Book of the World: Interpretation in Freud, Kafka, Benjamin, and Derrida
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 4200
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Jewish Cultural Studies
This course surveys some of the foundational works of modern literature, psychology, cultural studies, and literary criticism, with the aim of uncovering their debt to Jewish tradition. The notorious complexity of modern thought may derive from the ancient rabbinic practice of midrash, which condoned plural and even divergent readings of the Bible. For the rabbis, the work of interpretation was never done: "Deliberate over it again and again, for everything is contained in it." Modern works of secular Jews like Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Derrida may be said to transfer these strategies of biblical analysis to a variety of new "texts," including dreams and free associations (Freud), private fantasies and public bureaucracies (Kafka), storytelling practices and city planning (Benjamin), and philosophy and autobiography (Derrida). In this course, we read short works by all of these writers along with biographical and critical essays that explore how they confronted their Jewishness. We develop an understanding of influential strands of modern thought while examining their roots in Jewish culture. Note: Course previously listed as NHUM4500.