New Core Course: Introduction to Jewish Studies
RELIGION 123/JEWISH STUDIES 101
Lecuture, plus recitation
Professor Jonathan Boyarin
The purpose of this course will be to explore some of the key questions, topics and methods that are characteristic of Jewish studies as an academic and scholarly rubric in the university world today. Is there any unity across time and space to the referent of the adjective “Jewish?” Is Jewish identity at its core “religious,” or can it be better characterized in other ways? What are the varying weights of Jewish textuality and corporeality, and how are these related to each other? What is the relation between Jewish modes of study and the study of Jews? How do scholars from disciplines as diverse as cultural studies, history, literature, and anthropology respond to questions like these?
In addition to its inherent or “stand-alone” value, this course is intended as a gateway to the Jewish studies minor. As a general rule, its scope and methodological rigor will make it both worthwhile and necessary for any undergraduate who wishes to do more in-depth work in Jewish studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The course will include two major parts. First, the course will begin with an overview of Biblical Israel, up to and including the Rabbinic period. We will briefly consider the Hebrew Bible as a dynamic (rather than fixed or “revealed”) text, one which was shaped in Israelite history until it was canonized, and one which continues to be reshaped in each generation as it is interpretively appropriated. We will emphasize the modes of discourse that constitute classical Rabbinic culture, and consider the extent to which these modes continue to characterize Jewish culture through the early modern period and beyond. We will consider how these formative periods shaped patterns of Jewish learning, worship and daily practice that continue today, and the ways that they have been transformed and even abandoned.
The second part of the course will attend to the state of play in various subfields of Jewish studies today. As part of this component, core faculty at Carolina Jewish Studies will also be invited to present guest lectures, with the dual purpose of familiarizing students with the resources of the minor in Jewish studies, and exemplifying the discourse of various specialties within the field.