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Course Offerings


Graduate Fall 2005 Courses


JS 541: Philosophical Mysticism
JS 597R: Directed Study
JS 598R: Thesis/Exam Preparation
JS 730R: Ethnography of Religious Experience: A Critical Introduction
JS 730R: Aramaic
JS 730R: Apocalyptic Ancient and Modern


JS 541-000: Philosophical Mysticism
Blumenthal, M 12:00-3:00, MAX: 15

Course description: This class will deal with the work of two thinkers, Maimonides and Abulafia, and it will deal with a particular type of mysticism as it reveals itself in their work. This mysticism grew from a close study of medieval philosophy and the relationship of the two will be studied. This will be primarily a text-based class.


  • Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed (Judaeo-Arabic and Hebrew edition of Qafih; English of Pines)
  • Judah al-Botini, Sullan ha-Aliyah
  • M. Idel, The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia
  • M. Idel, Studies in Ecstatic Kabbala
  • M. Idel, Maimonide et la mystique juive
  • D. Blumenthal, Philosophic Mysticism: Studies in Rational Religion

Recommended Reading:

  • M. Idel, Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia
  • G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
  • M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives
  • P. Fenton, Treatise of the Pool

Particulars: Permission of the instructor required. Students will be expected to prepare and participate. Grading will be based upon class participation and one final paper, written in conversation with the instructor.

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JS 597R-00P: Directed Study
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 598R-00P: Thesis/Exam Preparation
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 730-000: Ethnography of Religious Experience: A Critical Introduction (Same as ANT 585-000)
Seeman, Th 3:00-6:00, MAX: 18 (9 JS, 9 ANT)

Content: "Experience" is an under-theorized concept in both anthropology and the study of religion. This course asks how both disciplines can be transformed through the ethnographic study of religious experience in its lived contexts. What constitutes experience, and how can it be described cross-culturally? What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research methodology in the study of religion? What are the theoretical as well as practical and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to be human in different social and religious settings, from spirit possession in Northern Sudan to charismatic healing in Catholic America? What is at stake for people in these settings?

Course description: This seminar is a critical introduction to theory and methodology in the anthropology of religion. We will read full-length ethnographies that focus on a variety of religious settings, as well as William James, Clifford Geertz and at least one work of fiction. How does ethnography ask and answer questions differently than any other methodology in the study of religion? What are its strengths and limitations? And how do recent trends in the anthropology of human experience promise to transform both anthropology and the study of religion as academic disciplines? Case studies that include the ethnography of Charismatic Christian healers in America, Muslim women in Sudan and Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to Israel will be read alongside ethnographies of Haitian spiritualists and African diviners. Films will be shown four times during the semester at an additional meeting. Students will write a critical book review of two or more books and will conduct their own mini-ethnography.

Texts Available for Purchase:

  • Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
  • Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan
  • Geoffrey Lienhardt, Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka
  • Thomas Csordas, Language, Charisma and Creativity: The Ritual Life of a Religious Movement
  • Elenore Smith Bowen, Return to Laughter
  • Unni Wikan, Tomorrow, God Willing: Self Made Destinies in Cairo
  • Vincent Crapanzano, Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan
  • Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity
  • Gananath Obeyesekere, Medusa's Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience
  • William James, Varieties of Religious Experience
  • Robert Desjarlais, Sensory Biographies: Lives and Deaths Among Nepal's Yolmo Buddhists

Texts Available in Class:

  • Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System" and "Thick Description," both from The Interpretation of Cultures
  • Don Seeman, Tainted Hearts: Being "Felashmura" in Israel
  • Rudolph Otto, The Holy
  • Arthur Kleinman, "Everything that Really Matters," Harvard Theological Review 1998

Particulars: This course will be run in seminar format. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions and to take turns presenting material and leading class discussions. We will average one full ethnography per week. There will be one short paper (possibly a mini-ethnography or interview assignment) and one longer paper (possibly a critical book review). Students who are currently conducting ethnographic research projects may petition to write about their own ethnography.

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JS 730-001: Aramaic (Same as RLL 704-000)
Gilders, MW 9:30-11:00

Content: This course provides an intensive introduction to Aramaic, beginning with the Aramaic of the Bible (Ezra and Daniel), and moving on to the dialect(s) of the Targums (Jewish renderings of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, often with considerable interpretive elaboration). The purpose of this course is to provide both breadth and some depth of knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of Aramaic, which students may use in a variety of ways in biblical and Jewish studies. Students who have previously studied Aramaic may enroll in this course, but should consult with the instructor before doing so.


  • Frederick E. Greenspahn, An Introduction to Aramaic (2nd ed.)
  • Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature

Particulars: Careful preparation and active participation will be essential to success in this course. Formal grading will be based on several short quizzes, a “mid-term” examination on biblical Aramaic, and a final comprehensive examination.

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JS 730-002: Apocalyptic Ancient and Modern (Same as OT 626-000)
Newsom, TTh 9:30-10:50, MAX: 25 (20 OT, 5 JS)

Content: An investigation of the origins of apocalyptic thought, its development in early Judaism and Christianity, and its transformation in modern religious thought, focusing on nineteenth and twentieth century American religious movements.

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View undergraduate offerings

For information on the M.A. in Jewish Studies, go to: Graduate Programs in Jewish Studies

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