JCIV-199-01 Intro to Jewish Civilization: Great Jewish Texts Through Space and Time
Fall for 2017-2018
An exploration of the fundamental historical experiences, cultural, religious and philosophical ideas, and the hermeneutical processes which shaped them through literature and art, that have served to define Jewish Civilization from biblical times to the present.
The literary critic George Steiner made the intriguing observation that the true homeland of the Jewish people was not necessarily Zion, the synagogue, or some other space, be it physical or meta-physical. Rather, Steiner insisted that the true Jewish homeland was the text. In this course, we will introduce you to a wide variety of classic and less than classic Jewish texts. We will argue that for Jews the process of interpreting those texts is every bit as important—if not more so—than understanding the intentions of those who originally authored them. This then is a class about Jewish texts and all the many ways that Jews read their texts. It will be our working hypothesis that it is this very interpretive, or hermeneutical, process that lies at the core of Jewish identity.
We will never assume that a text is merely a literary concoction. Indeed, texts can be works of art, physical objects, musical recordings, and so forth. Our inquiry is also beholden to certain classic Jewish forms of argumentation and disputation. As such this class will be taught in a manner that replicates many classic Jewish learning styles. So the student should be prepared to speak out, all the while listening very carefully to the thoughts of their colleagues. This course fulfills the HALC, CULP, and Diversity requirements of the core program, and the RCST Middle East and RCST Western Europe requirements.
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