Courses - Spring 2020

JWST 1102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II

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 1102 : Elementary Modern Hebrew II
JWST 1110 Beginning Biblical Hebrew

This course is designed to introduce students to the language, grammar, and vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. By the end of the semester students will be able to read and understand a number of biblical narrative passages, drawn from texts such as the stories of: creation in the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Joseph and his brothers, the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, David and Goliath, and others stories students are interested in reading in the original language.  Emphasis will be placed on learning vocabulary in context so that students begin to understand the language of the Bible as a window on ancient Israelite religion, culture, and experience.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Lauren Monroe (lm283)
Full details for JWST 1110 : Beginning Biblical Hebrew
JWST 1777 Elementary Yiddish II
Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Forman (drf84)
Full details for JWST 1777 : Elementary Yiddish II
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 2100 Intermediate Modern Hebrew

The course is aimed at training students in exact and idiomatic Hebrew, expanding vocabulary and usage of grammatical knowledge, and acquiring facility of expression in both conversation and writing. Uses written and oral exercises built around the texts. Reading and discussion of selections from Hebrew literature and Israeli culture through the use of texts and audiovisual materials.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Shalom Shoer (ss66)
Full details for JWST 2100 : Intermediate Modern Hebrew
JWST 2522 Drinking through the Ages: Intoxicating Beverages in Near Eastern and World History

This course examines the production and exchange of wine, beer, coffee and tea, and the social and ideological dynamics involved in their consumption. We start in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and end with tea and coffee in the Arab and Ottoman worlds. Archaeological and textual evidence will be used throughout to show the centrality of drinking in daily, ritual and political life.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Christopher Monroe (cmm253)
Full details for JWST 2522 : Drinking through the Ages: Intoxicating Beverages in Near Eastern and World History
JWST 2575 Myth and Religion in Mesopotamia

This course will survey the cultic practices and beliefs of ancient Babylonia and Assyria, the two major civilizations of Mesopotamia. We will examine the major myths of this region, e.g., Ishtar's Descent into the Netherworld, Etana, and Gilgamesh, in light of what they reveal about Mesopotamian religion, politics, and understanding of the afterlife. We will also examine the performance of magical rituals and incantations, methods of predicting the future, and the role of sacred marriage, prostitution, and slavery in the ancient temple.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Tenney (jst229)
Full details for JWST 2575 : Myth and Religion in Mesopotamia
JWST 2580 Imagining the Holocaust

How is the memory of the Holocaust kept alive by means of the literary and visual imagination? Within the historical context of the Holocaust and how and why it occurred, we shall examine major and widely read Holocaust narratives that have shaped the way we understand and respond to the Holocaust. We also study ethical and psychological issues about how and why people behave in dire circumstances. We shall begin with first-person reminiscences—Wiesel's Night, Levi's Survival at Auschwitz, and The Diary of Anne Frank—before turning to realistic fictions such as Kineally's Schindler's List (and Spielberg's film), Kertesz's Fateless, Kosinski's The Painted Bird, and Ozick's "The Shawl." We shall also read the mythopoeic vision of Schwarz-Bart's The Last of the Just, the illuminating distortions of Epstein's King of the Jews, the Kafkaesque parable of Appelfeld's Badenheim 1939, and the fantastic cartoons of Spiegelman's Maus books.

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Daniel Schwarz (drs6)
Full details for JWST 2580 : Imagining the Holocaust
JWST 2629 New Testament/Early Christian Literatures

This course provides a literary and historical introduction to the earliest Christian writings, especially those that eventually came to be included in the New Testament.  Through the lens of the Gospel narratives and earliest Christian letters, especially those of Paul, we will explore the rich diversity of the early Christian movement from its Jewish roots in first-century Palestine through its development and spread to Asia Minor and beyond.   We will give careful consideration to the political, economic, social, cultural, and religious circumstances that gave rise to the Jesus movement, as well as those that facilitated the emergence of various manifestations of Christian belief and practice.   The course will address themes like identity and ethnicity, conversion and debate, race and slavery, gender and sexuality, and the connections between politics and religion.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for JWST 2629 : New Testament/Early Christian Literatures
JWST 2644 Introduction to Judaism

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 the distinctive identities, how to engage critically with the ways contemporary scholars engage with the records of these far-flung communities, and how to generate our own critical questions.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Lauren Monroe (lm283)
Full details for JWST 2644 : Introduction to Judaism
JWST 2728 Modern Middle Eastern Literature in Translation

In their acceptance speeches for the Nobel Prize in Literature, both the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz (1988) and the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (2006) situate their work between Eastern and Western literary traditions. Pamuk elaborated: "To write, to read, was like leaving one world to find consolation in the other world's otherness, the strange and the wondrous." In this class, we seek the strange and wondrous otherness, along with the familiar and wondrous sameness in modern literature from the Middle East. We proceed thematically across the literary traditions of the Middle East, with a focus on works written in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Hebrew. The thematic organization permits us to approach critical issues comparatively. In addition to exploring the tension between Eastern and Western influences in this literature, we will also investigate other issues writers confront: How do literary heritage and religious tradition inflect modern texts? What is the relationship between politics and aesthetics? How does literature represent traumatic memories and violence, past and present? All readings are in English.

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Deborah Starr (das86)
Full details for JWST 2728 : Modern Middle Eastern Literature in Translation
JWST 3104 Advanced Hebrew through Language, Media and Literature

The course focuses and explores the development and changes of Modern Hebrew in all aspects of Israeli and Jewish culture.  A close reading of selected works of modern Hebrew fiction, poetry,  drama in their cultural and historical contexts and of the present-day influence on Israeli life. During the semester we'll be paying attention to students language skills, interests, building vocabulary, grammar review, and literary analysis of a sampling of modern texts.

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Nava Scharf (ns21)
Full details for JWST 3104 : Advanced Hebrew through Language, Media and Literature
JWST 3697 History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This course examines the history of the conflict between two peoples with claims to the same land (Palestine/Israel), from the rise of their national movements at the turn of the 20th century and their eventual clash down to the present crisis. We will investigate the various stable and shifting elements in the evolution of the conflict including conflicting Israeli and Palestinian narratives and mythologies about the nature of the conflict. Among many issues to be addressed are: the relationship of this conflict to the history of European colonialism in the Middle East, the emergence of Pan-Arabism and Islamism, the various currents in Zionism and its relationship to Judaism, the implication of great power rivalry in the Middle East, the different causes and political repercussions of the four Arab-Israeli wars, efforts at peacemaking including Oslo and Camp David, and the significance of the two Palestinian uprisings.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for JWST 3697 : History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
JWST 4210 Topics in Modern Philosophy

Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Karolina Hubner (kh753)
Full details for JWST 4210 : Topics in Modern Philosophy
JWST 4533 The Lower East Side: Jews and the Immigrant City

American Jews have frequently been touted as a "model minority." This course will take a more critical look at the historical interactions between Jewish immigration, United States industrialization, and processes of social and geographical mobility—all through the prism of New York's Lower East Side, first home for over 750,000 Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere between the mid-19th century and the 1920s.  We will compare the Jewish experience to that of other immigrants/migrants by considering social institutions as well as material and other cultural practices. We will examine interactions with the built environment —most especially the tenement—in Lower East Side culture. Special attention will be paid to immigrant labor movement politics including strikes, splits, and gender in the garment trade. From the perspective of the present, the course will examine how commemoration, heritage tourism and the selling of [immigrant] history intersect with gentrifying real estate in an "iconic" New York City neighborhood. Projects using the ILR's archives on the Triangle Fire and other topics are explicitly encouraged. This course counts as an out of college elective for B. Arch and M. Arch students.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Elissa Sampson (ejs362)
Full details for JWST 4533 : The Lower East Side: Jews and the Immigrant City
JWST 4540 Moses Maimonides

Moses Maimonides who was born in Cordoba (1138), moved to Fez as a youth and died in Cairo (1204) is regarded by Jewish, Islamic, and Christian tradition alike as the most important Jewish religious intellectual of the classical age of Islam/the High Middle Ages. This seminar will examine Maimonides as the product of his time and place including his complex relationship with Arabo-Islamic culture and, because of his stature as a communal figure, rabbinic scholar, court physician and philosopher, his role as a catalyst for cultural developments. For comparative purposes we also consider Maimonides' Andalusi contemporary, Ibn Rushd, the philosopher, Muslim jurist, physician and scholar of Islamic law.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for JWST 4540 : Moses Maimonides
JWST 4545 Sound, Silence, and the Sacred

From the ringing of Tibetan singing bowls to the quiet of desert monasticism, religious imagination and ritual is replete with sound and silence.  Cityscapes resound with church bells and calls from the minarets.   Music, chanting, recitations, incantations, mantras, gongs—the world of religion is intimately tied to ritualistic uses of sound.   But sound goes even beyond ritual to the realm of the imaginary, which frequently contrasts the music of the gods with the noise of the demons.   Sound and silence in such contexts are inherently tied to desire, temptation, and even salvation.  In addition, environmental sounds—the sounds of thunder, water, wind, animals, and so forth—are important for religious history and literature and contemporary practices.    This course will draw upon a wide array of sources—from texts to recordings, videos, and performances—to address the function and meaning of sound (and silence) within diverse religious traditions.   Our goal will be to read selections from the field of sound studies, listen and read closely in texts and music coming from diverse religious traditions, and to make some of our own recordings for a Cornell (and beyond) religious soundscape. 

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for JWST 4545 : Sound, Silence, and the Sacred
JWST 4649 Tradition and Modernity: The Jewish Case and Beyond

The concept of tradition often takes a back seat to modernity, but what does it mean to be part of a tradition? How does tradition revitalize and challenge received views and stimulate individual talent? This course explores three diverse bodies of material: twentieth-century Yiddish poetry and prose; ancient Jewish literature; and mid-twentieth-century German theology, philosophy, and criticism (by both Jews and Christians). As these thinkers reflect on their intellectual and poetic traditions, we will explore tradition as a source of collective energy in spite–and sometimes because!–of the constraints that it places upon self-expression. Tradition as a source of creativity is a strong theme in Jewish culture but has implications for other fields. For longer description and instructor bio, visit societyhumanities.as.cornell.edu/courses.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: James Redfield (jar639)
Full details for JWST 4649 : Tradition and Modernity: The Jewish Case and Beyond
JWST 4721 Peace Building in Conflict Regions: Case Studies Sub-Saharan Africa Israel Palestinian Territories

This course focuses on issues of conflict, peace, and reconciliation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. Both regions exemplify how issues ranging from nationalism and ethnocentrism to land, water and resource management, climate change and migration, as well as socio-psychological dynamics, can exacerbate conflicts. At the same time, these regions also exemplify how trans-border collaboration and regional integration, civilian peace building efforts, strategies for achieving historical justice, as well as science education and science diplomacy can become crucial tools for long-term peace-building, reconciliation and development. In this course we will work with and discuss issues of peace and conflict with policy-makers and local stakeholders involved in peace-building efforts.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Christine Leuenberger (cal22)
Full details for JWST 4721 : Peace Building in Conflict Regions: Case Studies Sub-Saharan Africa Israel Palestinian Territories
JWST 4913 Walter Benjamin

This extraordinary figure died in 1941, and his death  is emblematic of the intellectual depredations of Nazism. Yet since World War II, his influence, his reputation, and his fascination for scholars in a wide range of cultural and political disciplines has steadily grown. He is seen as a bridging figure between German and Jewish studies, between materialist critique of culture and the submerged yet powerful voice of theology, between literary history and philosophy. We will review Benjamin's life and some of the key disputes over his heritage; read some of the best-known of his essays; and devote significant time to his enigmatic and enormously rich masterwork, the Arcades Project, concluding with consideration of the relevance of Benjamin's insights for cultural and political dilemmas today.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 4913 : Walter Benjamin
JWST 4992 Independent Study - Undergraduate

For undergraduates who wish to obtain research experience or do extensive reading on a special topic.  Students select a topic in consultation with the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the course.

Academic Career: UG Full details for JWST 4992 : Independent Study - Undergraduate
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 6210 Topics in Modern Philosophy

Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Karolina Hubner (kh753)
Full details for JWST 6210 : Topics in Modern Philosophy
JWST 6649 Tradition and Modernity: The Jewish Case and Beyond

The concept of tradition often takes a back seat to modernity, but what does it mean to be part of a tradition? How does tradition revitalize and challenge received views and stimulate individual talent? This course explores three diverse bodies of material: twentieth-century Yiddish poetry and prose; ancient Jewish literature; and mid-twentieth-century German theology, philosophy, and criticism (by both Jews and Christians). As these thinkers reflect on their intellectual and poetic traditions, we will explore tradition as a source of collective energy in spite–and sometimes because!–of the constraints that it places upon self-expression. Tradition as a source of creativity is a strong theme in Jewish culture but has implications for other fields. For longer description and instructor bio, visit societyhumanities.as.cornell.edu/courses.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: James Redfield (jar639)
Full details for JWST 6649 : Tradition and Modernity: The Jewish Case and Beyond
JWST 7533 The Lower East Side: Jews and the Immigrant City

American Jews have frequently been touted as a "model minority." This course will take a more critical look at the historical interactions between Jewish immigration, United States industrialization, and processes of social and geographical mobility—all through the prism of New York's Lower East Side, first home for over 750,000 Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere between the mid-19th century and the 1920s.  We will compare the Jewish experience to that of other immigrants/migrants by considering social institutions as well as material and other cultural practices. We will examine interactions with the built environment —most especially the tenement—in Lower East Side culture. Special attention will be paid to immigrant labor movement politics including strikes, splits, and gender in the garment trade. From the perspective of the present, the course will examine how commemoration, heritage tourism and the selling of [immigrant] history intersect with gentrifying real estate in an "iconic" New York City neighborhood. Projects using the ILR's archives on the Triangle Fire and other topics are explicitly encouraged. This course counts as an out of college elective for B. Arch and M. Arch students.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Elissa Sampson (ejs362)
Full details for JWST 7533 : The Lower East Side: Jews and the Immigrant City
JWST 7913 Walter Benjamin

This extraordinary figure died in 1941, and his death is emblematic of the intellectual depredations of Nazism. Yet since World War II, his influence, his reputation, and his fascination for scholars in a wide range of cultural and political disciplines has steadily grown. He is seen as a bridging figure between German and Jewish studies, between materialist critique of culture and the submerged yet powerful voice of theology, between literary history and philosophy. We will review Benjamin's life and some of the key disputes over his heritage; read some of the best-known of his essays; and devote significant time to his enigmatic and enormously rich masterwork, the Arcades Project, concluding with consideration of the relevance of Benjamin's insights for cultural and political dilemmas today.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Jonathan Boyarin (jab857)
Full details for JWST 7913 : Walter Benjamin