This course follows the development of modern Hebrew prose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How was Hebrew refashioned from a liturgical to a modern literary language capable of narrating novels and conveying contemporary dialogue? Who were the revolutionary writers who accomplished this feat and what ideological struggles accompanied it? We will begin with the haskala (Jewish enlightenment), continue with the tehiya (revival) and early writing in the yishuv (Jewish community in pre-State Palestine), and conclude with dor ha-medina (the "independence generation") and maturation of modern Hebrew. Reading knowledge of Hebrew required.
The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts from an Egyptian synagogue including letters, lists and legal deeds from before 1500, when most Jews lived in the Islamic world. These are some of the best-documented people in pre-modern history and among the most mobile, crossing the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to trade, study, apprentice and marry. Data science, neural network-based handwritten text recognition and other computational methods are now helping make sense of the texts on a large scale. Students will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge and gain an insider's view of what we can and can't know in premodern history.
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."