Fall 2021 Undergraduate Course Descriptions


JWST 199 Images of Jewish Identities

Jewish Emancipation 1789-1917: Triumph or Catastrophe?

Professor David Aberbach
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:

https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course introduces some of the major changes, both gradual and violent, in Jewish life from the French Revolution to the Holocaust, as reflected mainly in European literature. Emancipation of the European Jews in the late 18th and 19th centuries led to unprecedented Jewish assimilation in non-Jewish culture and to a transformation of Jewish life. The extraordinary level of cultural achievement of European Jews was shadowed by rising anti-Semitism. The course contrasts the Western European Jews, who were in the vanguard of modernity, with the Eastern European Jews, who came under Tsarist rule with the late-18th century partitions of Poland, and largely retained their traditional, almost-medieval religious character until the early 20th century. The rise of anti-Semitism brought about a remarkable alliance of Eastern and Western Jews, in the Zionist movement and the growth of a distinctive largely secular modern Jewish culture.

Texts:

  • S.J. Agnon, stories
  • Isaac Babel, from Red Cavalry
  • Bialik, poems;
  • Herzl, The Jewish State
  • Solomon Maimon, Autobiography
  • Heine, poems
  • Amos Elon, The Pity of It All
  • Paul Johnson, History of the Jews
  • Marx, Communist Manifesto
  • Kafka, stories
  • Mendele Mocher Sefarim, The Mare, The Travels of Benjamin the Third
  • Sholom Aleichem, stories
  • Tchernichowsky, poems
  • Stefan Zweig, stories
  • Joseph Roth, Job
  • Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

Evaluation: Four in-class exams, each consisting of an essay and commentaries on course texts and one long essay. Essay questions are normally given out in advance of exams.

Format: Round-table discussion


JWST 206 Intro to Yiddish Literature

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:

https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: A survey of Yiddish literature and culture with a particular focus on the modern period (the 1860s to the present). As we read major works of Yiddish literature (in English translation), we will discuss the main factors in its development, including its position as a minority literature, Ashkenazi civilization’s religious foundations and multilingualism, the rise of political movements, and the trauma of the Holocaust. We will pay close attention to issues of Jewish identity and the relations between Jews and their Christian neighbors in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and other regions of Eastern and Central Europe, and will also examine the special place of humor, music (including “klezmer”), and mysticism in Yiddish culture. In his Nobel lecture, Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer described Yiddish as “the idiom of the frightened and hopeful humanity.” What are the reasons behind and the effects of such universalization of Yiddish language, literature, and culture? In addition to literary works, we will also explore films, music, historical documents, and oral history.

Selected Texts (in the Course Reader):

  • The Memoirs of Glikl of Hameln
  • Nahman of Bratslav, “The Wise Man and The Simple Man”
  • Sholem Aleichem, Railroad Stories and Tevye the Dairyman
  • Sholem-Yankev Abramovitch (Mendele Moykher-Sforim), The Travels of Benjamin the Third
  • I. L. Peretz, If Not Higher; Bella Chagall, Burning Stars; Isaac Bashevis Singer, In My Father’s Court

Selected Films:

  • The Dybbuk (1937)
  • Green Fields (1937)
  • Tevye the Dairyman (1939)

Evaluation: 
Attendance, Preparation and Participation (25%)
Short Reading Responses (25%)
Midterm Paper/Project (20%)
Final Paper/Project (30%)


HIST 207 Jewish History 400 BCE – 1000

Professor Gershon Hundert
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:

https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This is a survey course that highlights the encounters between Jews and Hellenistic Civilization in late antiquity and Islamic Civilization is the early Middle Ages. The "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism will be an important sub-unit in the course. Because this is a first-year History course, emphasis is placed on introducing students to the modes of inquiry associated with the discipline.

Texts: John Efron, Steven Weitzman, Matthias Lehmann, Joshua Holo, The Jews: A History, Pearson-Prentice-Hall,3rd ed. 2018.
Coursepack and assigned online readings.

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation in all class meetings.
Completion of required reading assignments on time.
Short Paper 10%
Class Tests 50%
Term Paper 40%


JWST 211 Jewish Studies I

The Biblical Period

Dr. Deborah Abecassis
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course is an introduction to the history and literature of the biblical period, the earliest era of Jewish Studies. Its primary goal is to familiarize the student with the text of the Hebrew Bible, the historical context in which it came it be and the academic disciplines that contribute to its analysis, such as linguistics, archaeology, comparative literature and comparative religions. All texts will be examined in translation, and no prior knowledge of the Bible or its languages is required.

Texts: Hebrew Bible in English translation. Other primary texts and secondary readings will be available on MyCourses or on reserve in the library.

Evaluation: Grades will be based on two short written assignments, a mid-term exam and final “take-home” essay questions, as well as regular readings for each class from the Bible itself, attendance and participation.


JWST 220 D1&2 Introductory Hebrew

Professor Lea Fima | Professor Rina Michaeli
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to master basic communication in Modern Hebrew language. Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of basic structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and compositions will be assigned regularly, in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language. 

Texts: Shlomit Chayat et al. Hebrew from Scratch, Part I

Evaluation:
60% 4 class tests
15% essays
20% oral presentation
5% class participation


JWST 226 Contemporary Israeli Fiction

Opening Gambits and End Moves

Professor Yael Halevi-Wise
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course will introduce students to five strong novels by Israeli writers from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Four of these works were written over the last twenty years; one is an older unfinished masterpiece by the 1966 Israeli Nobel laurate, S. Y. Agnon. Our analysis will focus on the endings of these novels. We will examine their end moves in light of the prompts and expectations raised by their opening gambits, and we will consider alternative possibilities that make sense (or not) from cultural, political and artistic perspectives.

Texts:

  • Zeruya Shalev, Pain (originally published in Hebrew as Ke’ev, 2015)
  • A. B. Yehoshua, The Liberated Bride (originally published in Hebrew as Ha-kallah ha-meshahreret, 2001)
  • Sayed Kashua, Let It Be Morning (originally published in Hebrew as Va-Yehi Boker, 2004)
  • David Grossman, To the End of the Land (originally published in Hebrew as Isha Borachat Mi-Besora, 2008)
  • S. Y. Agnon, Shira (original Hebrew edition under same name, published in 1971)

Evaluation: 60% (4 short essays analyzing the ending of each novel, worth 15% each); 20% final essay; 10% attendance; 10% participation.


JWST 245 Jewish Life in the Islamic World

Professor Christopher Silver
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: Until the early modern period, most of the world’s Jews spoke Arabic and called the Islamic world home. This course explores the Jewish experience among Muslims from the seventh century until the present. Through close readings of primary sources and historical scholarship, students will learn how Jews under Islam shaped modern Judaism, how engagement with Arabic in Islamic Spain led to the revival of Hebrew, and how the Jewish-Muslim relationship fared in the twentieth century. The course also probes themes of history and memory in light of the departure of Jews from the Islamic world in the 1950s and 1960s.

Texts:

  • Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: the Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, Schocken Books, 2011
  • Vitalis Danon, Ninette of Sin Street; edited with an introduction and notes by Lia Brozgal and Sarah Abrevaya Stein; translated by Jane Kuntz; Stanford University Press, 2017

Evaluation: Midterm, paper, and final exam.


JWST 281 Introductory Yiddish I

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin​
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: An introduction to Yiddish, the millennium-old language of Ashkenazic Jews. This course will cover the fundamentals of Yiddish grammar and vocabulary and will include practice in speaking, reading, and writing. The course materials draw on Yiddish literature, songs, and films, allowing students to combine the acquisition of practical language skills with an exploration of Yiddish culture—from its beginnings in medieval Germany through its past and present in Central and Eastern Europe, the Americas, Israel, and all over the world. An important component of the course is the opportunity students will have to pursue Yiddish-related artistic or research projects (individually or in small groups), combining exploration of Yiddish with creative writing, translation, acting, filmmaking, religion, anthropology, history, painting, and journalism, to name just some of the options.

Texts: Course Pack; online resources.

Evaluation: 
Attendance and Homework (40%)
In-Class Quizzes (20%)
Final Project (20%)
Final Exam (20%)

Format: Language Course


HIST 307 Jews in Poland

Professor Gershon Hundert
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course will survey the history of Jews in Poland from the beginnings of Jewish settlement to the present. The course will include analyses of primary sources (in translation) related to the social, economic and institutional history of the Jews in Poland and their place in the East European Jewish community. Topics include: Jews during "The Flood'' (1648 - 1667), the Frankist movement and Hasidism, and the last European “expulsion of the Jews” in 1968.

Texts: Coursepack and assigned online readings

Evaluation: 
1.    Attendance and participation in all class meetings.
2.    Completion of required reading assignments on time.
3.    3 Book Reviews: 60%
4.    Class Tests:  40%

Format: Lecture


JWST 320 D1&2 Intermediate Hebrew

Professor Rina Michaeli
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to master communication in Modern Hebrew language.

Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of basic structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and article analysis will be assigned in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language and the diversity of the Israeli society.

Texts: Shlomit Chayat et al. Hebrew from Scratch, Part I + CD

Evaluation: 
48% - 4 Class Tests (6%, 10%, 14%, 18%)
12% - Quizzes
12% - 2 In-Class Essays
10% - Compositions
10% - Oral Presentation
​8% - Class Participation


JWST 340 D1&2 Advanced Hebrew

Professor Lea Fima
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to communicate on familiar topics in Modern Hebrew language. Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of the advanced structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and compositions will be assigned regularly, in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language.

Texts: Edna Amir Coffin. Lessons in Modern Hebrew: Level II (2) Publisher: University of Michigan Press 

Recommended Text: Hebrew Dictionary (Oxford, Eng-Heb, Heb-Eng Dictionary, Kernerman – Lonnie Kahn)

Evaluation: 
48% - 4 Class Tests (6%, 10%, 14%, 18%)
12% - Quizzes
12% - 2 In-Class Essays
14% - Compositions 
10% - Oral Presentation
4% - Class Participation 


JWST 348 Modern Jewish Studies

France, North Africa, and World War II

Professor Christopher Silver
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
​​​​https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: Between 1940 and 1942, the lives of half a million Jews in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia were dramatically altered by Vichy France’s implementation of racial quotas, ghettoization, deportation to labor and internment camps, spoliation (Aryanization), and in rarer cases, transport to Europe. Libyan Jewry faced equally draconian measures under fascist Italian rule. While the Allied landing in Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 brought some relief to the Jewish population there through the vanquishing of Vichy rule (but not its leadership nor all of its decrees), it also led to the to the direct Nazi occupation of neighboring Tunisia. Under German rule, Tunisian Jews endured forced labor, among other injustices, until their liberation in May 1943.

North Africa has for too long been considered marginal, if not irrelevant, to a Europe-focused history of World War II and the Holocaust. Recent scholarship, aided by the unearthing of archival material, the growing availability of memoirs from the period, and an efflorescence of literature and film, is changing all of that. Through lectures and film, this course explores the entangled histories of France, North Africa, and World War II, itself a product of the layered history of racism, antisemitism, and colonialism.

Texts:

  • Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France and the Jews, Basic Books, 1981
  • The Holocaust and North Africa, edited by Aomar Boum and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Stanford University Press, 2018.

Evaluation: Midterm, paper, and final exam.


JWST 351 Modern Jewish Authors

Is there a Women’s Literary Tradition?

Instructor Esther Frank
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
​​​​https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: An introduction to a wide range of writings by Jewish women poets appearing in print from the 1920s onward Focussing on thematic and stylistic concerns in poetry by women writing in Europe and America and including critical material we will examine the impact of the question by noting its effects on literary works.

Texts:

Course pack which includes:
Poetry by: Rokhl Korn, Celia Dropkin, Kadya Molodovsky, Anna Margolin and many others.
Criticism by:
SH Niger, K Hellerstein, A Norich.

ALL READINGS ARE IN ENGLISH.

Evaluation:
Class participation 15%
Short paper 20% (7-10 pages).
Mid Term paper 20% (10-15 pages)
Final paper 45% (15-20 pages)

Due dates to be announced.


JWST 367 Learning Hebrew through Israeli Cinema

Hebrew Language and Israeli Culture

Professor Lea Fima 
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course offers an opportunity to watch films from different periods of Israeli cinema spanning 1948 to the present. Conducted primarily in Hebrew with some assignments in English, students in this course will be invited to engage with the social, political, psychological and aesthetic dimensions of Israeli films. (This is primarily a language class and advanced Hebrew is required to enrol in this course; if you are unsure about your level of Hebrew please consult with the instructor.)

Texts: Hebrew Dictionary

Evaluation:
40% - Essay (1500 words min.)
10% - 2 Take-Home compositions  (300 words each)
30% - 2 In-Class Essays  (300 words each)
10% - Text Preparation Assignments  (to be marked at random)
10% - Class Participation

Format: Seminar


JWST 384 Intermediate Yiddish 1

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course is designed for students who have taken Introductory Yiddish 1 and 2, or have a comparable command of Yiddish from elsewhere, and wish to improve their knowledge of the language and to further explore the culture behind it. Further development of speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills, with a particular emphasis on expanding vocabulary and mastering grammar. Drawing inspiration from Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who in his Nobel Lecture described Yiddish as "the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful humanity [which possesses] treasures that have not been revealed to the eyes of the world,” this course introduces students to selections from Yiddish literature, songs, and films of Jewish life past and present. An important component of this course is the opportunity students will have to pursue Yiddish-related artistic or research projects (individually or in small groups), combining exploration of Yiddish with creative writing, translation, acting, filmmaking, religion, anthropology, history, painting, and journalism, to name just some of the options. With questions about the expected prior knowledge, please email the instructor.

Texts: Course Pack; online resources.

Evaluation: 
Attendance and Homework (40%)
In-Class Quizzes (20%)
Final Project (20%)
Final Exam (20%)


JWST 386 Jewish American Literature

Instructor: Course expert in modern literature
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: From the late nineteenth century onward, America has seen abundant and vibrant literature that engages with both Jewish and American history and literary tradition. This course surveys that literature, with many questions in mind. What status can English hope to achieve as a Jewish language, in relation to Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages? How have Jewish writers crafted their cultural role in a mostly white, Christian nation? How do left-leaning politics inform fiction, and to what aesthetic effect? How does literature respond to the many varieties of Jewish practice, to the Hebrew Bible, and to Hebrew liturgy? What is the aesthetic and moral affect of blending autobiography and fiction, particularly in work concerned with the Holocaust, or of writing about trauma one has not witnessed? Now that immigration is no longer a common experience among Jewish Americans, what concerns unite them or their literature? How are new media transforming historical Jewish forms of communication such as the print newspaper and the rabbinical sermon? What literature “counts” as Jewish American? Reading widely among genres and voices will help us approach these and other questions.

Texts:

  • Emma Wolf, Heirs of Yesterday (1900, rpt. 2020)
  • Anzia Yezierska, Hungry Hearts (1920)
  • Michael Gold, Jews Without Money (1930)
  • Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (1979)
  • Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl (1980)
  • Lore Segal, Her First American (1985)

Additional selections in course pack

Evaluation:
Attendance, preparation, participation 15%;
5 short responses on readings 20%;
Short paper 25%;
Final paper 40%.


JWST 552 Judaism and Poverty

Revolutionary Influences of the Hebrew Bible

Professor David Aberbach​​
Fall 2021
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course is an introduction to the depiction of poverty and changing images of the poor in literature from the time of the Bible until the modern age. From the time of the Industrial Revolution until World War II, and to a lesser extent afterwards, poverty was a major theme in Western literature, as a problem to be solved. This literature was deeply influenced by Judaeo-Christian ethics, which defined the poor as a distinct group toward whom the better-off had responsibility. Most European writers were immersed in the Bible and though they tended to reject religious dogma, there was much biblical influence in their depiction of the poor. Emphasis in this course is on the experience, through reading literary texts, of entering societies and moments in history far different from our own. This course starts with biblical and talmudic literature on poverty, then moves to the modern period and the depiction of poverty in Jewish and non-Jewish literature, from the time of the French Revolution until World War II (1789-1939); the course will conclude with works from developing countries since 1945.

Texts:

  1. Biblical Origins of Western Views of Poverty
  2. Industrial England: From Wordsworth to Dickens
  3. France, from the Revolution to the Third Republic: Hugo and Zola
  4. Laying Totalitarian Russia Bare: the Humanization of Peasants in Turgenev and Chekhov
  5. Jews in the Russian Pale of Settlement: Psychological Degradation of Poverty in the Fiction of Mendele Mocher Sefarim
  6. Hamsun and the Hunger Artist: Poverty and Aesthetics
  7. Orwell: Poverty in Paris and London Between the Wars
  8. Failures of Fascism: Mussolini, Carlo Levi and the Italian Peasantry
  9. Capitalism under Fire: The Depression and Steinbeck
  10. ​Literature of poverty since 1945

Evaluation: Four in-class exams, each consisting of an essay and commentaries on course texts and one long essay. Essay questions are normally given out in advance of exams.

Format: Round-table seminar

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