Check Out UofL’s Jewish Studies Courses for Spring Semester

Ranen Omer-Sherman JHFE Endowed Chair UofL-tn 2For the spring 2016 semester, the University of Louisville is offering two Jewish literature courses.

HUM 562-02/635-02: Childhood, Adolescence, & Coming-of-Age in Jewish Literature & Film: North America & the Middle East will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m.

Jewish writers in Israel, North Africa, and North America have produced many inventive narratives addressing issues and themes such as the experience of immigration and the ordeal of transition, the struggle between individuality and collective loyalty, as well as Holocaust trauma, often memorably told about, or from, the child’s or adolescent’s perspective.

This course is not concerned with children’s stories, that is, stories meant for juvenile reading, but with stories about the experience of childhood written by adults for adult readers (though at times such narratives may also be accessible to young adult readers). Through the perceptions of the young protagonist, the struggle to reconcile tradition and the present is often an essential and deeply moving ordeal on the path toward adult identity.

In Israel, the writer often seems to link the adolescence of the young state to the child’s own journey into individuality and adulthood. Confronting a variety of upheavals, transitions, adjustments, as well as the nostalgic impulse of looking back (and sometimes the intoxicating dream of imagining a future), the young protagonists created by writers are among the most memorable characters of the modern Jewish literary canon.

HUM 514:01/HUM 614:01 Arabs and Jews in Israeli & Palestinian Literature & Cinema will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-2:15 p.m. The class will be taught by Professor Ranen Omer-Sherman.

For those of you eager to know more about the human beings behind the increasingly violent and tragic headlines in the Middle East, this course should be ideal. It will explore a range of exciting literary and film narratives to discuss the relationship between the Zionist dream of Homeland and the figure of the Arab, initially admired and emulated by early Jewish settlers, later perceived as both external threat and the “Other” within Israeli society.

The core question to be addressed concerns the writers’ empathic response to the plight of Palestinians and the Arab minority within Israel itself. Alongside Israeli works, we will consider works written by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel portraying their own sense of place and history. In considering the artists’ responses to Israeli politics and culture the class will explore issues such as human rights, Israel’s historical relations with its Arab neighbors, as well as its current struggle to accommodate a nascent Palestinian nation. Other issues to be examined will include: the influence of the literary imagination on Israeli society; the role of dissent and protest in Israeli society; and the Jewish state’s ambivalence regarding Jews of Arab origin.

In addition, the degree to which literature and cinema in both Palestine and Israel challenge the rigid lines formed in ideological narratives to distinguish the “West” from the “East” and expose the contradictions in the dominant narrative will be examined. Many of the writers who will be addressed are among the most acclaimed voices in contemporary world literature.

This class will also create opportunities for students to explore beautifully written novels and poetry as well as films and participate in a lively dialogue about current news headlines and important cultural and political trends in Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East, as they develop.
To inquire about auditing either class, email Shari Gater at

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