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Jews and Jewishness in English Renaissance Literature and Culture

March 16 - May 4
This is a live, 10 part online seminar held weekly on Zoom from 16 Mar – 18 May.
Enrollment will be capped at about 15 students.
All course details (Zoom link, syllabus, handouts, etc.) will be posted to Canvas.
Students will be granted access to the class on Canvas after registering for the class on the YIVO website – yivo.org….
Facebook – www.facebook.com…
This class will be conducted in English.
Instructor: Becky Friedman
Course Description:
When asking “Hath not a Jew eyes?” in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock poses a question about what actual points of difference exist between people with distinct religious backgrounds. One of numerous English Renaissance plays that broaches religion, race, and nationhood, the Shakespearean drama explores a range of questions that are as relevant in the twenty-first century as they were in the sixteenth: How do religious and racial identities interact? How do cultural and political forces impact representation, and vice versa?
This course will tackle these complex themes by reading and discussing canonical and lesser-known English Renaissance texts that feature Jewish characters and Jewish questions. Together, we will examine topics that range from medieval literary precedents to Elizabethan theater conventions, reading excerpts from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and much more. We will also look at religion of the early modern world more broadly, analyze contemporary popular culture, and develop a thorough understanding of attitudes towards Jews and Jewishness during the English Renaissance.
Who should take this course?
This class is open to anyone interested in the topic as outlined in the course description. The class discussion will be conducted in English, and all course materials will be read in English or in English translation. No previous background knowledge or specific education level is required.
Course Materials:
The instructor will provide all course materials digitally throughout the class on Canvas.
Purchasing the following two books is optional but encouraged:
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