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College of Arts & Sciences
Jewish Studies Program


Courses with Jewish Studies Content

 Comparative Literature Program Courses (CPLT)

 

Comparative Literature CPLT 740 & English ENGL 650
Women and Shoah: Memory, Memoirs and Memorials
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
 
Syllabus

Course Description: This course will survey a number of memoirs by first-hand victims and second-generation Shoah witnesses. Using the vast theoretical body of work produced in the last 30 years on trauma, post-memory, feminist voices in autobiographical narratives, we will analyze works by women who live in Europe, the United States and Israel and examine the ways in which these authors have dialogued with, challenged and affected the Shoah canon and the contemporary practice, discourse and politics of memorialization.

 


Comparative Literature CPLT 750N & German GERM 780N

Anti-Semitism in Contemporary German Literature and Film
Professor: Agnes C. Mueller
Syllabus

Course Description: This course investigates representations of anti-Semitism in contemporary German literature and film. WWII and the Holocaust essentially rendered any post-1945 anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria taboo. However, sociological studies show that anti-Semitism in Germany has, especially since unification, been on the rise again. If we read film and literature as cultural artifacts that indicate trends and currents in societies, we must carefully investigate why and how such anti-Semitic utterances and trajectories are produced, transmitted, and received. We also need to think about how we might respond, and what kinds of traditions of anti-Semitism (anti-Zionism, Islamic prejudices, German right-wing, or German guilt rejection) are represented.

 


Department of English Language and Literature Courses (ENGL)

 

English ENGL 282
Fiction: Biblical Echoes in Modern Culture
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus 

Course Description: Was Abraham a villain or a hero? Is Exile ever going to end, or are we still roaming the desert? Could the Garden of Eden be my backyard? So, am I or not my bother’s keeper?... (And what did Voltaire, Kierkegaard, Kafka, Chagall or Bob Dylan say about it?) 

Starting with the Enlightenment, this course will look at the way in which modern literature, art and culture has dealt with the question of God, Justice and the human bond—taking inspiration from or issue with the way in which these concepts are problematized and represented in the Hebrew Bible. We will compare how the Judaic ethical and philosophical tradition as formulated in the Bible has influenced the Western canon and is echoed in modern Jewish and non-Jewish texts. Our analysis of the selected works will move in three directions: we will look for Biblical symbology and imagery in modern literature and art; we will analyze how modern philosophers, authors and artists have reused and transformed certain biblical stories; finally, our most important task will be to understand how these intellectuals have questioned, repudiated or resignified the relation between Man and God/Man and Man (in their historical and national contexts). Together we will explore the Jewish concepts of Exile, justice and messianism, while unearthing the traces left by such Hebrew stories as creation, Akedah, captivity, sibling rivalry, the Tower of Babel, etc. in Western cultural production.

 


English ENGL 282E (evening)
At Home in the Shtetl: Pre-War Jewish Life through Literature
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus

Course Description: Think of this course as a very particular journey. We will move far away in space and time, we will travel back to Europe… but we’ll get out of there just before WWII. We will not visit Paris, Berlin, Vienna and its other glamorous capital cities, but we will stop in villages, small towns, and roam the countryside throughout central-eastern Europe where we will look for traces of Jewish life before the war—which is, before the Holocaust brought this vibrant, creative, diverse world to an end. 
This course offers students the opportunity to look at a different, probably less familiar, aspect of European and Jewish literature and to get acquainted with Jewish life (religious, social, artistic, domestic) through the stories of famous Yiddish writers such as Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch and I.L. Perez, but also through folk tradition, visual art, music and pre-war films. Who were the Chassidim and the Maskilim? What are the roots of klezmer music? What's a "golem", a "shlemiel" and a "shlimazel"? Was the shtetl a Jewish u-topia (non-place)? We will analyze the way in which the Jews of central-eastern Europe saw and interacted with their non-Jewish neighbors, their capacity to adapt to very harsh economic and social conditions, and most importantly, the way in which out of a long history of cohabitation and adaptation, a rich body of creative work was produced and how this stands in relation to both the majority culture of the period and today’s assumptions about Jewish identity.

 


English ENGL E285
Diasporas: Jews & Other Immigrants Writing their American Story
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus

Course Description: How many times have you heard the expression, and perhaps (G-d forbid) used it yourself, “The melting pot” referred to America? Have you ever stopped and reflected on what this expression actually means and implies? You will now… This course is designed to examine this question, by framing it within its twentieth-century multi-cultural and transcultural American literary context. 

We live, you might have noticed, in a world of hyphenated identities: American-Jew, Hispano-American, etc. Is our hyphenated culture the antidote to the universalizing force of the “melting pot”? What does it mean to become American today—and how is it different from a hundred years ago? How is that accomplished? Do all immigrants at all times—regardless of gender, race, ideology—experience immigration, assimilation, cultural transformation the same way? Through the examination of how the “ethnic story” and “ethnic identity” come together and are progressively constructed, students will gain a new understanding of “ethnicity” as a very dynamic notion: one that also entails struggle, conflict and resistance to the dominant culture’s oppressive forces as well as to the pull and oppression of one’s own culture of origin. 

In particular, we will take one specific immigrant experience, that of the Jews in America—as expressed in some classics of American Jewish literature—and use it as the paradigmatic example, against which and in dialogue with which, other immigrant voices are going to be explored.

 


English ENGL 285
Melting Identities: The Formation of a Jewish-American Self
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus 

Course Description: This course will offer old and new perspectives on Jewish American identity through short stories, fiction, film, theater and music. We will look at issues regarding immigration and degrees of assimilation among various ethnic communities in America, the early American anti-immigration feelings (Nativism), success/defeat of inter-ethnic relations in America, “outsiders” and the American cities (Why is New York everyman’s Promised Land?), Jewish American stereotypes, and the titanic tension between tradition (fathers) and secularism (sons). Through some wonderful works of past and contemporary Jewish American culture, this course will help raise questions about marginality and “hyphenated identities”; the transformation of individual, family and collective values in the global world; and how old parameters to talk about who we are might have become obsolete and need total rethinking. Through the lens of some tragic, subversive, humorous, intransigent, or irreverent products of Jewish culture we will be able to glance at how, from “fusion” to “confusion”, the face of American identity has changed in the last hundred years.

 


English ENGL 439H
Family Matters:
Twentieth-Century Jewish Women Remembering Family and/as History

Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus

Course Description: The course will explore the way in which Jewish women write about their families (espeacially about their fathers and mothers) and the way in which one’s private story together with the impact of History shapes one’s identity. In order to do so, we will work on the autobiographical writings of European and American twentieth-century authors. As a rich scholarship on the subject has revealed in the last 30 years, women’s narratives and especially autobiographical texts often center on everyday routines and rituals, the minutiae of domestic geographies, and all the daily familial details which are usually removed from traditional historiography. This course hopes to point out how (and by which textual and narrative strategies) the texts selected historicize the domestic, and blend larger universal history and politics in the microcosm of the personal and familiar. Our approach and reading selection will help us see how, through the contribution of women’s “domestic” perspective, the truth of personal history ends up enriching, reevaluating and even questioning the Truth of History.

 


Department of History Courses (HIST)

 

HIST 493/RELG 291 
The Bible in History: Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible from the Rabbis to America
Professor: John Mandsager
Syllabus

Course Description: Even before the books of the Hebrew Bible were written down, different people have held different arguments for how to read and interpret it. This course will delve into the sea of interpretations of the Bible, with particular emphases on competing interpretations through time and space. We will start with the investigation of how the Bible became an authoritative book and how different parts of the Bible already interpret earlier parts, we will move on to classical Jewish interpretations of the Bible, the approaches to the Hebrew Bible in early Christianity, the place of biblical interpretation in early Islam, and we will conclude the course with modern interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, particularly in America.

 

 



Religious Studies RELG 491H

Holy Women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Professor: Katja Vehlow
Syllabus

Course Description: Over the centuries, holy women have inspired the faithful and they continue to fascinate: The 2007 publication of a posthumous edition of Mother Theresa’s Be My Light , for instance, challenged popular images of the conservative saint of the slums and was widely discussed in secular media. The ideal of holiness has taken many forms, inspiring increased piety, martyrdom, monasticism, mysticism, and social activism. An examination of holy women from various traditions will disclose the diverse ways in which particular communities have understood and practiced essential elements of holiness.

 


Religious Studies RELG 491M and 594M
Literature and Film of the Holocaust
Professor: Kevin Lewis
Syllabus

Course Flyer

Course Description: The course is primarily about Holocaust-related films—several in the documentary genre, several in the feature-length, commercial genre—but also about related literature (memoir, fiction, poetry), and a little about related music. We will view the films as artistic representations, as attempts at crafted persuasion. We will ask questions such as: does the work touch the elusive truth or truths about what actually happened and how it was actually experienced? And: do the commercial films tell a big enough “Truth” to excuse small “lies?” (Cf. Picasso’s definition of art.) What is its moral point of view? Is it emotionally `recognizable? In what sense are we “entertained,” or should we be? 

The course presumes some previous acquaintance with Holocaust/Shoah history, testimony, and visual images, as well as some experience in critiquing/analyzing works of film and literary art.

 


 South Carolina Honors College (SCHC)

 

South Carolina Honors College SCHC 325K
Representations of the Holocaust
Professor: Ted Rosengarten

Course Description:
Although the Holocaust did not occur in this country and touched only a small number of Americans directly, it looms large in the American moral landscape. Hardly a day goes by without the media reporting some story related to this unprecedented genocide, giving it the aura of a current event. Despite historical inaccuracies, artistic deficiencies, and commercial motivations, documentary and dramatic films about the killing of the Jews and other groups deemed "unworthy of life" by Nazi Germany impress the Holocaust into popular consciousness. Novels and short stories, museum exhibitions and public memorials, works of fine art and site-specific art—all shape conventional ways of thinking about this tragic past. In one seminar-length session per week, our class will analyze representations of the Holocaust in film, art, and literature produced in the aftermath of World War II in countries that fought Germany or were occupied by or allied with the Nazi regime, as well as in works produced by Germans themselves.

We will examine the plight of Jews and non-Jews—gypsies, homosexuals, communists, trade-unionists, defiant Christians, individuals with disabilities—targeted for elimination. We will reflect on courageous attempts at rescue and resistance. We will consider how artistic representations both create and debunk mythologies that pose as authentic knowledge.

 


South Carolina Honors College SCHC 350T-501
Prosem: Holocaust in America
Professor: Federica K. Clementi
Syllabus 

Course Description:
A Picture Worth Six Million Faces:
After-Imaging the Holocaust in American Film and Literature

Sixty-four years after the first photographs and news reports of concentration camps reached American soil, the stories, images, and history of the Holocaust continue to shock, horrify, hurt, and enrage us. Despite years of scholarly research and debate, the reality that was the Shoah continues to raise more questions than it answers regarding the workings of trauma, individual and mass behavior, the viability of Western humanism, as well as the tension between collective and personal memory, national and private history.

In particular, America’s fascination with the Shoah has spawned a seemingly endless production of works dealing with the Second World War and the fate of European Jews under the Nazi regime. Drawing on a range of genres including memoir, fiction, theater, documentary movies, and popular film, this course will explore the birth and development of a specifically American language and discourse on and around the Holocaust (a phenomenon referred to as the “Americanization” or “Hollywoodization” of the Holocaust). Specifically, we will examine the limits, ethics and paradoxes of (its) representation; the role the historical event has had on the shaping of American Jewish identity; and if, as some claim, the Holocaust has in fact created the “American Jew” and what this means for twenty-first century Jewish and American culture.

A series of guest speakers during the semester will enlighten our understanding of this very complex theme from a variety of scholarly perspectives.

Students will be able to understand and contextualize the Holocaust not only as historical catastrophe but also as a lasting intellectual and philosophical inextricable knot against which post-war America’s (and Western) values, ethics, national self-concept, politics and even laws are still measured.