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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

Culture, Memory, & Identity: Yiddish in the Post-Holocaust World (3 cr.)
Dov-Ber Kerler
GER-Y 506 Topics in Yiddish Culture #30518
TR 4:00-6:15
2nd 8 weeks course

Meets with GER-Y352 / CMLT-C 378

This course will focus on the fate of Yiddish language and culture in the post WWII world, primarily in the USA. It will offer a concise survey of the long cultural history of pre-modern Ashkenazi Jewish civilization; the rise of modern Yiddish culture until the Holocaust; and will then focus directly on postwar condition and changing fortunes of a major modern Jewish language in the wake of physical annihilation or political repression of most of its native speakers in mid-20th century Europe. Special attention will be paid to the socio-cultural trends of modernization, secularization, and the largely contemporaneous rise of modern Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy since the late 19th century and earlier and their latter-day growths and evolution in the postwar period, especially in North America.

The course will offer a sampling of different aspects of persisting Yiddish or Yiddish-related creativity in literature, popular music, video clips and on the World Wide Web, while focusing primarily on some major aspects of ?modern Jewish identity tensions? addressing the question of what role does the continuation, maintenance, or even just symbolic preservation of Yiddish or Yiddish creative expression play in the contemporary identity politics of at least certain segments of American Jews (or be it: Jewish Americans). What is the role, scope, and function of Yiddish among the mainly Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in America (and to a lesser degree in Israel and Europe)?

The readings will consist of four specially selected books, a few additional articles, and a few pieces of fiction translated or originally written in English. A number of films will be shown, introduced, and discussed.

All readings scheduled for discussion must be read in advance and the texts must be brought to the class. Participants are required to actively contribute to the discussion in class and to offer their own thinking on issues of ethnic, national, or social identity; on the role of language and linguistic or other forms of creative expression on group identity; and on matters of viable linguistic and cultural autonomy of a minority group in a larger multicultural society.

Graduate students will undertake an original research project subject to direct consultation with the instructor and his approval.