2020/21 Course Offerings Relating to Judaism and Jewish Studies

Fall 2020

RELI 2535: Gender & Religion with Shawna Dolansky

RELI 1710: Judaism, Christianity, Islam with Zeba Crook

RELI 2710: Maccabees to Muhammad with Mourad Laabdi

RELI 4850A:

Screening Religion: Religion and Public Life

Instructor: Dr. Deidre Butler

(1) How does film participate in the construction of our understanding of the category of Religion? How are films implicated in key religious studies binaries such as secular / religious, insider / outsider, religious / spiritual, public / private? How are these binaries complicated through film?

(2) How do films participate in religion and public life through representations of religion, religious themes, and individual religious traditions? How do they disrupt the distinction between public and private expressions of religion?

(3) How do certain faith communities wield film to represent themselves and their worldview? How do members of religious communities engage film as an internal form of critique and activism? (4) How do films participated in contested public religious discourses around political and social conflict, atheism, sexuality, colonialism, gender etc.

This series of linked questions sets out the theoretical territory and the screening choices of this seminar.

This seminar in the academic study of religion explores film as a rich site for thinking about religion generally and religion and public life specifically. As such our approach to film is grounded in religious studies and is separate from and fully distinct from the approaches of film studies. The seminar will view and critically reflect on a series of films, in class and outside of class, including documentary and narrative film, Hollywood, independent, Canadian and world cinema. Films will focus on and represent various religious traditions while engaging diverse religious themes and questions.

PSCI 3702A:

Israeli-Palestinian Relations

Instructor: Professor Mira Sucharov

This course offers a conceptual analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian experience. We will use the tool of collective narratives to examine the role of identity and historical memory in shaping political outcomes. In light of the basic identity and material needs of both sides — coupled with standards of ethics and justice, we will assess the workability of various solutions to the conflict. Keep in mind that we are here to ask scholarly questions and answer them. We will ask both “is” and “ought” questions. “Is” questions include “why” questions, which we will try to answer by drawing on a range of theoretical and conceptual explanations. “Ought” questions are “what should be” questions, which we will try to address by using standards of human rights, ethics and justice. We will also discuss pragmatism, asking whether it should play a role in policy and activism or not.

Winter 2021

RELI 2710: Maccabees to Muhammad with Mourad Laabdi

RELI 4850: Historical Fiction and Biblical Historiography with Shawna Dolansky

RELI 2110R:


Instructor: Dr. Deidre Butler

Course Description: What do Jews believe? What makes a Jew a Jew? How do Jews practice their religion? This 2000 level online course explores Judaism as a diverse and always developing living tradition. In religious studies we understand religion as a human phenomenon that we study from a critical, historical, and evidence-based perspective. We think about Judaism as lived by humans in specific times and places, in particular cultural, social and political contexts, and in gendered bodies. We also want to understand what Jews have to say about themselves as a people, their own history, faith, and tradition. We will draw on sacred texts, art, films and case-studies from Canada and around the world to explore Judaism in contemporary and historical perspectives. Key themes will include: the diversity of Judaism; modern Jewish identity and status; tradition and modernity; sacred texts and contemporary practice; understandings of the divine and human role in Creation; Human nature; Ethics and values; religious law and observance; ritual practice such as lifecycle, and holidays and rituals; gender and sexuality; the Jew as Other, anti-Judaism, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; and Jewish religious perspectives on Israel (land, Zionism and state).

There are no prerequisites for the course. The course is wholly online with weekly modules that ask students to engage course materials and content in variety of ways throughout the semester. Course content includes short mini-lectures, traditional readings, class forum discussions, guest lectures from local rabbis, films, as well as academic and communal online sources.

RELI 3840A:

Judaism and the Body: Food, Sex, and Death

Instructor: Dr. Deidre Butler

Course Description: This new course explores Jewish life, law, and practice through the bodily experiences of food, sex and death in historical and contemporary perspectives. From kosher bacon to sex work to zombies in Jewish law this course will reflect on the body as a material site of the religious to target key questions around gender, identity, otherness, culture, community, authority, the sacred, health and wellness etc.

In religious studies we understand religion as a human phenomenon that we study from critical, historical, and evidence-based perspectives. Jewish bodily practices include ritual observance as well as commanded and prohibited behaviours. These practices reflect the diversity of Judaism itself, lived by humans in specific times and places and experienced in particular cultural, social and political contexts. As such we will consider a range of Jewish bodily practices and experiences that are both historical and contemporary.

Key questions include: What are the central traditional teachings and practices related to food, sex and death? How have Jewish bodily practices developed in response to particular historical and cultural forces? How does this religious tradition variously imagine bodies that are hungry, pleasured, gendered, transgendered, sexual, desirous, sated, obedient, transgressive, differently abled, well, sick and mortal? How does religion construct (and is constructed by) our understandings of the body? How does the body function as both a site of the sacred and the profane as well as the locus of mitzvoth (commandment) and sin? What is the relationship between the physical and the spiritual in a body that is understood to be created and commanded by God? How do interpreters of Jewish law respond to scientific and secular cultural developments?

Sources: We will explore a wide range of interdisciplinary sources and scholarship including sacred texts, religious law, liturgy, visual art, film, popular culture, recipes, medical texts, as well as scholarly analyses of case studies from Canada and around the world. No prerequisites. The course is wholly online with asynchronous components (online videos, readings, mini-assignments) and a synchronous weekly class meeting.

ENGL 5004W / CLMD 6102W:

Holocaust Representation and Global Memory

Instructor: Professor Sarah Phillips Casteel

How does Holocaust memory circulate across national and cultural borders? How do memories of the Holocaust interact with or compete with those of other historical traumas (African slavery, the genocide of Indigenous peoples) and how has Holocaust memory been reanimated in the service of other political projects? Why did the Holocaust serve as a catalyst to the emergence of memory studies in the late 20th century and to more recent transnational and transcultural directions in the field?

This course is situated at the intersection of the interdisciplinary fields of Holocaust Studies and Memory Studies. We will begin by discussing classic theorizations of the Holocaust and its relationship to cultural and aesthetic representation, engaging with canonical works of Holocaust literature and art. We will then consider the global circulation or “cosmopolitanization” of Holocaust memory through an analysis of literary and visual texts that bring the Holocaust into conversation with colonial histories of trauma, raising thorny issues about uniqueness, comparison and claims to universality. Over the course of the term, we will examine a variety of forms of memory, including multidirectional, competitive, visual, prosthetic, postmemory, and countermemory. We will give particular attention to the intersection between media and cultural memory and to the role of text and image in remediating, preserving or erasing memories of atrocity. Students will also be encouraged to explore other media relating to their research interests (music, film, digital platforms etc.) as vehicles of traumatic memory.