Undergraduate Courses

Fall 2020

Advanced Biblical Hebrew: Violence and the State in the Hebrew Bible
In this class, we will explore how the Hebrew Bible imagines the interactions of the state with military and other extreme violence. We will focus on three biblical books--Joshua, Kings, and Nahum--and look at how Israelite violence becomes a shifting signifier, enfolding aspects of ritualization, ethnic and gendered consolidation, and theological fantasizing about enemies' deserved downfalls. The highly marked nature of textualized violence will facilitate study of intermediate Biblical Hebrew linguistic topics, including nominal and verbal syntax in prose and poetry, pragmatics, and lexical and other semantics.
Ancient Judaism from Alexander to the Rise of Islam
This course offers an introduction to the development of ancient Judaism during the eventful millennium from the establishment of the Torah as the constitution of the Jewish people in the fifth century BCE--an event that some have seen as marking the transition from biblical religion to Judaism--to the completion of the other great canonical Jewish document, the Babylonian Talmud, in perhaps the sixth century CE.
Instructors: Martha Himmelfarb
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics
What is the relationship between culture and ethics in conflict zones? Can culture be a force for conflict resolution or social change? This course examines these questions in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. How does the conflict permeate everyday life, and how do Palestinian and Israeli artists, writers and filmmakers respond? How have they pushed aesthetic and ethical limits in representing extreme violence and loss? How does the cultural imagination transgress borders? Course material includes film, literature, memoir, visual art, photography, theater, dance, music, TV satire and cookbooks, all in English translation.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Jews and Muslims: History and Culture
This interdisciplinary course examines Jewish-Muslim interaction in the spheres of written culture, kinship, shared culinary practices and living spaces, neighborhoods, musical customs, and overlapping religious practices. It considers these relations in Spain, Egypt, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and modern France. Historic contexts include the amazing medieval world of the Cairo Geniza and Islamic Spain; colonialism and modernity in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Mediterranean; and the present-day aftermath of Jewish emigration from the region. This is a rich history with many paths, as viewed through the prism of culture.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Marriage and Monotheism: Men, Women, and God in Near Eastern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
The decline of marriage in recent decades is often tied to the decline of religion. But why should marriage, a contractual relationship centered on sex and property, be seen as a religious practice? This seminar considers the varied and surprising ways in which the great monotheistic traditions of the Near East came to connect certain forms of human marriage - or their rejection- to divine devotion, and considers how marriage worked in societies shaped by these traditions. Spanning biblical Israel to the medieval Islamic world, this course will introduce you to the historical study of Near Eastern religions and to the field of family history.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
This course examines the fascinating and tragic history of the encounter and conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine/Israel beginning in the late 19th century. We will try to understand the evolution of the conflict from the distinct perspectives of the different parties engaged in it, aiming to comprehend their motivations, their ethical commitments, and the obstacles that have stood in the way of a peaceful resolution. The course is structured around questions, inviting students to partake in the challenging task of exploring one of the world's most complex, ever-developing and enduring political conflicts.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood
Are the Jews a separate nation? Should they have their own country? Where should it be located? This course investigates why Jews and non-Jews alike began asking these questions in the late eighteenth century and explores the varieties of answers they offered. The course's focus is on those who insisted that the Jews were a nation that required a state in the Jews' historic homeland. We will try to understand why these people - known collectively as Zionists - came to these conclusions, and why many others disagreed. The final part of the course will address debates within the State of Israel about what it means to be a "Jewish state."
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz