Header image for the course page


We have a time and place for you!

Introduction to Jewish Civilization: History and Identity

History 2081 - Spring 2021

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz once famously invoked Max Weber in writing that "man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs." The main goal of this course-designed as an introduction to Jewish history, culture, and society-will be to investigate the "webs of significance" produced by Jewish societies and individuals, in a select number of historical periods, both as responses to historical circumstances and as expressions of Jewish identity. Over the course of the semester we will focus on the following historical settings: 7th century BCE Judah and the Babylonian exile; pre-Islamic Palestine and Babylonia (the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud); Europe in the period of the Crusades; Islamic and Christian Spain; Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries; North America in the 20th century; and the modern State of Israel. For each period we will investigate the social and political conditions of Jewish life; identify the major texts that Jews possessed, studied, and produced; determine the non-Jewish influences on their attitudes and aspirations; and the explore the efforts that Jews made to define what it meant to be part of a Jewish collective.

Section 01

Introduction to Jewish Civilization: History and Identity
View Course Listing