Women in Jewish Literature
GRMN-262-402, Cross Listed with: GSWS-162-402; JWST-102-402; NELC-154-402
TR 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Kathryn Ann Hellerstein
Sector III All Classes
“Jewish woman, who knows your life? In darkness you have come, in darkness do you go.” J. L. Gordon (1890)
This course will bring into the light the long tradition of women as readers, writers, and subjects in Jewish literature. All texts will be in translation from Yiddish and Hebrew, or in English. Through a variety of genres devotional literature, memoir, fiction, and poetry we will study women’s roles and selves, the relations of women and men, and the interaction between Jewish texts and women’s lives. The legacy of women in Yiddish devotional literature will serve as background for our reading of modern Jewish fiction and poetry from the past century. The course is divided into five segments.
The first presents a case study of the Matriarchs Rachel and Leah, as they are portrayed in the Hebrew Bible, in rabbinic commentary, in premodern prayers, and in modern poems.
We then examine a modern novel that recasts the story of Dinah, Leah’s daughter. Next we turn to the seventeenth century Glikl of Hamel, the first Jewish woman memoirist. The third segment focuses on devotional literature for and by women. In the fourth segment, we read modern women poets in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. The course concludes with a fifth segment on fiction written by women in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. The works we read for this course offer an alternative canon of Jewish literature.
The course requirements will likely include, along with regular attendance and participation, informal writing, a reading journal, and an informal, in class presentation, as well as two short essays and a longer final essay.