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Fall 2018 JWST 697: Capstone Course: Themes and Methodologies in Jewish Studies

This course is open to both undergrads and grad students and is required for the major.
Yiddish Literature and the Bible
The emergence of Yiddish literature cannot be disentangled from the
Bible: The earliest Yiddish words are found in glosses of Hebrew Bible
commentaries from the 12th century. Biblical figures appear as knights in
shining armors and damsels in distress in Yiddish novels that re-make
Biblical tales. And even modern Yiddish writers use the Bible as a
constant reference. Across history, translations and interpretations of the
Bible play a significant role in Yiddish literature. This course will offer a
close reading of major Yiddish texts including the Tsene-rene, a Yiddish
Bible adaptation for women and “men who are like women”and one of
the most popular books in Yiddish; the Book of Samuel rendered as a
heroic epic; parodies of the Enlightenment; and stories by modern
Yiddish writers such as Sholem Aleichem and Itzik Manger. Yiddish, a
language sometimes dismissed as language of the home, offers a variety
of lenses through which to discuss the role of literature and storytelling in
Ashkenazic society. Since many Yiddish texts are adaptations or
translations based on Hebrew or vernacular texts, the course will also
discuss issues of translation. In addition, the course will explore the
conditions of literary production as well as the reception of Yiddish
literature within Jewish society and beyond. All texts will be read in
English translation. There will be an optional one hour course offered for
students interested in learning to read in Yiddish.
Ruth von Bernuth
Fridays 10:10 am -1:10 pm
Fall 2018

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