Sophomore Seminars

Blood and Money: The Origins of Antisemitism

Completion of PWR 1 or other WR 1 course.

For over two millennia, Jews and Judaism have been the object of sustained fears and fantasies, which have in turn underpinned repeated outbreaks of violence and persecution. In general, such fears and fantasies stem not from encounters with actual Jews, but rather from anxieties prompted by the spectral, shapeshifting, fictive figures of “the Jew” and “Judaism”that is, the images of Jews and Judaism as constructed by outside observers. But why did such myths and stereotypes emerge at all? How did these become so widely accepted? What made them so persuasive and so powerful? Did they inspire violence, or merely legitimize it? This seminar will explore key moments in the development of antisemitism from ancient Egypt to the Enlightenment, including the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the emergence of an association between Jews and moneylending, the appearance of the blood libel, and the rise of fears surrounding the magical or mystical knowledge ascribed to the Jews. As a history course, the seminar will focus on the critical analysis of historical sources (both textual and artistic) and the ways that scholars have deployed such sources to make arguments about the past.

In addition, as a WRITE 2 course, the seminar will focus on the development of your research, writing, and oral communication skills.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Rowan Dorin

Rowan Dorin

"I am a historian of western Europe and the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages (roughly speaking, 500-1500 CE). My research focuses mainly on the movement of people, goods, and ideas in the pre-modern world, and on the ways in which law and society shape each other. I am particularly interested in the history of banishment, deportation, and exileand especially the increasing frequency of mass expulsion from the European Middle Ages onward. I also work on the history of moneylending and economic thought. Often, I grapple separately with each of these topics in my own research, but the long history of antisemitism is a troubling and timely thread that draws them all together."