10

The Jewish community of Rome is the oldest one in all of Europe, dating back to 200 B.C., and the authors of some of the most important twentieth-century works of Italian literature are Jewish. In this course we will examine how some of these writers have articulated the self against the background of the historical events that have shaped the past hundred and twenty years: two world wars and different social movements of the pre- and post-WWII eras. Most of the texts read in the course will concern the traditional centers of Jewish life in Italy -- Rome, Turin and Trieste, but we will also discuss the diversity of Jewish life and writing throughout Italy and the Mediterranean, and the writings of those Jewish authors who emigrated to Italy as adults and chose to write in Italian. The course material includes several feature films and one documentary.

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