REL 222
The Jewish Art of Interpretation Fall 2019
Division II
Cross-listed REL 222 / JWST 222 / COMP 211

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Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it. This famous rabbinic dictum offers an enigmatic yet comprehensive account of the principles that have defined the Jewish practice of interpretation for over two millennia. The imperative to keep a text, word, image, or concept in constant motion, in order to generate as many meanings and cross-meanings as possible, challenges us to transform the act of interpretation itself into a virtuosic craft or art that can engage the human imagination as diversely and powerfully as the creation of the works being interpreted. At the same time, emphasis on the dynamism between text and interpreter should dispel the notion that only expansive works have expansive meanings. If interpretation itself is an art, then even the shortest text can contain “everything” within it when it participates in that art. This course will engage students in a radical experiment in the art of interpretation. Through a deep encounter with a selection of miniature texts, ranging from ancient rabbinic proverbs and medieval fables to the modern parables and fragments of Franz Kafka, as well as folklore and jokelore from every period in Jewish history up to the present, we will develop an interpretive practice that combines analytic, critical, and creative principles in both written and oral contexts. The goal throughout is to explore interactively how the making of meaning is an integral part of the human experience.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 18
Class#: 1670
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, regular short written and oral assignments, and a final project
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: none
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 222 Division II JWST 222 Division II COMP 211 Division I
Attributes: JWST Core Electives

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