Honors | Understanding Antisemitism (HON)
H203 | 28366 | Alvin Rosenfeld

TuTh 2:30-3:45pm
BH 147

The term “antisemitism” was coined only in the late 19th century,
but the phenomenon it describes–-intense hostility to Jews and/or
Judaism–-dates back millennia. Sometimes called “the longest
hatred,” antisemitism begins in the ancient world and, with varying
degrees of virulence, has continued over the centuries in the lands
of both Christendom and Islam. At its most destructive, in the Nazi
Holocaust of European Jewry, it turned genocidal, but well before
that catastrophe, and also since, it has been the cause of
humiliation, denigration, persecution, and murder, sometimes on a
mass scale. Dormant for a time following the end of World War II,
antisemitic passions have reawakened in recent years and pose
serious challenges today in certain parts of the world.

The aim of this course is to help students understand this complex
and often lethal form of hatred. Students will be introduced to the
history of anti-Jewish hostilities and become familiar with some of
their most prominent manifestations, especially in the modern
period. They will learn that antisemitism is rooted in a range of
sources--theological, social, political, economic, and mythical–and
that it both resembles and differs from other kinds of social bias
and antagonism. Through close readings of antisemitic texts, they
will become acquainted with the full repertoire of antisemitic
tropes : Jews as agents of cosmic evil and murderers of God,
children of the Devil and followers of the Antichrist, money
manipulators and  usurpers of other peoples’ possessions,  political
connivers and conspirators, sexual predators and social corrupters,
and more. How these negative stereotypes get encoded and transmitted
and why they continue to have appeal will be a continuing concern
during our study.

The final list of readings is still to be determined, but it will
include an historical survey of antisemitism (Walter Laqueur’s The
Changing Faces of Antisemitism), excerpts from well-known
antisemitic texts (e.g., Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies,
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hitler’s  Mein Kampf , the
Hamas Charter), possibly some literary works that project
antisemitic stereotypes (e.g., Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,
Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, some of the poetry of Ezra Pound and
T.S. Eliot), novels that describe the nature and consequences of
antisemitic activity (e.g., Andre Schwarz Bart’s The Last of the
Just and Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer), and more. A few films will
also be shown.

A special feature of this course will offer students opportunities
to attend a major international scholars conference, “Resurgent
Antisemitism: Global Perspectives,” which will take place at Indiana
University in early April. The conference will bring to Bloomington
25-30 scholars from 12 or more countries. Students will have a
chance to hear these scholars discuss some of the most important
contemporary manifestations of antisemitism in Europe, North
America, and parts of the Muslim world. There will also be
opportunities for students to meet and talk with some of these

Given the nature of the subject matter, this will be a demanding
course. Students will be expected to do the assigned readings on
time, attend all class meetings, and participate actively in class
discussion. If you must miss a class session, please be sure to let
me know. Repeated unexcused absences (more than 3) will lower your
grade for the course.