Courses - Fall 2020

JWST 1101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I

Intended for beginners. Provides a thorough grounding in reading, writing, grammar, oral comprehension, and speaking. Students who complete the course are able to function in basic situations in a Hebrew-speaking environment.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shalom Shoer (ss66)
Full details for JWST 1101 : Elementary Modern Hebrew I
JWST 1103 Elementary Modern Hebrew III

Sequel to HEBRW 1101-HEBRW 1102. Continued development of reading, writing, grammar, oral comprehension, and speaking skills.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shalom Shoer (ss66)
Full details for JWST 1103 : Elementary Modern Hebrew III
JWST 1776 Elementary Yiddish I

Provides an introduction to reading, writing, aural comprehension, speaking and grammar, as well as to some of the basic elements of Ashkenazi Jewish culture.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Forman (drf84)
Full details for JWST 1776 : Elementary Yiddish I
JWST 1880 Intermediate Yiddish
Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Forman (drf84)
Full details for JWST 1880 : Intermediate Yiddish
JWST 1987 FWS: Jews on Film: Visible and Invisible

Why were Jews virtually invisible in films produced during the Hollywood's "golden age"? Is this a surprise, given the leading role played by American Jews in founding the studio system? Writing about the films studied in this course will help students situate and interpret the presence (and absence) of characters identifiable as Jews in Hollywood films released from the silent era through the present. We will view approximately six films in their entirety and study excerpts from others. Films to be studied in whole or part may include: The Immigrant, The Jazz Singer, The Great Dictator, Casablanca, The Apartment, Funny Girl, Annie Hall, Barton Fink, and A Serious Man. Students will write film analyses, review essays, reflective responses, and explorations of contextual material. Readings from film studies and popular journalism will situate these films within the historical, cultural, and industrial contexts in which they were produced.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Elliot Shapiro (ehs9)
Full details for JWST 1987 : FWS: Jews on Film: Visible and Invisible
JWST 2601 Introduction to the Ancient Near East

The pyramids and mummies of Egypt, the ziggurats of Babylonia, and the armies of Assyria are all part of the legacy of the ancient Near East. This course serves as a basic introduction to the history, societies, and cultures of the major civilizations of the ancient world from c. 3300-300 B.C., focusing on Egypt and Mesopotamia but including lesser-known groups such as the Hittites in Anatolia and the Elamites in Iran. Students will learn how these states were organized, how each culture related to their gods, and how they chose to be remembered, as well as many other mysteries of the ancient world.

Distribution: (HA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Tenney (jst229)
Full details for JWST 2601 : Introduction to the Ancient Near East
JWST 2630 Brazil to Brooklyn: Jewish Cultures of the Americas

Jewish cultures in the New World are far more diverse than most Americans realize. Some know the history of Ashkenazi (German and Eastern European) Jews, most of whom immigrated to the U.S. between 1880-1920. In addition to Ashkenazi cultures, our course introduces the Sephardi (Spanish/Portuguese), Mizrahi (Arab), Persian, and Ethiopian Jews who have immigrated to the Americas since the 16th century. Students will learn how Jews of all origins have built communities across the Americas, from Jamaica, Bolivia, and Brazil to Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. We will focus on the resources that diverse Jewish communities drew on to face challenges in creating new Jewish American cultures, such as how to navigate assimilation, religious observance, legal discrimination, and gender and sexual reform.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Branfman (jrb557)
Full details for JWST 2630 : Brazil to Brooklyn: Jewish Cultures of the Americas
JWST 2754 Wondrous Literatures of the Near East

This course examines Near East's rich and diverse literary heritage. We will read a selection of influential and wondrous texts from ancient to modern times, spanning geographically from the Iberian peninsula to Iran. We will trace three major threads: myths of creation and destruction; travel narratives; and poetry of love and devotion. Together we will read and discuss such ancient works as the 'Epic of Gilgamesh' and 'The Song of Songs,' as well as selections from medieval works such as the 'Travels' of Ibn Battuta, the 'Shahnameh' of Ferdowsi, poetry of Yehuda HaLevi, and The Thousand and One Nights. The modern unit will include work by Egyptian Nobel Laureate, Naguib Mahfouz. Students will also have the opportunity to research and analyze primary source materials in the collections of Cornell Rare Books and Manuscript Collection, and the Johnson Art Museum. All material is in English translation.

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Deborah Starr (das86)
Full details for JWST 2754 : Wondrous Literatures of the Near East
JWST 2852 Judaism and the Origins of Christianity

Most people think of Christianity as the "daughter religion" of Judaism. In this course, we will see that what we now know as Judaism and Christianity both claimed ownership of the same textual tradition and emerged together from the same set of historical circumstances, shaped by political crisis, a radical transformation of the social order and the challenge of Graeco-Roman culture. Through close reading of the principal sources of Christian literature, such as Paul's letters to the first communities of gentile "believers" and the accounts of the life and death of the messiah, known collectively as the gospels, we will explore how and why the followers of Jesus first came to think of themselves as the "New Israel" and how a polemical engagement with their controversial interpretation of Hebrew prophecy shaped the development of the rabbinic movement in Roman Palestine.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Olga Litvak (ol76)
Full details for JWST 2852 : Judaism and the Origins of Christianity
JWST 3101 Advanced Modern Hebrew I

This constitutes the first course in our third year of the Modern Hebrew language sequence.  Development of speech proficiency will be emphasized. Over the course of the semester, students will develop reading comprehension through reading a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts, listening comprehension through screening of filmic works and episodes drawn from popular television series, writing through communication about what is read and screened, as well as more personal topics, and speech through in class discussion and oral presentations.  Readings will include authentic and partially adapted contemporary short stories, poems and newspaper articles.  

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Philip Hollander (ph469)
Full details for JWST 3101 : Advanced Modern Hebrew I
JWST 3104 Advanced Hebrew Through Language, Media and Literature

This course develops oral and written communication, as well as reading and listening comprehension, through engagement with Israeli media (newspapers, radio reports, and television and internet news) and literature. Through study of course materials, students will also gain a broader understanding of the State of Israel necessary for advanced Hebrew proficiency.  

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Philip Hollander (ph469)
Full details for JWST 3104 : Advanced Hebrew Through Language, Media and Literature
JWST 3105 Life in Israel: Aspects of Israeli Society, Language and Literature

This course prioritizes reading comprehension through close reading of selected works of Modern Hebrew fiction, poetry, and drama grouped around a central theme and read in their cultural and historical contexts. This course also develops oral and written communication, as well as listening comprehension, through a variety of means, including class discussion, oral presentations, viewing of Israeli films and television, and short analytical papers.  

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Philip Hollander (ph469)
Full details for JWST 3105 : Life in Israel: Aspects of Israeli Society, Language and Literature
JWST 3471 Race and Religion

This course considers race and religion as critical sites of lived experience and anthropological analysis with implications for how we approach difference and belonging, violence and inequality, and historical and contemporary forms of power. How does race matter when thinking about religion, how does religion matter when thinking about race, and how can we think race and religion together? In aiming to think race and religion together, this course does not take either term for granted. Rather, it considers racialization of religion and other racial-religious articulations as open questions. Topics include Jews and otherness; colonial convergences of race and religion; and religion, race, and place.

Distribution: (CA-AS, GLC-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Noah Tamarkin (nt383)
Full details for JWST 3471 : Race and Religion
JWST 3687 The US and the Middle East

This seminar examines the history of the United States' involvement with Middle East beginning with evangelical efforts in the 19th century and President Wilson's engagement with the colonial powers in the early 20th century during and after WWI. The discovery of vast Middle Eastern oil reserves and the retreat of the colonial powers from the region following WWII drew successive US administrations ever deeper into Middle Eastern politics. In due course the US became entrenched in the post-colonial political imagination as heir to the British and the French especially as it challenged the Soviet Union for influence in the region during the Cold War. And that only takes the story to the mid-1950s and the Eisenhower administration. Our discussions will be based on secondary readings and primary sources as we interrogate the tension between realist and idealist policies toward the Middle East and trace how these tensions play out in subsequent developments including the origins and trajectory of the US strategic alliances with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey and conflict with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the two Gulf Wars.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for JWST 3687 : The US and the Middle East
JWST 3707 Hidden Identities Onscreen

From White Chicks to Blackkklansman, American film has often depicted characters who conceal their race or gender, like black male cops "passing" as wealthy white women. This class will examine how Hollywood has depicted race and gender "passing" from the early 20th century to the present. While tracing common themes across films, we will also study the ideological role of passing films: how they thrill audiences by challenging social boundaries and hierarchies, only to reestablish familiar boundaries by the end. We will not treat these films as accurate depictions of real-world passing, but rather as cultural tools that help audiences to manage ideological contradictions about race, gender, sexuality, and class. Students will finish the course by creating their own short films about passing.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Branfman (jrb557)
Full details for JWST 3707 : Hidden Identities Onscreen
JWST 3711 Sitcom Jews: Ethnic Representation on Television and on Stage

"Sitcom Jews" uses close media analysis, theoretical discussion, and student performances or media projects to examine the representation of Jews on television and on the Broadway stage from 1948-2017. We'll ask whether study of performed Jewish identity can serve as a locus for discussion of cultural representation at large, including African American, Latinx, Asian American and LGBT communities on screen and onstage. Starting with classic sitcoms ("The Goldbergs" (1948), "All in the Family", and "Bridget Loves Bernie"), and continuing through current Jewish TV shows ("The Marvelous Ms. Maisel", "Transparent", "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), as well as major theater landmarks ("Fiddler on the Roof", "Cabaret", "Bad Jews", "Indecent"), we will compare these constructed media images to concurrent political, historical and cultural trends.

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Winitsky (daw2)
Full details for JWST 3711 : Sitcom Jews: Ethnic Representation on Television and on Stage
JWST 3805 Israeli Politics

We are all the living dead – alive but bound to die, and know it. In this course we will learn how existential fears and anxieties shape our politics, partly through moral meaning-making. While the politics of fear is on the rise worldwide, Israel has seen it long ago. Throughout its existence, Israel has grown strong, but its existential fears have not subsided. Israel, moreover, can teach us about the role of freedom and morality in politics. Israel's existential fears, alongside the realization of choice, has prompted Zionists to seek existential legitimation. In recent years, however, a growing frustration at attainting such legitimacy has fostered "bad faith politics," substituting freedom with a sense of "no choice."

Distribution: (SBA-AS, SSC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Uriel Abulof (ua42)
Full details for JWST 3805 : Israeli Politics
JWST 3888 Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity

This course explores the interactions between Jews, Christians, and other religious groups in late antiquity, especially in Sasanian Persia circa the first through seventh century C.E. Students pay particular attention to the portrayals of Christians in Jewish rabbinic literature, including Midrash and Talmud, but also draw from early Christian, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and other sources. There will be an emphasis on the reading of primary texts in translation in their appropriate historical contexts, and in comparison with one another. Students engage such questions as: How did Jews define themselves in relation to Christians, and vice versa? In what ways did Jews and Christians part ways with one another, as scholars often maintain, and what were the factors at play in their separation? And, lastly, what role did other religious and political groups, such as Gnostics, Zoroastrians, Romans, Mandaeans, Manichaeans, and early Muslims play in these developments?

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jason Mokhtarian (jsm467)
Full details for JWST 3888 : Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity
JWST 4365 From Existential Conflict to Coexistence? The Case of Israel-Palestine

Throughout human history, and its modern incarnation, communities have clashed just as often as states. This course sheds light on ethnic communities and conflicts, explicating their historical dynamics and social intricacies. What are ethnic identities and how do they emerge? What distinguishes ethnic identity from other social identities, such as religious and ideological identities? When does ethnicity mature into ethnonationalism, and why and how does it propel conflict and political violence? What are the possible ways to prevent, manage, transform and resolve ethnic conflicts? We shall address these and related questions drawing on key insights from various disciplines, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, probing the resonance and dissonance of key theoretical arguments with the reality of that clash and of comparative conflicts.

Distribution: (SBA-AS, SSC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Uriel Abulof (ua42)
Full details for JWST 4365 : From Existential Conflict to Coexistence? The Case of Israel-Palestine
JWST 4428 Reading Derrida and Others

We will read together a wide range of modern European texts-mostly but not exclusively by at least nominally Jewish authors, many of them working in the German intellectual tradition--accompanied by a range of works by Jacques Derrida that engage those thinkers and their texts. Authors will likely include Theodor w. Adorno, Saint Augustine, Walter Benjamin, Paul Celan, Helene Cixous, Hermann Cohen, Sigmund Freud, Edmond Jabes, Emannuel Levinas, Claude Levi-Strauss, Karl Marx, and Gershom Scholem. We will thus be better able to participate in the current re-evaluation of Derrida's legacy, including his Jewishness, and we will read him, among other things, as a proponent of dialogue, sometimes loving and sometimes fiercely agonistic.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 4428 : Reading Derrida and Others
JWST 4471 Jewish Diasporas

Jewish communities have thrived in diaspora since long before the destruction of the Second Temple. What binds and divides those communities? Diaspora may be the product of exile, but can also be a sign of group energy and creativity. And while a liturgical focus on Jerusalem and the Holy Land remains the lodestar for most diaspora Jewish communities, in the course of that long history many other places have served as homelands gained and lost. The interaction of ancient and modern Jewish diasporas with their contemporary empires provides insight into the comparison of empires old and new. Today debates rage about the desirability of sustaining Jewish life in diaspora versus the ingathering of Jews into the Jewish state. We will explore these issues and more.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS, SSC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 4471 : Jewish Diasporas
JWST 4550 Archaeology of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians have long been an enigma, a people defined by distant voices. Originating from present-day Lebanon, they were Semitic speakers, renowned seafarers and transmitters of an innovative alphabet that transformed how Mediterranean and Near Eastern folk wrote their languages. Having left us virtually no texts of their own, their history has resembled a patchwork of recollections from Old Testament and Hellenistic times. Recent archaeological discoveries, however, reveal patterns of trade, colonization and socioeconomic transformations that make the Phoenicians less enigmatic while raising new questions. Our class explores the third and second millennium Canaanite roots of the Phoenicians, as well as the Biblical and Greco-Roman perceptions of their early first millennium heyday. We will explore the Phoenician homeland and its colonies, and investigate their maritime economy, language, and religion through both archaeological and textual sources. Temporally the focus is on Phoenician rather than Carthaginian or Punic history, thus up to about 550 BCE. The class has a seminar format involving critical discussions and presentations of scholarly readings, and requires a research paper.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Christopher Monroe (cmm253)
Full details for JWST 4550 : Archaeology of the Phoenicians
JWST 4626 Reinventing Biblical Narrative

Narratives, particularly sacred narratives, are not static or fixed but rather infinitely flexible and malleable.   Subject to multiple retellings—elaborations, modifications, and deletions—stories take on lives of their own even after they come to be written down. What happens to sacred stories when they are heard and read by different communities of interpreters? This is the broad question at the heart of this course, which will explore the diverse interpretations of biblical narratives (e.g., stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and his disciples, Joseph and Mary) found in Jewish and Christian literature from the second century BCE through the 6th century and beyond.  Writers like the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo and the Jewish historian Josephus, Jewish and Christian pseudepigrapha and apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, gnostic literature, early rabbinic literature, and Christian patristic writers—these are some of the sources that we will study in this class.    At the conclusion of the seminar, we will explore briefly the retellings of biblical stories and use of biblical characters in the early Islamic materials, especially the Qur'an.    Throughout the semester, we will consider the historical contexts of biblical interpretation and the production, transmission, and use of texts in antiquity, including questions about literacy and orality, education, and the physical forms of ancient books.

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for JWST 4626 : Reinventing Biblical Narrative
JWST 6112 Medieval Hebrew Poetry

Critical readings in medieval Hebrew lyrical and liturgical poetry and imaginative rhymed prose from tenth-century Islamic Spain to Renaissance and Baroque Italy.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for JWST 6112 : Medieval Hebrew Poetry
JWST 6471 Race and Religion

This course considers race and religion as critical sites of lived experience and anthropological analysis with implications for how we approach difference and belonging, violence and inequality, and historical and contemporary forms of power. How does race matter when thinking about religion, how does religion matter when thinking about race, and how can we think race and religion together? In aiming to think race and religion together, this course does not take either term for granted. Rather, it considers racialization of religion and other racial-religious articulations as open questions. Topics include Jews and otherness; colonial convergences of race and religion; and religion, race, and place.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Noah Tamarkin (nt383)
Full details for JWST 6471 : Race and Religion
JWST 6888 Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity

This course explores the interactions between Jews, Christians, and other religious groups in late antiquity, especially in Sasanian Persia circa the first through seventh century C.E. Students pay particular attention to the portrayals of Christians in Jewish rabbinic literature, including Midrash and Talmud, but also draw from early Christian, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and other sources. There will be an emphasis on the reading of primary texts in translation in their appropriate historical contexts, and in comparison with one another. Students engage such questions as: How did Jews define themselves in relation to Christians, and vice versa? In what ways did Jews and Christians part ways with one another, as scholars often maintain, and what were the factors at play in their separation? And, lastly, what role did other religious and political groups, such as Gnostics, Zoroastrians, Romans, Mandaeans, Manichaeans, and early Muslims play in these developments?

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Jason Mokhtarian (jsm467)
Full details for JWST 6888 : Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity
JWST 7428 Reading Derrida and Others

We will read together a wide range of modern European texts-mostly but not exclusively by at least nominally Jewish authors, many of them working in the German intellectual tradition--accompanied by a range of works by Jacques Derrida that engage those thinkers and their texts. Authors will likely include Theodor w. Adorno, Saint Augustine, Walter Benjamin, Paul Celan, Helene Cixous, Hermann Cohen, Sigmund Freud, Edmond Jabes, Emannuel Levinas, Claude Levi-Strauss, Karl Marx, and Gershom Scholem. We will thus be better able to participate in the current re-evaluation of Derrida's legacy, including his Jewishness, and we will read him, among other things, as a proponent of dialogue, sometimes loving and sometimes fiercely agonistic.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 7428 : Reading Derrida and Others
JWST 7471 Jewish Diasporas

Jewish communities have thrived in diaspora since long before the destruction of the Second Temple. What binds and divides those communities? Diaspora may be the product of exile, but can also be a sign of group energy and creativity. And while a liturgical focus on Jerusalem and the Holy Land remains the lodestar for most diaspora Jewish communities, in the course of that long history many other places have served as homelands gained and lost. The interaction of ancient and modern Jewish diasporas with their contemporary empires provides insight into the comparison of empires old and new. Today debates rage about the desirability of sustaining Jewish life in diaspora versus the ingathering of Jews into the Jewish state. We will explore these issues and more.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 7471 : Jewish Diasporas