2018 Fall Courses
Martyrdom and Religious Violence in the Ancient Mediterranean World
Ra'anan S. Boustan
This course explores the relationship between religion and violence in the ancient Mediterranean world. We will investigate how shifting discourses and practices of religiously motivated violence directed both at the self and others shaped the social, cultural and political histories of specific groups within ancient Mediterranean society. Of special interest is the emergence of Jewish and Christian traditions of martyrdom against their biblical and Graeco-Roman backgrounds and the impact of the Christianization of the Roman Empire on the relationship between political power, violence, and communal identity.
American Jews and Sexual Freedom
AMS 335/JDS 320/GSS 323/ENG 441
For more than a century before #metoo, the histories of sexual repression and liberation in America were already strangely and persistently intertwined with the history of American Jews. This course surveys crucial texts and moments in U.S. literature, law, and culture, exploring the interventions of Jewish writers, lawyers, theorists, and activists in transforming the ways all Americans think about and express their sexuality. Topics addressed will include the roles played by Jews in literary censorship and debates about obscenity, the defense of reproductive rights, the Sexual Revolution, pornography, and the rights of sexual minorities.
Elementary Biblical Hebrew
JDS 302/NES 302/REL 302
Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible in the original language. During the semester, students will learn the script and the grammar, develop a working vocabulary, and read a selection of Biblical passages. The course is designed for beginners with little or no previous knowledge of the language. Students with extensive experience in the language should contact the instructor about course alternatives.
NES 221/ JDS 223/ REL 216
Jerusalem is considered a holy city to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this course, students will learn the history of Jerusalem from its founding in pre-biblical times until the present. Over the course of the semester, we will ask: What makes space sacred and how does a city become holy? What has been at stake - religiously, theologically, politically, nationally - in the many battles over Jerusalem? Is a city that is so deeply contested doomed to endless tension or does history offer more hopeful precedents?
The World of Cairo Geniza
NES 369/HIS 351/JDS251
The importance of the Cairo Geniza, a cache of texts discovered in the attic of a medieval Egyptian synagogue, goes beyond Jewish history, crossing the breadth of the medieval world and offering an intimate view of commerce, slavery, heresy and seafaring; of what people wore, ate, rode, believed and did all day; of who married whom and why; of a Shi'ite state ruling over Sunnis, Christians and Jews; and of a society that remains the best documented of its period. Students in the course will read unpublished primary sources to gain an insider's glimpse of what we can know and can't know in premodern history.
Marriage and Monotheism
NES 379/JDS 378/GSS 380
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.
Apocalypse: The End of the World
REL 342/JDS 343
This course studies the rich corpus of revelations about end of the world, the fate of souls after death, the secrets of the cosmos, and God's heavenly abode in ancient Judaism and Christianity by placing them in their historical contexts and considering them in relation the development of Judaism and Christianity from the Hebrew Bible through late antiquity. Among the works to be considered are 1 Enoch (an anthology of ancient Jewish apocalypses about the antediluvian patriarch), Daniel (Hebrew Bible), Revelation (New Testament), early Christian tours of hell and paradise, and the early Jewish mystical work 3 Enoch (Sefer Hekhalot).
JDS 411/REL 410
This course is intended for students who already have experience with the Talmud and want to expand their engagement with the text by acquiring modern research methods. It addresses the use and significance of manuscripts of the texts; the relationship between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi; the sources of the Talmud and the way in which it was put together. We will trace the development of Talmudic ideas, laws, and stories and determine how and why different versions developed. We will also examine the text in its historical context. Students will be introduced to the online and offline databases and bibliographic tools.
Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Religions - Texts and Contexts
REL 512 /JDS 513
Laura E. Quick
This course considers the production, consumption and transmission of written traditions in the ancient Near East. We extrapolate cultural and historical information from primary texts, while accurately placing them in their original historical and cultural context.