Judaism,Gender, & Religion

Dr. Vial Office:  Iliff 109
Fall 2020 Phone: 303-765-3166
Office Hours:  by appointment E-mail: tvial@iliff.edu

Instructor: Ted Vial

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Course Synopsis

The most basic categories we use to form our individual and collective identities are (re-) constructed at the beginning of modernity. Michel Foucault has claimed that sexuality is created in the early 19th century. Isabel Hull argues that at this time gender becomes less a matter of social role and more a matter of personal essence. I have argued that what we think of as religion takes shape at the same time. Leora Batnitzky argues that this is when Judaism becomes "a religion."  (Race, class, and nationality also take shape at this time.) Are these phenomena connected? What does it mean to be female, to be a woman, to be a Jew? How are gender and religion constructed in modernity? Through a close reading of (mostly) primary texts by Jewish women from the 17th through the 21st (with focus on the 19th) centuries we will examine the intersection of gender, Judaism, and religion and the modern construction of these categories.

Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, Judaisms: a Twenty-first century Guide to Jews and Jewish Identities (University of California Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0520281356). This book costs about $35 on Amazon. It is available for free as an e-book in Iliff's library.

Glückel of Hameln, Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln , translated by Marvin Lowenthal (Shocken Books, 1977. ISBN 978-0-805-20572-5) (this is the only extant pre-modern Yiddish memoir by a woman--it is wonderful!)

Additional readings will be distributed via Canvas.

Each student will prepare 3 papers of 3 pages each.  You will choose which three readings you will write about in the Paper Sign up assignment.  Papers should be uploaded by Monday at midnight.  All students will post a one-paragraph response to the paper and/or reading by Wednesday at midnight.  All students will read all postings and post an additional one paragraph reflection or comment by Friday at midnight.  The flow of the class depends on these things being done on time. If you can't do that for some reason (say, a pandemic breaks out across the land) please email me (tvial@iliff.edu) so I can make adjustments.

Papers will be graded according to the following 4 criteria:

  1. A clearly stated claim;
  2. Textual evidence to support the claim;
  3. Quality of writing (organization, proper use of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, spelling, and all other mechanics);
  4. Depth and seriousness of analysis. 

In a short paper the claim typically appears as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph (if it is not there the writer needs clearly to mark where it is, since otherwise readers will assume that sentence is the claim).  A claim states the conclusion of the argument put forward in the paper.  You have a great deal of freedom here.  A claim might state what is the most important idea in the reading, or what the author must assume to make his or her argument, or what the logical extension of that argument might be, or how that argument relates to other readings on our syllabus, or what the author gets right or wrong, etc. You can write a paper that makes a claim about 2 or more of the readings for the week, rather than focusing on the one reading you signed up for, if you like. Basically, say something interesting that helps the rest of us process/engage/analyze the readings. That's in italics, so probably you should pay attention to it. That's really the only rubric that's important for papers in this class.

In a short paper you will not be able to summarize the all the points the author makes, nor should you try.  Part of your task of analysis is to prioritize what is most important to lift up for discussion for our class.  Your paper will likely not follow the same organization as the reading under analysis, since the logic of your argument will not be the same as the logic of the argument of the reading.  If your paragraphs tend to begin “And then . . .;  Next . . .” then it is probably time to go back and do at least one more draft and re-think what you are presenting and how.  Papers for this class are a little closer to the summary end of the spectrum than a term paper might be, since they are the basis for our discussion.  But they are still papers that make engage the text by making a point about the text.

The purpose of the papers is three-fold: the first is to encourage deep engagement with the texts; the second is to encourage a habit of discussion that is open, respectful, and rigorous.  This is best accomplished when the analytical essays take a charitable stance towards the readings.  Some of them will seem old-fashioned, and the writers may have different concerns than do we.  As in any good conversation, it is important first to try to see where the writer is coming from, rather than to be dismissive of their ideas.  There will be plenty of time later to decide what is useful to you and what is not.   We must begin with an accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the essay.  Third, these section papers will help develop your skills as readers and writers.  A great number of studies show that “peer-review” is a very effective way to teach writing.  The feedback you get on these papers during discussion will be quite valuable.

Papers will be graded on the following scale:

4 = A
3 = B
2 = C
1 = D
0 = F

Throughout the quarter, we will have several discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

  1. Extend the conversation - creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If 1 or 2 other students have already responded directly to a point raised in a student paper, do not simply write another response to that point unless it adds something new to the conversation. You need to extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the course materials, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted. 
  2. Ask contextualized questions - situate your questions within the discussion by referencing the course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.
  3. Engage others in the course - thoughtful engagement with other students in the course and with the instructional team. 
  4. Engage the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures, student presentations, and any other materials related to the course. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged. 
  5. Participate Respectfully - discussions in this course are likely to raise sensitive topics. Please strive for respect in all your comments, and charity in reading the comments of others.

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts (minimum of 2 posts per discussion). Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

Sep 16, 2020WedIntroductionsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 16, 2020WedAnnotating the Syllabusdue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2020ThuWeek 1 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 18, 2020FriSign up for artifactsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 18, 2020FriSign up for papersdue by 05:59AM
Sep 19, 2020SatWeek 1 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2020TueWeek 2 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2020ThuWeek 2 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 25, 2020FriWeek 2 Zoom Discussion 10:30-11:45due by 05:59AM
Sep 26, 2020SatWeek 2 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Sep 29, 2020TueWeek 3 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2020ThuWeek 3 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2020ThuAnnotation: Henriette Herz Part Idue by 05:59AM
Oct 03, 2020SatWeek 3 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Oct 06, 2020TueWeek 4 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2020ThuWeek 4 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2020ThuAnnotating Rahel to Markusdue by 05:59AM
Oct 10, 2020SatWeek 4 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Oct 13, 2020TueWeek 5 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Oct 15, 2020ThuWeek 5 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 16, 2020FriWeek 5 Zoom Discussion 10:30-11:45due by 05:59AM
Oct 17, 2020SatWeek 5 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Oct 20, 2020TueWeek 6 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Oct 22, 2020ThuWeek 6 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 24, 2020SatWeek 6 Discussion Continueddue by 05:59AM
Oct 27, 2020TueWeek 7 Papersdue by 05:59AM
Oct 29, 2020ThuWeek 7 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 31, 2020SatWeek 7 Continueddue by 05:59AM
Nov 03, 2020TueWeek 8 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Nov 05, 2020ThuWeek 8 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 05, 2020ThuAnnotating Schlegel, Fragment 116due by 06:59AM
Nov 06, 2020FriWeek 8 Zoom Discussion 10:35-11:45due by 06:59AM
Nov 07, 2020SatWeek 8 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Nov 10, 2020TueWeek 9 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Nov 12, 2020ThuWeek 9 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 14, 2020SatWeek 9 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2020TueWeek 10 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Nov 19, 2020ThuWeek 10 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2020SatWeek 10 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2020SatParticipationdue by 06:59AM