HIST 495
Memoirs, Memory and the Modern Jewish Experience Fall 2019
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed HIST 495 / JWST 495

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Memoirs have proven to be an increasingly important source for Jewish historians, and particularly for those interested in the impact of modern society on Jewish identity. This tutorial will consider modern Jewish history by focusing on such individual voices. By comparing memoirs from the early modern period through contemporary times and from widely divergent geographical settings such as Europe, the United States, Latin America, and the Middle East, we will consider how Jews in different historical settings have understood their “Jewishness” and their relationship to their past, as well as the historian’s role in this relationship. In each case, we will ask such questions as: How does the role/importance of religion and ritual shift over time and place? How does the surrounding society shape the author’s sense of self and his/her place in society? Similarly, we will consider the impact of economic, occupational, and political factors on understandings of Jewish identity as well as the impact of gender and generational splits on such understandings. In broad terms we will question what (if anything) links the different individuals under study. In other words, is there something about Jewish identity that transcends the historical specificity of the author’s setting? Throughout the course, we will also consider how a memoir can be used as an historical source. Can we generalize from individual experience, and if so how do we reconcile contradictions among the multiple voices?
The Class: Type: tutorial
Limit: 6
Expected: 6
Class#: 1304
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: each student will write and present orally a 3- to 5-page response paper on the assigned readings of the week (alternating weeks); there will be one final 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: upperclass students, History majors and Jewish Studies concentrators, or those with documented academic interests in the subject matter
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
HIST 495 Division II JWST 495 Division II
WS Notes: Each student will write and present orally a 3- to 5-page response paper on the assigned readings of the week (alternating weeks). There will be one final 10-page paper. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
DPE Notes: As a course that focuses on the Jewish experience, this course will consider (among other things) issues of race, ethnicity, "passing", and pressures to adapt to majority cultures.
Attributes: HIST Group G Electives - Global History
JWST Core Electives

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