The legacy of ancient Israel and Judah, the civilizations that produced the Bible, is vastly out of proportion to its tiny geographical size and relatively short duration. In this course, I will tell the story of the rise and fall of the two states whose culture would eventually give rise to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on the six key crises that shaped their geopolitical destinies. We will consider not only key stories of the Bible, but also the vast amount of archaeological evidence that has accumulated in the past century or so. The course will be informed by the archaeological study trips I regularly take with undergraduate students. Students in this course will have the option to purchase a large full-color map of the land of the Bible for use during lectures.
On December 10, 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in “the struggle of liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence.” He is now renowned throughout the United States, and the world, for his patient and peaceful approach to life. Why is this? What is Tibet and why is it important? What is Tibetan Buddhism? Drawing from both primary literature from Tibet and India, as well as secondary scholarship about this region, this class critically examines these questions in regards to Tibet’s development as a sovereign nation, its assimilation of Buddhism, and its historical interactions with nations such as India and China. The goal of this class is twofold—to better understand Tibet and Tibetan peoples while developing a deeper appreciation for this region’s rich cultural and religious offerings.
The stellar rise of Jews in German society and the inconceivable end of German Jewry unfolded within the short span of one and a half century. When 14-year-old Moses Mendelssohn entered Berlin in 1743, he was subjugated to countless humiliating laws and regulations. Could he have ever imagined that about 150 years later one of his co-religionists, shipping magnate Albert Ballin, would regularly dine with the German Emperor in his palace, and that Albert Einstein was only one of numerous Jewish scientists to win the Nobel Prize? In no other country with the exception of medieval Spain were Jews so quickly and completely integrated into society than in Germany—the same country where they also faced complete destruction. The pinnacle of German achievements in science, the arts, and industry at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century would not have been possible without the “German Citizens of Jewish faith” as they called themselves. Did the highly lauded “German-Jewish symbiosis” turn out to be a deadly self-delusion? How could a barbaric rule of only 12 years extinguish what had been part of German history for 2000 years? There is new Jewish life on German soil and numerous congregations sprout all over Germany. Is this a new beginning or a continuity of Jewish history in Germany? What does it mean to be a Jew in Germany in the year 2018? The course will trace and analyze the last 200 years of Jewish history in Germany and try to find answers to these questions.
This course examines the history of the Russian Empire through the life and work of one of the world’s greatest writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky’s life coincided with dramatic changes in the nineteenth century: industry developed at breakneck speed; empires colonized the world outside of Europe; nationalists gained unprecedented power; science promised endless progress; and, political radicals turned to violence and terror. His work explores many of the fundamental moral, philosophical, spiritual and political questions these changes posed, questions that typify Russian—and European—modernity. The life and work of Dostoevsky, therefore, is an illuminating lens through which to view major developments in the history of the Russian Empire and the modern world. Drawing on a variety of literary, historical and artistic sources, lectures will pay particular attention to Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment as a way of addressing larger questions about Russia. Reading the novel prior to, or in conjunction with, the course is recommended.
The 18th century was a time of travel in Europe. The major wars of Louis XIV ended with his death, and Napoleon’s rise was far in the distance. While periodic conflicts took place between the Great Powers, most of the major cities were open to visitors. Travelers flocked to see the new sights and to attend and participate in the numerous civic and religious festivals, which transformed the city square and were enlivened by specially composed music and spectacular fireworks. (This class will not meet on April 2) To document these events, a new genre of painting arose in the form of Vedute, or “view.” Artists such as Canaletto, Panini, Hubert Robert and others documented the renewed architecture and appearance of the cities, as well as the dramatic celebrations which attracted the visiting throngs. The core of the idea for this course is a marvelous exhibition, "Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe", which was initiated by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and has traveled to Minneapolis and will open at the Cleveland Museum of Art at the end of February. The focus of the exhibition is the pageant of these historical events. However, in this course we will expand this idea in order to focus on the major cities of Europe—London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Prague, to name a few, and the artists who provided our visual knowledge of them today.
Lying in the middle of the Massif Central, the ancient province of the Auvergne has a spectacular landscape of mountains formed by extinct volcanoes, some with dome-shaped peaks, others topped with craters. The scenery is sometimes rugged, sometimes pastoral with emerald green slopes dotted with the reddish-brown cows of the local Salers breed. Ancient villages of dark lava stone sit perched on peaks, clinging to slopes, or nestled in river valleys. The perfectly preserved village of Salers has a main square surrounded by eye-catching historic mansions and a web of narrow streets lined with old houses. The town of Le Puy-en-Velay lies in a basin punctuated by volcanic pinnacles, one of which serves as a pedestal for a 10th century chapel. Steep, cobbled streets lead to the cathedral listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and departure for a main pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Along the pilgrim routes are some of Europe’s finest Romanesque churches, renowned for their sculptural decoration, which is often enigmatic, but always captivating. Châteaux are scattered all over the Auvergne, some owned by the same family for centuries. They range from defensive fortresses to Renaissance or Classical-style residences filled with fine period furniture, paintings, and tapestries. Americans will find of particular interest the Château de Chavaniac-La Fayette, birthplace of the hero of our Revolution. This richly illustrated course will cover the history, architecture, gastronomy, and gorgeous landscapes of the Auvergne, a region unknown to most foreign visitors.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world, where ones' values and actions influence and are influenced by others. If we look at the spread of information, ideas, media, capital, and cultural artifacts we can see the boundaries and borders that have historically separated one country or one group from another are becoming more and more penetrable. As people come together from different backgrounds, understanding how societies are based around fundamental patterns of culture becomes essential at all levels of human interaction, from the interpersonal to the international. In this course, we will unpack the concept of culture. Drawing on insights from anthropology, psychology, business communication, political science and international relations, we will explore the different ways to answer the question, "What is culture?" In this course, we will be introduced to various dimensions and processes of culture like values, perspectives, traditions, and interpretations of time and space. Our goal will be to engender curiosity and empathy, while advancing intercultural understanding.
In this class, we will explore several early Christian Gospels from the perspective of modern academic scholarship, with an emphasis on their historical and social context. This course will focus primarily on the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The final two weeks are devoted to examining several non-canonical texts such as the Gospels of Thomas, Philip, Judas, and Mary. We will read the relevant ancient texts together in translation and explore themes of conflict and diversity within emerging Christianity as it developed from an apocalyptic Jewish sect into a separate religion composed primarily of non-Jewish followers. While it is to be expected that everyone will enter with varying assumptions and expectations about the Bible in general, and the New Testament in particular, it should be noted that we shall adopt a historical approach with respect to all of the texts we will cover, including those of the New Testament. This means we will be examining them in their original historical, cultural, and social contexts. Please note, therefore, that we will not be reading these texts from confessional or devotional points of view.