Courses

Courses by semester

Courses for Spring 2021

Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .

Course ID Title Offered
JWST1102 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.

Full details for JWST 1102 - Elementary Modern Hebrew II

Spring.
JWST1777 Elementary Yiddish II Intended for advanced beginners. Builds further competence in reading, writing, oral comprehension, speaking and grammar. Course material is presented and discussed in the context of Ashkenazi Jewish culture.

Full details for JWST 1777 - Elementary Yiddish II

Spring.
JWST2100 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.

Full details for JWST 2100 - Intermediate Modern Hebrew

Spring.
JWST2167 Israeli Masculinity Representations of masculinity play important roles in modern Hebrew texts. Through introduction to scholarship on gender and sexuality, students learn to critically analyze Hebrew texts featuring such representations and to synthesize how diverse textual representations of masculinity reflect and seek to influence the changing ways that Jewish and Israeli identities are conceived and performed. The course's tripartite structure aids student perception of masculine representations' diachronic development. In the first section, students analyze traditional depictions of Jewish masculinity and observe how Zionism's emergence brought about Jewish masculinity's reconceptualization; in the second section, students dissect diverse texts depicting and participating in efforts to redefine Jewish masculinity in Palestine; in the third section,  students probe texts written and produced after 1948 that challenge the form of masculine identity dominant at the Israeli state's inception and push for greater diversity in how masculinity and femininity, heterosexuality and homosexuality, are conceived and performed.

Full details for JWST 2167 - Israeli Masculinity

Spring.
JWST2522 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.

Full details for JWST 2522 - Drinking through the Ages: Intoxicating Beverages in Near Eastern and World History

Spring.
JWST2580 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.

Full details for JWST 2580 - Imagining the Holocaust

Spring.
JWST2585 Millennial Jewish Stars: Race, Gender and Sexuality The rap superstar Drake, comedian Ilana Glazer, and muscleman Zac Efron are just three of the millennial Jewish stars examined in this course. We will ask how millennial Jewish stars depict Jewishness in terms of race, gender, sexuality. For instance, why has the rapper Lil Dicky chosen such an emasculating stage name, and why does Ilana Glazer embrace the outdated racial term "Jewess?" How do these names use historical Jewish stereotypes to fuel present-day comedy? We will trace racial, gendered, and sexual tropes about Jews from 19th-century theater to the newest YouTube sketches. We'll cluster these media around themes like women's pleasure, Jewish identity, cultural appropriation, anti-Semitism, and millennial financial struggles. We'll laugh hard, learn a lot, and see today's media through new eyes.

Full details for JWST 2585 - Millennial Jewish Stars: Race, Gender and Sexuality

Spring.
JWST2599 Medicine, Magic and Science in the Ancient Near East This course explores the history of medicine and other sciences in the ancient Near East, broadly defined. In addition to medicine, the other scientific disciplines covered in this course include mathematics, astrology, astronomy, alchemy, zoology, among others. Geographically, the course traces the transmission of scientific knowledge in ancient Babylonia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and beyond. As such, the course offers students a tour of different ancient civilizations and corpora. Students read selections from cuneiform Akkadian tablets, Egyptian Christian Coptic spellbooks, rabbinic sources such as the Talmud, among many other works. At the same time, students will be required to critically engage recent scholarship in the history of science and medicine as a way to help frame their analyses of the ancient materials. The course interrogates how ancient civilizations transmitted and received scientific knowledge, as well as the relationship between what we today tend to call science, medicine, magic, and religion. This course is intended not only for students in the Humanities and Social Sciences, but also for those majoring in science or medicine.

Full details for JWST 2599 - Medicine, Magic and Science in the Ancient Near East

Spring.
JWST2601 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.

Full details for JWST 2601 - Introduction to the Ancient Near East

Fall, Spring.
JWST2644 Introduction to Judaism This course is an introduction to Jewish identities, values, and practices from the ancient to modern era. Organized thematically, it examines Judaism as a religious phenomenon, with a particular emphasis on its cultural and textual diversity across three millennia. Themes covered include creation, Sabbath, prayer, Jerusalem, pious customs, magic, reincarnation, revelation, among others. Throughout the semester students perform close readings of a wide selection of Jewish texts from the Bible, Talmud, kabbalah (mysticism), philosophy, liturgy, and modern Jewish thought. In what ways are these various traditions of Judaism interrelated and/or in tension with one another? In the face of the Jewish history's tremendous diversity, what is it that has unified Judaism and the Jewish people over the centuries? By exploring these types of questions, this course examines the appropriateness of defining Judaism as a religion, an ethnicity, a civilization, and/or a culture. Readings include introductory-level textbooks and essays, as well as a range of primary source materials in translation.

Full details for JWST 2644 - Introduction to Judaism

Spring.
JWST2790 Jewish Films and Filmmakers: Hollywood and Beyond What does it mean to call a film is "Jewish"? Does it have to represent Jewish life? Does it have to feature characters identifiable as Jews? If artists who identify as Jews—actors, directors, screenwriters, composers—play significant roles in a film's production does that make it Jewish? Our primary point of entry into these questions will be Hollywood, from the industry's early silent films, through the period generally considered classical, down to the present day. We will also study films produced overseas, in countries that may include Israel, Egypt, France, Italy, and Germany. Our discussions will be enriched by contextual material drawn from film studies, cultural studies, Jewish studies, American studies, and other related fields. Students will be expected to view a significant number of films outside of class—an average of one per week—and engage with them through writing and in-class discussion. The directors, screenwriters, composers, and actors whose work we will study may include: Charlie Chaplin, Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Billy Wilder, Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Aviva Kempner, Joan Micklin Silver, the Marx Brothers, and the Coen Brothers.

Full details for JWST 2790 - Jewish Films and Filmmakers: Hollywood and Beyond

Spring.
JWST3102 Advanced Modern Hebrew II This is the second course in our third-year Modern Hebrew language sequence. Like its predecessor, it focuses on developing speech proficiency, reading and listening comprehension, and writing. It does this through reading of a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts; viewing of filmic works and television series selected for their social, political, and cultural relevance; class discussions; presentations and writing about everyday issues in Israel and abroad.

Full details for JWST 3102 - Advanced Modern Hebrew II

Spring.
JWST3108 Dynamics and Changes of Israeli Culture Through Language and Literature The course develops advanced Hebrew language proficiency through study of Israeli culture's diachronic development. Like HEBRW 3105, 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.

Full details for JWST 3108 - Dynamics and Changes of Israeli Culture Through Language and Literature

Spring.
JWST3535 Moses to Modernity This course is an introduction to Jewish philosophy – from Biblical texts to 20th century work. Our inquiries will span metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy. We will reflect on questions such as the relation between philosophy or reason on the one hand, and religion and ethics on the other, on the possibility of knowledge of God, the ethics of human relations, the nature of suffering, and finally the nature of a tolerant and just society. We will read works by Maimonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Marx, Buber, Rosenzweig, Cohen, Arendt, Levinas, and Butler, among others.

Full details for JWST 3535 - Moses to Modernity

Spring.
JWST3655 Minorities of the Middle East This course examines the historic diversity of the modern Middle East, exploring histories of inter-communal contact and conflict. We begin by investigating the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the impact of its dissolution. We will focus our attention on commercial centers that fostered inter-communal relations, as well as investigating sites of strife and cases of minority repression. We will read histories, memoirs, and fiction, and view films that help us better understand inter-communal relations, tensions, and conflict. We will also interrogate the terms for exploring a range distinctions among majority and minority populations including: religious difference (Muslims, Christians, and Jews); divisions of religious rite (Sunni and Shi'a); entho-linguistic minorities (Armenians and Kurds); national identities (Israelis and Palestinians); cultures of origin (Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ashkenazi Jews). We will explore how these divisions inform urgent current conflicts: the civil war in Syria and the refugee crisis; the civil war in Iraq and the campaign by ISIS against minorities; as well as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Full details for JWST 3655 - Minorities of the Middle East

Spring.
JWST4310 Methods in Medieval Topic: The Late Medieval Devotional Image. A commonplace in the scholarly literature surrounding late medieval visual culture in Spain is that it was always "late".  The Spaniards lagged behind the Italians -- so the story goes -- in getting a handle on perspective, and trailed after van Eyck and van der Weyden in mastering the niceties of oil painting and realistic effects.  Spain's visual production, in other words, is generally treated from a standpoint of connoisseurship and "history of styles," producing predictable results:  evaluations of how it does (or does not) conform to the models established for other European contexts whose appropriateness to late medieval Iberia is doubtful to say the least.  We will examine, through the contextually based study of the introduction of the retablo (altarpiece) into Iberian churches, chapels and palaces (these contexts, of course, included a significant consciousness, and often presence, of Jews, Muslims, or recent converts to Christianity from those latter two religions) in the early 15th century, both the problems enumerated above and the problematic culture of the religious image in Iberia.

Full details for JWST 4310 - Methods in Medieval

Spring.
JWST4628 Gnosticism and Early Christianity What is "Gnosticism" and why has it come to be so hotly debated among scholars and in our contemporary media? What is the Gospel of Judas and are its ideas "heretical"? Who wrote the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary and why were these Gospels not included in the New Testament canon? To what extent did Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code draw from ancient Christian gnostic sources? This seminar will explore answers to these questions and many others by focusing on the complex array of literary sources from late antiquity-primarily from a cache of manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945-that have long been associated with a so-called "Christian Gnosticism". Church Fathers condemned the "movement" on a variety of grounds, but in this course we will not simply read the condemnations written by the opponents of gnostic thought; rather, we will focus our attention on reading (in English translation) substantial portions of the "gnostic" texts written by the adherents themselves. We will give special attention to the ways in which conflicts about Gnosticism connected with conflicts about gender, heresy, power, and authority. To set these texts within a socio-historical context, we will discuss the possible Jewish and hellenistic roots of early Christian Gnosticism and ties to Stoic and other ancient philosophical movements.

Full details for JWST 4628 - Gnosticism and Early Christianity

Fall.
JWST4659 The Fabrication of Biblical Israel This course examines the raw materials and discursive processes by which Biblical scribes fabricated a history of ancient Israel that featured static and defensible geographic and genealogical boundaries. We will bring the tools of biblical criticism (philological, archaeological, literary historical) to bear on biblical narrative traditions that in different ways were essential in the process of inventing biblical Israel. We will focus on the modes and materials of textual production and on how modern historians engage biblical narrative in fabricating their own narrative histories of ancient Israel. We will also consider how ancient and modern historical writing on ancient Israel has been put into the service of contemporary political discourse on boundaries and borders in Israel-Palestine. For longer description and instructor bio visit the Society for the Humanities website.

Full details for JWST 4659 - The Fabrication of Biblical Israel

Spring.
JWST4721 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.

Full details for JWST 4721 - Peace Building in Conflict Regions: Case Studies Sub-Saharan Africa Israel Palestinian Territories

Spring.
JWST4992 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.

Full details for JWST 4992 - Independent Study - Undergraduate

Spring.
JWST6310 Methods in Medieval Topic: The Late Medieval Devotional Image. A commonplace in the scholarly literature surrounding late medieval visual culture in Spain is that it was always "late".  The Spaniards lagged behind the Italians -- so the story goes -- in getting a handle on perspective, and trailed after van Eyck and van der Weyden in mastering the niceties of oil painting and realistic effects.  Spain's visual production, in other words, is generally treated from a standpoint of connoisseurship and "history of styles," producing predictable results:  evaluations of how it does (or does not) conform to the models established for other European contexts whose appropriateness to late medieval Iberia is doubtful to say the least.  We will examine, through the contextually based study of the introduction of the retablo (altarpiece) into Iberian churches, chapels and palaces (these contexts, of course, included a significant consciousness, and often presence, of Jews, Muslims, or recent converts to Christianity from those latter two religions) in the early 15th century, both the problems enumerated above and the problematic culture of the religious image in Iberia.

Full details for JWST 6310 - Methods in Medieval

Spring.
JWST6370 The Holocaust and History Writing In the last decades, "Holocaust Studies" witnessed an extraordinary expansion, covering different fields of scholarship, from history to literature, from philosophy to aesthetics.  This seminar will retrace the major steps of Holocaust history writing.  It will analyze the classical debates between "intentionalism" and "functionalism," the discrepancies between the analytical approaches focused on the perpetrators and those focused on the victims, the inscription of the Holocaust into the broader context of war violence, and its comparison with the genocidal violence of colonialism.  Finally, it will investigate some methodological problems concerning the place of testimony in history writing and the permanent connections, both fruitful and problematic, between history and memory.  This means taking into account the entanglement of the most productive areas of Holocaust scholarship (Germany, France and the United States) as well as the relationship between the historiography of the Holocaust and other disciplines (memory studies, postcolonial studies, etc.).

Full details for JWST 6370 - The Holocaust and History Writing

JWST6659 The Fabrication of Biblical Israel This course examines the raw materials and discursive processes by which Biblical scribes fabricated a history of ancient Israel that featured static and defensible geographic and genealogical boundaries. We will bring the tools of biblical criticism (philological, archaeological, literary historical) to bear on biblical narrative traditions that in different ways were essential in the process of inventing biblical Israel. We will focus on the modes and materials of textual production and on how modern historians engage biblical narrative in fabricating their own narrative histories of ancient Israel. We will also consider how ancient and modern historical writing on ancient Israel has been put into the service of contemporary political discourse on boundaries and borders in Israel-Palestine. For longer description and instructor bio visit the Society for the Humanities website.

Full details for JWST 6659 - The Fabrication of Biblical Israel

Spring.
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