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C LIT 396 A: Special Studies in Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 296 B, ENGL 312 A, JEW ST 312 A
Sokoloff photo
Naomi Sokoloff

Syllabus Description:

Jewish Literature: Biblical to Modern

Please note: students may sign up for this course under the prefix NEAR E, C LIT, ENGL, or JEW ST.  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, in Jewish Studies, or in Cinema and Media Studies, please speak with the advisors in Humanities Academic Services. (Ask for Nancy Sisko:  NO PREREQUISITES!


Winter 2021 – TTh 11:30-1:20

5 credits


ENGL 312  5 VLPA and DIV


NEAR E 296B  I&S


Prof. Naomi Sokoloff

220C Denny Hall



From the Hebrew Bible to the Hogwarts Haggadah, from the traditional prayer book to today's feminist poetry, Jewish literature presents endless commentary on foundational texts. New stages of writing reinterpret, alter, illuminate, and/or develop what they receive from the past. This course provides an overview of 3000 years of literary history and considers texts from a wide variety of genres, including scripture, Midrash, medieval poetry, Hasidic tale, modern fiction, television satire, popular music lyrics, and more.

All readings will be in English, but the course will cover material from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and America, including texts composed originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish, Ladino, German, and Italian, as well as English.

No Prerequisites!

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the course students are expected a) to have acquired a basic knowledge of major genres of Jewish literature, from antiquity till today, and to be able to identify important features of classical sources such as Bible, Talmud, Midrash, Prayer Books, Haggadah, Medieval poetry, and Hasidic Tale; b) to  have examined a range of modern Jewish texts and to understand how they respond to earlier sources through debate, allusion, adaptation to new genres and media, and other artistic reinterpretation; c) to have considered diversity within Jewish cultures and the experiences of Jews in relation to minority and majority cultures ; d) to have discussed how women’s voices, which for centuries were mostly excluded from Jewish writing, have become tremendous creative forces in 20th and 21st century writing.


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 three short quizzes, 1 essay, and a final project, plus brief written homework and discussion board posts on Canvas. Final grades will be determined as follows:


3 quizzes                                                                                         30%

Homework + discussions on Canvas                              10%

In-class work (or alternative assignment)                   10%

1 essay (750-1250 words)                                                    30%

1  final project/presentation                                                20%


This is a “W” optional course. W credit requires significant amounts of writing, editing, and revision. Students will receive feedback on written assignments and will then rewrite to raise the grade.

 Grading scale:

98-100   = 4.0

96-97     = 3.9

94-95     = 3.8  

92-93     = 3.7

91          = 3.6

90          = 3.5

89          = 3.4

88           =3.3     etc.

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: 
October 14, 2020 - 4:01am