Judaism and Modernist Literature: from Kafka to Clarice Lispector
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT13
Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course begins with two major figures of Jewish Modernism, Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust. Kafka's famous novel 'The Trial' has been read in various ways: from an exploration of Jewish theology to an allegory of antisemitism. Proust’s 'Swann’s Way' - the first volume of his masterpiece, 'In Search of Lost Time' - depicts the tensions of Jewish ancestry and secular modernity. Kafka and Proust draw upon cultural and aesthetic developments contemporary to Modernism, such as psychoanalysis and the fractured autobiography. What we will find in these works is an identity divided between tradition and modernity, the (Jewish) family and (non-Jewish) nation.
We then move onto the question of the Jew as a social figure, and how Jewish Modernists critically engaged with types and stereotypes. For this section of the course, we’ll look at portions of 'Berlin Alexanderplatz' by Alfred Döblin and the poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler, both of whom engage questions of exile, urban life, and the Jew-as-flâneur. These themes will lead us to an examination of antisemitism and, ultimately the effect of the Holocaust on Jewish Modernism, in the works of Polish short-story writer Bruno Schulz and Romanian Poet, Paul Celan.
Finally, we'll return to explorations of Jewish theology and philosophy in the works of the Yiddish poet Debora Vogel, the French poet Edmond Jabés, and the Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector. A selection of Vogel's and Jabés's poetry, as well as Lispector's novel, 'The Hour of the Star', depict the ways in which the mystical may be encountered in the mundane, and examine a question central to Jewish thought: the adequacy of language to represent raw human experience.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
We will examine the overlap between a number of Modernist aesthetic themes – such as the discontinuity of writing and narrative, writing as a form of identity construction, and the developments of technology and urban life – and the problems of Judaism and Jewishness in the 20th century. We will also be dealing with more difficult themes, such as racism and anti-semitism and the Holocaust.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Evaluate and analyse the texts being studied.
• Engage with Jewish Modernist writing from a number of different perspectives, including the aesthetic, social, and historical.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is for those who have done some literary and/or historical study and for all those who are interested in learning and engaging with the subject. Some of the topics addressed are controversial, so a willingness to engage with the readings and listening to the views of fellow students will be essential.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
We will examine a selection of novels, short stories, and poems. Close readings, work in small groups and pairs, and discussions of historical and literary contexts will be part of the course activity. Comparisons to other artforms, such as painting and film, will also make up part of the course. Other than reading the texts before class, there will be no work outside of class.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need to bring two texts:
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
Extracts of Novels, Short Stories and Poems from the following writers will be provided by the tutor:
Marcel Proust, Alfred Döblin, Else Lasker Schuler, Paul Celan, Bruno Schulz, Deborah Vogel and Edmond Jabes.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under history, culture & writing/literature/fiction.
Although he has lived in the United Kingdom for more than ten years, James Leveque is a native of California. He has taught courses in literature at City Lit, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, and the University of Dundee. James’s first monograph, entitled Words Like Fire: Prophecy and Apocalypse in Apollinaire, Marinetti, and Pound (Legenda) will be published in 2021. His research interests lie at the intersections of literature, religion, and social theory – particularly in 20th-century English, American, and French literature.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.