Sophomore Seminars

Zionism and the Novel

COMPLIT 37Q
Prerequisites: 
Completion of PWR 1 or other WR 1 course.

At the end of the 19th century, Zionism emerged as a political movement to establish a national homeland for the Jews, who were facing persecution in Czarist Russia and anti-Semitism in Western Europe. After the Second World War and the Holocaust, Zionism eventually led to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, providing haven to refugees from Europe as well as from Arab countries. Zionism has included both religious and secular wings, as well as political and cultural dimensions, often in conflict with each other. From the start, Zionism has also had to address the conflicted relationship to the Arab population in Israel and in the neighboring states. This seminar invites you to make use of literature as a vehicle to explore the changing and diverse character of Zionism and the challenges it faces. Novels can provide a very special kind of insight into historical experience, and this seminar will equip you with the skill to read them in complex ways, while also learning more about the history of Israel, the roots of the conflict in the Middle East, and the potentials for the future. We will take a close look at novels by Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, in order to understand multiple perspectives, and we will also consider works by authors from the North America and from Europe. By the end of the course you will be able to talk about issues of religion and nationality, assimilation and identity, and the interplay of literature and politics. And you will have had a chance to study novels by writers such as Howard Jacobson, Sayed Kashua, A.M. Klein, Philip Roth, Arthur Schnitzler, and A.B. Yehoshua.

This course fulfills the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2) and emphasizes oral and written presentation.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Russell Berman

"I am a professor in the departments of Comparative Literature and German Studies--in both I work on relationships between literary works and questions of society and politics.  I am also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, which is a research institute on campus, where I study questions of foreign policy, relations between the US and Europe and--relevant to this course, topics about the Middle East. I have published books and articles on these topics, with a special emphasis on questions of modernism, the contemporary Middle East, German culture and politics, literature and philosophy, and critical theory. Given my foreign policy interests, I was fortunate to be able to spend last year as a Senior Advisor in the Department of State in Washington, and I am a member of the National Humanities Council. I am a strong believer in the importance of teaching in my role as professor--not only research!--and I am proud to have won the 2013 recipient of the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Distinguished Contribution to Undergraduate Education. Writing and public speaking are important for me as ways to engage in discussions and debate in the public sphere, and I enjoy working with students on their have been teaching various IntroSems for many years, and I look forward to working with a new group of sophomores this fall."