Jews of the Americas comprise 47% of the world’s Jewish population and, though a small percentage of the countries in which they live, have greatly influenced the shape of high and popular culture in the United States, Canada, and Latin America (including both the Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil). In turn, their varied experiences throughout the Western Hemisphere have challenged traditional Jewish identities in many significant ways. This course will compare and contrast aspects of Jewish presence in the Americas—literature, music, art, dance, photography, filmmaking, and journalism—in order to understand the nature and variety of cultural interactions from the nineteenth century through the present. We also examine the work of Jorge Luis Borges, the celebrated non-Jewish Argentine writer known for his highly imaginative use of Kabbalah and magical Jewish folk beliefs.
The course is being offered in Fall 2015 so that students can attend a major symposium on Jewish Life in the Americas sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, scheduled for November 1-2, 2015, here at UT. All non-English sources are presented in translation and, in the case of films, with subtitles.
Some of the artists, writers, photographers, musicians, and filmmakers referred to in the course include:
Leonard Cohen—songwriter, singer, poet
A. M. Klein—poet
David Cronenberg—film director
Robbie Robertson—lead singer of The Band
Leonard Bernstein—composer and conductor, classical and Broadway
Bob Dylan—singer-songwriter, poet
Steven Spielberg, film director
Helen Frankenthaler—abstract expressionist artist
Philip Roth—novelist and short-story writer
Jon Stewart—satirical broadcast journalist
George Gershwin—composer of both classical and popular music
Spanish America and Brazil:
Ilán Stavans, Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories by Jewish-Latin American Writers
Moacyr Scliar, selected short stories
Jorge Luis Borges, "Death and the Compass," "The Golem," "Emma Zunz"
Cao Hamburger, director (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation)
Daniel Burman, director (Waiting for the Messiah; The Lost Embrace)
José Judkovski, tango DJ and historian of Jews in Argentine tango.
Required ungraded weekly journal entries on readings and class discussions. (all journal entries required on time with penalty for late entries)
Term paper and in-class presentation on term paper topic 40%
first exam 20%
In-class second exam 30%
Faithful attendance and participation in class discussion 10%
No final examination during finals week.