Men and women experience history differently. This course explores the way in which
this difference operates and can be located in literature, art, and film.
In our case, the historical event at the heart of our study is the Holocaust. Some
of the questions we’ll tackle include: How do women represent their personal experiences
of trauma (and inherited trauma) in literature? How do films about the war and genocide
portray women (victims and victimizers)? Do monuments and museums do justice (can
they?) to the specificity of the female historical experience? Are there differences
in the way in which female and male documentary filmmakers construct their films to
We will study the representation of the Holocaust through a variety of media and genres:
documentaries, feature films, museum exhibits, oral histories and some of the classics
of Holocaust literature—memoirs, fictions, and graphic novels.
This course introduces students to the major developments in American-Jewish history
from colonial times until the present, with a particular focus on the American South.
We will explore early Jewish immigration to American port cities, patterns of acculturation,
and the formation of various American-Jewish religious and cultural identities. We
will also examine the role of Jews in slave societies, the Civil War and the era of
Reconstruction and, in the twentieth century, in the Civil Rights Movement. These
topics will raise complicated questions about race (especially Black-Jewish relations),
religion, socio-economic mobility, politics, and regionalism.
At times we will zoom in on a particular object produced by, or reflecting, the period
under discussion. Our course thus has a material culture component. The term “material
culture” is expansive and broad. Perhaps the simplest way to define it is that material
culture represents the “things” or “stuff” that we create and use every day, the tangible
products of a culture. This stuff can range from the furniture we use, the clothes
we wear, the buildings we live and work in, even the contents we toss into a USC trash
can. While some of these artifacts may be sophisticated and fashionable, more often
they are quite mundane. Some may be mass-produced while others are vintage and unique.
Some objects embody status and wealth, while others cross class boundaries and are
collectively used, enjoyed, consumed, and stored in attics.
All the “stuff” of material culture – in our case Jewish material culture – has a communicative function; it tells us a great deal about a particular place and time, about the people
who created or used the artifacts, about historical change. Significantly, while material
culture is produced, it equally shapes people’s behavior, ideas, ambitions, and relationships
to others. We will try to identify what specific objects – a Reform synagogue, a cookbook,
a bagel, a Happy New Year postcard, a memorial to the Holocaust – can tell us about
Jewish history in the American South.
An understanding of the African American and Jewish interrelated experiences requires
a basic understanding of the cultural constructs of race, systemic racism, colonization,
assimilation, and activism. By using the interrelated experiences of the African American
and Jewish communities, we will reflect on the how the dominate culture shapes the
school experiences of African- American and Jewish people.
We will study anti-Black racism and antisemitism using the lives of Emmett Till and
Anne Frank as microcosms. We will consider the historical antecedents of the specific
form of each hatred and the contemporary manifestations confronted by the African
American and Jewish communities.
In addition, the course will offer a new paradigm for understanding the impact of
power and privilege in educational settings.
Old Testament prophets, the nature of their prophetic experience, their place in the
life of ancient Israel, their message, and their continuing theological significance.