HISTART 323-001

History of Jewish Visual Culture: From Ancient Mosaics to Jew-Hop Videos

MH 3448
TTh 10:00-11:30am
3 Credit Lecture
Home course: JUDAIC 323.001

Home course: JUDAIC 323.001
Cross-Listed as:

  • HISTART 323 - Jewish Vis Culture, Section 001
  • HISTORY 350 - Jewish Vis Culture, Section 001
  • NEAREAST 383 - Jewish Vis Culture, Section 001
  • RELIGION 324 - Jewish Vis Culture, Section 001

This course offers an introduction to Jewish art and images from ancient Israelite statuettes, to early Palestinian Synagogue mosaics, to medieval manuscript illumination, to contemporary American and Israeli art and popular visual culture. We will consider different ways of analyzing these images, as well as the contemporaneous Jewish responses and attitudes to them, and to vision and visual culture more broadly. Throughout the course we will be asking basic but important questions such as:

  • Does it make sense to characterize a work as "Jewish"?
  • Do concepts and representations of Jewishness change and how?
  • How does an image "work"?
  • Is Jewish culture really iconophobic? How significant was the Second Commandment (prohibiting images of God and possibly assuming an invisible deity) in the formation of Jewish culture?

Our questions about Jewish visual culture will be broadly posed to include not only Jewish art and material culture but also the history of seeing, i.e., how Jews variously experienced, shaped and understood the sense of sight. Our sources will include mosaics, paintings, statues, illuminated manuscripts, biblical, Talmudic, mystical, and philosophical texts, novels, comics, film and video. We will also engage with a variety of philosophical, anthropological, cultural historical and theoretical readings that treat questions of sight and visual culture. The course is suitable for those interested in visual culture, art history, aesthetics, Jewish studies, history and philosophy.

Course Requirements: Readings, occasional short assignments, active participation in class discussions, and occasional presentations and group-work)(15%). Three 2-page short critical response papers on the readings (18%). Midterm 25%. Paper project presentation (7%). Paper project (1500 words) (35%). Periodic assignments include but are not limited to: short response papers, visual data research, visual analyses, and in-class presentations.

Intended Audience:Students who are interested in the study of religion, history of art, ancient, medieval and modern history, popular culture. This course could appeal to students who are interested in race and ethnicity and trans-regional history.

Class Format:Small lecture with no discussion sections. This would allow a combination of lecture, discussion, group work, and individual presentations to the class.