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Introduction to the richness and diversity of Jewish civilization from antiquity to the present. Examination of evolving notions of "who" or "what" is Jewish. Key concepts including “chosenness,” community, peoplehood, diaspora, redemption, and Torah. How the boundaries of Jewishness have been formed, contested, and revised over time; how Jews managed to retain their identity throughout their millennial history of migration, dispersion, and persecution; what unites Jewish civilization; and whether a unified Jewish history over centuries and continents can be traced, as distinct from multiple “histories” of the Jews in the myriad times and places in which they lived. Emphasis on analysis of primary texts and cultural objects along with contextual understanding of Jews and Judaism.
By mastering this course, students should be able to: 1. Identify and explain the significance of major personalities, places, events, movements, etc. discussed in the readings and covered in lecture. 2. Discern and articulate major trends and recurring themes in Jewish civilization from ancient times to the middle seventeenth century. 3. Understand the main factors in the survival of Jewish civilization notwithstanding the loss of a common land and language in antiquity. 4. Trace shifts in conceptions of the boundaries of Jewishness and explain what has motivated these changes. 5. Connect the specific material of the course to essential issues in the study of history, such as: a. the relationship between academic history and national myth or collective memory b. the tension between continuity and change, particularly at what appear to be turning points in history c. the role of texts, rituals, and perceptions of the Other in the shaping of collective identities d. the strategies of adaptation and resistance used by minorities to maintain their identity in their interactions with the majority culture 6. Become more adept at analyzing primary documents like historians, e..g by posing good questions of them, determining what historical information we can glean from them, etc. 7. Become more adept at analyzing secondary sources, e.g. by reading for argument, distinguishing thesis from supporting evidence, considering alternative explanations for given data, identifying possible authorial biases, etc. 8. Demonstrate historical empathy and imagination, by showing ability to “think into” the minds of individuals living in very different worlds from our own. 9. Write essays that draw on the above skills and are clear, cogent, and concise.
Uploaded a Course Syllabus
This proposed course, which was taught once previously three years ago under the special topics category, provides a much more comprehensive survey of Jewish history, literature, and culture than can be found in any GW course. In terms of scope, only REL 2201 ("Judaism") is comparable, but whereas the focus of the latter is on Jewish religious thought and practice, the course I am proposing deals with Jewish civilization in a broader sense.
Gen Ed: Humanities
CCAS - GCR: Foreign Cultures
CCAS - GCR: Humanities
CCAS-GPAC: Oral Communication
CCAS - History European
CCAS - History Pre-1750
CCAS-GPAC: Humanities CCAS-GPAC: Oral Communication and CCAS-GPAC:GlobalCrossCultural attributes added per instruction from B. Gilligan