Topics in Judaic Studies


What is a monster? How does it come into being? Why do monsters capture modern imagination and at what historical junctions do they tend to reappear? From the Golem of the Maharal of Prague to the creation of Dr. Frankenstein, monsters have often figured the anxieties, fantasies, and collective distress of the societies from which they hail. Jewish modernity in particular saw the rapid reproduction of monstrous figures as allegories and metaphors for the ambivalent state of European Jews vis-à-vis their surrounding societies. Whether an outcast, a dangerous force from within or a defender against external persecutions, monsters totter on the border between imagination and destruction, conveying at once a promise and a threat. This course explores monstrosity as a critical framework through which we may reflect on such issues as belonging, gender, race, abnormality and hybridity. We shall consider the monstrous as it relates to “Jewish questions”, but also as a cultural figure with a life of its own who recurs across times, languages, and cultures, embodying different states of outsiderness and exception. On our quest to face monstrosity, we shall encounter a variety of texts and genres, including short stories, essays, novels, plays and films. We will discuss literary works by authors such as Mary Shelley and Franz Kafka, acquaint ourselves with the discipline of Monster Studies and comment on various key monsters of Western society.






Fall 2020

Roni Henig
TR: 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM 25W4 C-8