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AL24 The Schlemiel in European Literature and Culture

Our course explores Ashkenazic biblical scholarship from its medieval beginnings through the twentieth century in its complexity and richness, taking into account its diverse historical contexts and with a conceptual focus on points of revolutionary new departures or phases of evolutionary change. Themes studied include: (1) Rise “peshat,” often rendered as the “plain sense” of scripture. Who pioneering and practiced it? How was it integrated (or not) with midrash, the classical form of commentary cultivated in by the rabbis of late antiquity? (2) Changing conceptions of commentary. Biblical commentators practice the art of interpretation, discovering or creating the meaning and significance of scripture for their own time and place. (3) Factors (intellectual, cultural, historical etc.) that inform the methods and teachings of Ashkenazic commentators and schools over the ages, including cross-cultural factors (e.g., Enlightenment) arising from the larger non-Jewish world. (4) Fluctuating attitudes towards Bible study in Ashkenazic culture: neglect versus cultivation; traditional versus critical approaches. Figures studied include: Rashi; his grandson Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam); Judah Loew (Maharal) of Prague; Moses Mendelssohn; Abraham Geiger; Samson Raphael Hirsch; Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (Neziv), Benno Jacob.

Course Specifications
Type: Compulsory
Lesson type: Lecture
Hours: 28 (5 credits)
Requirement: 1 quiz & 1 essay
Instructor: Dr. MENACHEM FEUER
Status: The course is currently not available, it was offered in 2022.
Course Readings4
Shalom Aleichem, Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories (Schocken, 1996)
Mendele Moykher Sforim, The Brief Travels of Benjamin the Third (Schocken, 1949)
Ruth Wisse, The Schlemiel as Modern Hero (Chicago, 1971)
handout, to be announced (Ashkenazium, 2021)