European Studies


German Studies

Fall Quarter (F19)

Dept/Description Course No., Title  Instructor
Emphasis/Category: German Studies

A Germanic language with elements from Hebrew and Aramaic, several Slavic languages, and even Latin, Yiddish was the primary home language of the majority of Europe’s Jews for many centuries. It was and is a language without a country which united Jews from disparate parts of Europe and other places in the world, but which at the same time served as a flashpoint of tensions both within communities of speakers as well as between Jews and non-Jews. In this course, we will learn about the history of the language from its origins in medieval German lands to the present day. Most of the course will focus on its cultural flourishing throughout Eastern Europe from the late eighteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, and we’ll end by examining its status today as a minority language in need of curation and dependent on efforts at revitalization. We will also explore its rich culture through literature, film, theatre plays, and other cultural products. This course is thus part historical-linguistic and sociolinguistic study, part literature and film seminar, and part cultural history. In each segment we will consider critical issues such as the relationship between language and identity, language and religion, and the ways that the language both indexed as well as manifested social-class and gender divisions within the Yiddish-speaking world, and the ways various cultural products and practices served to expose, engage with, or mitigate tensions between Jews and non-Jews.
The format of the course is a combination of lecture and seminar, with students working on quarter-long research projects in one of the areas under consideration: linguistics, prose literature, poetry, folklore, music, film, theatre, print news. The project asks students to make use of primary documents or artifacts, carry out background research, prepare several brief class presentations, and write a short research paper.
The course is taught entirely in English. No knowledge of Yiddish or German is necessary.
Days: TU TH  11:00-12:20 PM