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Course Descriptions

The list below includes descriptions of all undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Judaic Studies Program.

Review specific course requirements for the Judaic Studies Program. For up-to-date information on course offerings, schedules, room locations and registration, please visit the Student Information System (SIS).

General Courses

JS 21 Introduction to Hebrew Bible. Survey of the Hebrew Bible in its historical context. Development of the religion of Ancient Israel , the life of Moses, production of Israelite codes of law, construction of theological language and imagery, rise of monarchy and temple, accounts of creation, psalms and wisdom literature, and lives and legacies of the Israelite prophets. Cross-listed as REL 21.

JS 25 Imagining the Holocaust on Stage and Screen. Plays and films dealing with the Holocaust, From Nazi-era propaganda to contemporary reflections on genocide. Special emphasis on the ethics of Holocaust represented and the responsibilities of artists (and audiences) who engage the Holocaust story. Texts include such plays as Camp Comedy, Ghetto, Kindertransport, Good, Bent, Who Will Carry the World?, and Annulla, as well as critical and theoretical readings. Triumph of the Will, Night and Fog, The Architecture of Doom, Partisans of Vilna, The Boat is Full, My Mother's Courage, Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful and Shoah are among the feature films and documentaries considered.  (Graduate Students should register for TPS 125). Cross-listed as FMS 62, TPS 25 and TPS 125.

JS 34 Introduction to Judaism. Judaism as a diverse textual tradition and lived religion, with a focus on beliefs, ethics, and rituals. Contemporary Jewish communities from a global perspective; Hebrew Bible; rabbinic literature; medieval and modern theology and mysticism; social forms, law, and practice. Cross-listed as REL 18.

JS 47 Saul Bellow and Company. Fiction, letters and essays of Saul Bellow. Bellow’s challenge to Twentieth Century ideas including the death of the novel and the collapse of civilization. Bellow’s invention of a “free-style" language to describe his time, place, and experience. Novelists, poets, and writers who influenced and reacted to Bellow's work. Cross-listed as ENG 47.

JS 48 Israeli Film. Films from Israel, including the work of Palestinian filmmakers, dealing with Israeli and Palestinian history and daily life from the late 19th century to the present. Topics may include: the Jewish settlements in Palestine prior to statehood; the struggle for a Jewish state; the War of Independence; Israel's relation to the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors; Palestinian Arab experience and the relation of Jews and Arabs; the relation of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews; religious and secular life; kibbutz and urban experience; childhood and coming of age; army service; wartime experience; love and sexuality; music and artistic life; postmodern Israel and visions of the future.

JS 55 Technology and Jewish Oral Tradition. The concept of oral tradition and its traditional transmission in the Jewish community. We consider why certain men and women increasingly see the performance of text as a key to authentic religious expression. In many congregations, across denominational lines, busy lay congregants spend hours every week preparing to "read Torah" and lead services at Sabbath worship. Many understand this performance of sacred text as a way to position themselves at the core of authentic religious experience. Increasingly, these oral traditions of chant and prayer are not learned through face to face interaction with cantors, rabbis or other teachers but from websites and computer programs such as "Haftutor," "CyberTropes," or "Navigating the Bible." We examine how the application of these new technologies is changing the transmission, study, performance and cultural understanding of these sacred oral traditions. Cross-listed as MUS 55 and REL 55.

JS 65 Introduction to Yiddish Culture. An examination of the roots of East European Jewish culture, beginning with a 6000-year survey of the religions of Abraham; a brief examination of the origins of Judaism, the evolution of Christianity and Islam; the historic migration of the Jewish people from Asia to Western Europe and eventually to Czarist Russia; the rise and fall of Yiddish literature; the end of the Shtetl world; and the American experience. Readings include Sholom Aleichem, Sholem Asch, I. B. Singer, Bernard Malamud, and Phillip Roth. Stress on universal cultural patterns and similarities of ethnic experience. Cross-listed as REL 65 and ILVS 64.

JS 73 Aspects of the Sephardic Tradition. Introduction to the history and culture of the Sephardic Jews. The life and fortunes of the Sephardim in Spain and Portugal, their contributions to the exploration, settlement, and development of America, their folklore, and present attempts to preserve and promote their heritage will be considered. Focus on prominent and interesting Sephardic personalities from diverse countries and times, such as Maimonides, Dona Gracia Nasi, Judah Touro, Haim Isaac Carigal, and Elias Canetti. Cross-listed as REL 93.

JS 77 Archaeology of Palestine. Introduction to the archaeology of Palestine from the Persian period to the Muslim conquest (586 B.C.-640 A.D.), including the influence of Greco-Roman civilization on the local cultures; the rise of diverse groups within Judaism, such as the sect that composed the Dead Sea Scrolls; the development of Rabbinic Judaism; the rise of Christianity; and the spread of Islam. Cross-listed as ARCH 29, FAH 18 and CLS 29.

JS 79 Jewish Voices in Russian Culture. The identity and self-identity of Russian-Jewish authors and characters from the standpoints of literary analyses, cultural ethnography, folklore, visual studies, and social and political history. Discussion of primary sources, including literary works, visual media, popular songs, and lectures on art, religion, and theater and dance, either written or produced in English, or translated into English from Russian and Yiddish. Topics include the responses of Russian and Soviet Jewish writers to such topics as Zionism, the Russian Revolution, and the Holocaust with specific attention to anti-Semitism, emigration, limits of assimilation, and the future of Jews in Russia, Israel, and America. No prerequisites. Cross-listed as RUS 79.

JS 84 Sources of Jewish Tradition. The major religious texts of Jewish tradition, from the Hebrew Bible to the nineteenth century, which may include: the Torah, the Passover Haggadah, the Pirke Avot, the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrash, the Siddur (prayer book), Halevi's Kuzari, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and Guide of the Perplexed, medieval Hebrew poetry,the Zohar and Kabbalistic tradition, the Shulhan Arukh, and Hasidic sermons and tales. An attempt is made to understand these works in their social and cultural settings, and to evaluate how and why they were considered important. All texts read in English. Cross-listed as REL 95.

JS 87 Introduction to Talmud. Selected passages from the Talmud and rabbinic literature, Mishna, Gemara, Commentaries. Relevance to contemporary moral and ethical issues. All texts in English. Cross-listed as REL 23.

JS 88 Gender in Rabbinic Literature. Overview of the ways in which gender is used as an analytical tool in the study of rabbinic literature. Examines how rabbinic sources challenge the traditional understanding of the gender binary. Contrasts traditional historical questions about the roles of men and women in society with more contemporary approaches that view gender as socially constructed, contested, and fluid. In English. No prerequisites. No knowledge of Judaism or rabbinic literature is assumed.

JS 91 Ladino Language and Culture. (Co-listed with SPN 91) Introduction to the language known as Ladino and the culture of the Sephardic Jews who have spoken it for over 500 years. When they were expelled from Spain in 1492, Jews took this language with them, and it has been enriched through contact with languages encountered in their various lands of resettlement. Emphasis on the living language: understanding, speaking, and writing (including creatively). Texts will include proverbs, stories, and songs from the folk tradition as well as contemporary poems and songs, and basic language materials: grammar text and verb tables. Some background in Spanish (or Ladino!) is helpful, but not essential.

JS 126 Roots of the Jewish Imagination. (Cross-listed as REL 126) An introduction to Jewish myths, legends, mystical doctrines, and other subjects influential in the formation of Jewish imaginative literature. Topics include: the journey of the soul; the righteous sufferer; Jewish heresy; Jewish dream lore; the Messiah and the end of days; legends of the Golem; the dybbuk and exorcism; metamorphosis; hunger, food, fasting, and eating; the comic book and graphic novel; modern trauma and Jewish experience; Kabbalah, mysticism, and religious search; JuBus (Jewish Buddhists); modern Israel and her neighbors in contemporary writing. All texts read in English.

JS 132 Book of Genesis and its Interpreters. (Cross-listed as REL 132) A detailed study of the biblical book of Genesis, with special attention to the role the book played in postbiblical Jewish tradition. All texts read in English.

JS 136 King David and the Israelite Monarchy. King David was ancient Israel's most pivotal leader, who transformed Israel from a loose confederation of tribes to a dynastic monarchy with a capital in Jerusalem, fashioning a people into a nation in a more complex sense. The story of his acquisition and use of power is told in the biblical books 1 and 2 Samuel and the first two chapters of 1 Kings, which present a critique of kingly power and an examination of both the strengths and failings of Israel's first dynastic king. The course explores these and related biblical narratives, viewed in the light of modern historical and literary study, and cultural theory.

JS 142 Jewish Experience on Film. (Cross-listed as REL 142) Selected classic and contemporary films dealing with aspects of Jewish experience in America, Europe, and Israel, combined with reading on the cultural and philosophical problems illuminated by each film. One weekly session will be devoted to screenings, the other to discussion of the films and readings. In English.

JS 150 Music and Prayer in the Jewish Tradition. (Cross-listed as MUS 54 and REL 158) The role and function of music in Jewish worship. Ways that music is used strategically by men and women as they define, present and maintain their religious and cultural identity. Focus on the Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening) service and topics such as participation vs. performance in worship, music and historical authenticity in prayer, music and religious experience, the invention and preservation of tradition, and how liturgical music is used to negotiate issues of dual culturalism in the Jewish community in the United States.

JS 159 Contemporary Jewish Fiction. (Cross-listed as ENG 159) An exploration of the novels and short stories of writers whose work as been at the center of literary life for the last half-century and promises to transport us arguing, laughing, and reflecting deeply into this century as well. Fiction by Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Anne Michaels, Primo Levi, and others.

JS 162 Philip Roth & Company. (Cross-listed as ENG 162) Philip Roth's fiction alongside that of a number of writers, including Saul Bellow, Henry James, and Franz Kafka, whom Roth has either parodied, refracted, obsessed about or appropriated. Texts include Portnoy's Complaint, The Ghost Writer, The Breast and The Professor of Desire. Recommendations: ENG 1/2 REQUIRED or Fulfillment of College Writing Requirement. Recommended that the student already have taken either ENG 20,21,22, or 23.

JS 164 Representing the Jew. (Cross-listed as ENG 164) Advanced seminar on Jewish representations and self-representations in England and America, and in literature and popular culture. Mass culture and the Jews, anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism, Jewishness and sexuality, Jews and other ethnic groups, assimilation. Readings in critical and theoretical texts. Recommendations: ENG 1/2 REQUIRED or Fulfillment of College Writing Requirement. Recommended that the student already have taken either ENG 20,21,22, or 23.

Special Courses

JS 92 Special Topics. Courses on selected themes and authors in Hebrew literature and in Jewish literature translated from various languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Yiddish, Spanyol, German, Russian), including both classical and modern authors; and on selected subjects, such as Ladino language and culture and Israeli film.

JS 93 / JS 94 Directed Study. Guided independent study of an approved topic. Variable credit.

JS 95 Topics in Jewish Literature. Selected topics in Jewish literature and cultural expression, which may vary from year to year. Variable credit. Recommendations: Consent of instructor.

JS 99 Internship. No description at this time.

JS 191 / JS 192 Advanced Special Topics. For advanced and graduate students.

JS 193 / JS 194 Advanced Directed Study. For advanced and graduate students. Variable credit.

JS 199 Senior Honors Thesis. No description at this time.