E 314V • Introduction to Jewish Studies: Selected Texts of Jewish Literature and Thought
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
The formal development of Jewish Studies began in 19th c. Europe, concentrated in Germany and was called the science of Judaism. It can be, and is, pursued in many disciplines through a variety of methodologieshistoriographic, sociological, philological, religious, just to name a few. E 314V is designed to introduce students to that field and array of critical methods by covering the chronological, geographical, and cultural sweep of Jewish experience, explored textually and materially. Whichever method or theoretical perspective it deploys, however, it insists upon larger contextualizations.
This inaugural years version of E 314V will focus on Jewish literature and Jewish thought, comprising a general introduction to Biblical, rabbinic, philosophic and literary Jewish texts from the 6th Century B.C.E. to the 21st Century C.E, with an emphasis on hermeneutics (interpretation). Is there a specifically Jewish (and/or Judaic) approach to textuality, a specifically Jewish (and/or Judaic) philosophy of reading? These are some of the questions we will pose and attempt to answer.
Note: this course is not intended as an introduction to Judaism, i.e., the basic religious doctrines, ritual practices, and philosophical schools of the Jewish religion. Nor is it a conventional history of the Jewish people. It will, however, explore a wide range of Jewish expression across cultural, historical, and linguistic boundaries.
Weekly or bi-weekly short response papers, a mid-term exam, and a final 12-15 page term-paper comprise the courses written requirements, amounting to 50% of the grade. The other 50% is predicated on vigorous and sedulous class-participation.
The Book of Esther, Pirke Avot (Chapters of the Fathers), selected midrash and aggadah, writings by Maimonides and other medieval figures, 19th to 21st c. Yiddish, Hebrew, European, and American fiction and poetry, essays by Franz Rosenzweig, Emmanuel Levinas, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and R. Joseph Soloveitchik, along with a critical reader of scholarly articles by notable critics in the field.