This course provides a wide-ranging exploration of the history and culture of German (-speaking) Jewry from 1750 to 1945 and beyond. It focuses especially on the Jewish response to modernity in Central Europe, a response that proved highly productive, giving rise to a range of lasting transformations in Jewish life in Europe and later in North America, in particular, and in European society and culture, more generally.
Until the mid-eighteenth century, Jewish self-definition was relatively stable. From that point on, it became increasingly contingent and open-ended. Before the rise of Nazism in 1933, German Jewish life was characterized by a plethora of emerging possibilities. This course explores this vibrant and dynamic process of change and self-definition. It traces the emergence of new forms of Jewish experience, and it shows their unfolding in a series of lively and poignant dramas of tradition and transformation, division and integration, dreams and nightmares. The course seeks to grasp this world through the lenses of history and culture, and to explore the different ways in which these disciplines illuminate the past and provide potential insights into the present and future.
This course is intended to acquaint students with the study of German (-speaking) Jewish history and culture and assumes no prior training in the subject. Class meetings will combine lecture and discussion. Course requirements will include two 5-page response papers and a 10-page research paper. Conscientious participation in class discussion is essential. Readings will be drawn from both primary and secondary literature. Represented in the primary reading will be central figures in the annals of German-speaking Jewry, including Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Heinrich Heine, Arthur Schnitzler, Gershom Scholem, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, and Ruth Klüger.
This course fulfills the Second Writing Requirement.