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C LIT 396 A: Special Studies in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
ART 006
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 496 A, ENGL 343 A
Sokoloff photo
Naomi Sokoloff

Syllabus Description:

Jewish Poetry

NEAR E 496/C LIT 396/ENGL 343

Please note: students may sign up for this course under the prefix NEAR E, C LIT, or ENGL.  It is the same course! If you have any questions about how the credits may count toward a major or minor in NELC, in English, or in Cinema and Media Studies, please speak with the advisors, Gabe Skoog ( and Nancy Sisko (  NO PREREQUISITES!


Prof. Naomi Sokoloff

Spring 2020

5 credits, VLPA, W optional

T/Th 11:30-1:20

From 17th century Yemen to Madonna music videos, from medieval Germany to Leonard Cohen in concert, from the Bible to Primo Levi’s post-Holocaust poetry – Jewish prayer has inspired poetry and song across millennia. By examining modern poems that respond to elements of traditional liturgy, students in this course can learn how literature over the ages revisits and reinterprets foundational texts, bringing them alive for new generations.

No prerequisites. All readings will be in English. The course considers texts written originally in English, Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish, and Italian. Any students who wish to read some of the texts in Hebrew may register for an additional 2-3 credits of Independent Study (MODHEB 490 or MODHEB 600).


Learning Objectives

By the end of the course students are expected 1) to be familiar with important elements of Jewish  prayer, including blessings, synagogue practices and ritual prayer, High Holiday and Sabbath customs, psalms, piyut, and debates over gender, God and language; 2) to read a range of modern and medieval poems and songs, to understand how writers have re-imagined or re-framed the language of religion as they reflect on a wide range of matters; 3) to understand basic features of the art of poetry; analysis of texts in this course will equip students to undertake close reading in a range of other contexts.



All required readings will be available on the course website.

Students are expected to complete required readings, attend class regularly, and participate in class discussion. Students who cannot attend class via Zoom will always have the option to do alternative written work. Assignments for everyone will include two papers, brief written homework, discussion board posts on Canvas, and quizzes. Final grades will be determined as follows:


Essays ( 2 total) 60%

In class activities/alternative writing assignments 20%

Homework and quizzes 20%


Graduate Students

In additional to completing all other assignments and requirements, graduate students must write a longer (approximately 10 pages) paper for their second essay. In this paper, graduate students must incorporate outside scholarship by referring to and citing at least five entries or essays from sources approved by the instructors.


Catalog Description: 
Offered by visitors or resident faculty. Content varies.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Elective
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
February 12, 2020 - 9:20pm