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Level 5

5AAT2044 Religious Difference: Jewish, Christian & Other Perspectives

THIS MODULE IS RUNNING IN 2019-20

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Andrea Schatz
Assessment: One 1,500-word coursework essay (30%); one 2,500-word final essay (60%); active classroom participation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt except for classroom participation.

Teaching pattern: two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none

Jews and Christians in the modern world were fascinated, scandalized and inspired by religious difference and the challenges it posed to their intellectual, moral, and cultural projects. In this course we will focus on explorations of Jewish life and Jewish-Christian relations in various literary forms: in autobiographies, theatrical plays, travel narratives, ethnographical and polemical works. We will:

  • study classic texts by authors such as Shakespeare, Moses Mendelssohn and Salman Rushdie;
  • analyse how they take up, question and disrupt prevalent representations of “the other” and themselves;
  • look at related visual material (illustrations, paintings, movies);
  • explore the urban settings of Jewish-Christian contacts in Venice, Amsterdam and London.

On the basis of these various levels of inquiry, students will be able to develop a nuanced understanding of Jewish, Christian and other approaches to religious difference as expressed in theoretical terms, narrative creativity and everyday practice.Primary texts (in English translation), relevant secondary literature, visual material and brief lectures will form the basis of class discussions. Essays will allow students to systematically develop their writing skills; marked essays will be returned with comments and discussed in individual tutorials.

Sample topics

  • Shared Territories: Introduction (Jews and Christians in Antiquity)
  • In a Global World: Jews, Christians & Muslims before & after 1492
  • In the Neighbourhood: Conviviality & Conflict in Early Modern Venice (Sarra Copia Sulam, Leone Modena)
  • In the Courtroom: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
  • What Is Tolerance? (John Locke)
  • Facing the Modern Secular State (G. E. Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn)
  • ‘In a Strange Middle Ground’: Transformations (Israel Zangwill, Salman Rushdie)
  • Antisemitism
  • In the Diaspora: A New Dialectics?
  • In London: Religion and Culture (Zadie Smith)

Further information

Module aims
  • This module introduces students to key notions, issues and events in Jewish-Christian relations, from the Age of Reformation to the twentieth century.
  • It allows students to examine Jewish-Christian relations on various levels: the module will focus on conceptual (theological/religious) aspects and situate them within the cultural, political and economic contexts that shaped everyday perceptions and interactions. Thus, the module allows students to develop a complex and nuanced understanding of how these various levels intersected, reinforced each other or created (productive or problematic) tensions (e. g. when religious separation supported cultural integration).
  • The module allows students to develop a solid understanding of Jewish, Christian and non-religious interpretations of religious difference in modern political and cultural contexts.
  • Students will acquire analytical tools for interrogating the concept of “religious difference” itself, evaluating its merits and problematics.
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • engage competently and critically with primary texts and to relate them to their religious and cultural contexts.
  • analyse texts, issues and arguments.
  • develop and present original, coherent and persuasive arguments in oral and in written form.

Module specific skills

  • To identify core issues of Jewish-Christian interaction in the Age of Reformation and the Enlightenment as well as in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • To understand how Jews and Christians took up such issues and reshaped them on a conceptual level as well as in everyday life.
  • To understand and discuss how interpretations of religious difference were interwoven with cultural and political aspects (e. g. in the meanings of the Ghetto and the impact of the modern nation state).
  • To develop tools for creative and responsible approaches to the challenges of modern multi-religious societies.
Past syllabi
Previous syllabus document available on request from trs@kcl.ac.uk

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.
Preliminary Reading

Efron, John et al., The Jews: A History, 1st ed. 2009; 2nd ed. 2013 (in Maughan). Any chapter you find interesting will be useful; ch. 2 (on rabbinic culture) and 9 (on Jewish life in the early modern period) are highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

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