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GERMAN 295 A: The Contributions of German Jews to German Culture

Meeting Time: 
MWF 11:30am - 12:20pm
MOR 234
Joint Sections: 
JEW ST 295 A
Richard Block

Syllabus Description:

Richard Block

German 295. Jewish Studies 295

MOR 294; MWF 11:30-12:30.


Office Hours: 12:45-2:00 WF and by appt.


German-Jewish Writers: The Immigrant Experience


For Jews, living in exile for nearly 1700 years, the opportunities to enjoy the rights of full citizens were never so promising as they were in Germany and Austria during the long 19th century. In the so-called century of emancipation, Jewish Germans took advantage of their newly acquired status as apparent equals to distinguish themselves in all walks of life, particularly in the arts and letters.  But alongside such stories of success a new form of Jew hatred was gaining traction that would eventually lead to the destruction of European Jewry under the Nazis.


Jewish writing of this period is thus truly remarkable for how it anticipates and responds to the on-going threats immigrants face, including those in America in 2019. These works stand as testimony to the hopes and accomplishments of immigrants as well as to the existential dangers lurking behind the many smiling faces of their fellow citizens.


To that end, some of the questions we will pursue are: What does it mean to seek equal status as a citizen when the primary marker of one’s identity, that of being Jewish, is indicative of a dream to return to Zion? How does one demand of the other, the Jew, that they become German when the very notion of “Germanness” is vague, uncertain, and forever changing? We will also be interested in how Jews adopt to modernity. What does Judaism look like now that “God is dead”? Finally, what does the Jewish experience of this time tell us about the migrant and refugee crises of the 21st century.


Students can expect to learn the following in this class:


--an understanding of the Jewish experience in the modern world an how it helps us understand the difficulties immigrants worldwide face today


--what it means to be a Jew in a secular society and how that helps us

understand the challenges faced by religious outsiders


--an intellectual and cultural history of the long nineteenth century.


Evaluation: Take-home mid-term 30 percent; take-final 45 percent; class participation 25 percent.


Additionally students are encouraged to complete as many extra-credit assignments as they like. Please consult “files” on Canvas for more information.


Students who require special accommodations should see the professor during the first week of class to make necessary arrangements.


Reading Schedule:


April 1: Course introduction. What is Judaism?


April 3: The Century of Emancipation: A Brief History.


April 5: Glikl von Hameln; look under “files” in Canvas.



April 8: Moses Mendelssohn, Jerusalem 41-75 (section 1).


April 10: Mendelssohn, cont. 77-102 (end w/ “Now Go and Study!”.


April 12—Finish Mendelssohn, 118-139 (begin with “We have seen…”).



April15: Rahel Varnhagen. “Curse of being a Jewess” and Hannah Arendt: The Exception Jew.


April 17: Heinrich Heine, “The Rabbi of Bacherach” part one.


April 19: Finish “The Rabbi…”



April 22: Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto.


April 24: Continue discussion of Marx and Engels.


April 26: Finish Marx.


April 29: Sigmund Freud: “The Method of Interpreting Dreams: An Analysis of a Specimen Dream.”  Mid-term distributed.


May 1: Continue discussion of Freud.


May 3: Chasidim tales. Also, “The Rabbi and His Son” and “The Simple Man and the Clever Man.’


May 6: Continue discussion of the Chasidim. Mid-term due.


May 8: Franz Kafka: “Vor dem Gesetz.”


May 10: Continue discussion of “Vor dem Gesetz.”



May 13: Franz Kafka: “In the Penal Colony.”


May 15: Continue discussion of “In the Penal Colony.”


May 17: Stefan Zweig: “The Royal Game” first half.



May 20: Finish Discussion of “The Royal Game.”


May 22: M. von Trotta: Rosa Luxemburg.


May 24: Finish discussion of film.



May 27: Memorial Day. No Class


May 29: Images from the Holocaust


May 31: Hannah Arendt: “On Humanity in Dark Times.”



June 3: Finish discussion of Arendt.


June 5: Jean Amery: “On the Impossibility and Necessity of Being a Jew.”


June 7: Course conclusion, preparation for the final.











Catalog Description: 
Contribution, assimilation, and alienation of German-speaking Jews - such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Franz Kafka - emphasizing the multi-cultural nature of that which is understood as "German culture." Offered: jointly with JEW ST 295.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:15pm