Art History, Middle East, Philosophy, Theology


Jews on Trial

INAF-206/JCIV 225-01 Jews on Trial Fall 2022

This course begins by asking when and how law became separate from religion in the Israelite-Judaean world. It moves on to consider how we might evaluate and understand the narrative of Jesus’ trial and demise in the Gospels in light of information outside those accounts within Judaean, pagan Roman and early Jewish literature. Noting that, regardless of the details that favor or disfavor the Gospel account, many generations of Christians have accept it as unequivocally true, the book goes on with a review that is both concise and extensive of the history of Christian-Jewish relations, examining that relationship through a legal and quasi-legal lens. From medieval Blood Libels to the notorious Dreyfus Affair and from the story of Leo Frank’s trial and eventual murder to the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to Adolph Eichmann’s trial and execution–to the trial behindclosed doors and extended incarceration of Jonathan Pollard–the narrative suggests that the Jew seems always to be on trial in the courtroom of journalistic and historiographic examination, whether as the accused, the accuser, the jury or the judge.

Symbols of Faith

INAF/JCIV-224-01 Symbols of Faith Fall 2022

This course will consider the common origins and divergent and often convergent directions of the three Abraham faiths; and how those origins and directions affect their respective visual vocabularies. How have all three traditions adopted and adapted visual ideas from pagan art that predates all of them as well as from each other? How have they transformed or reinterpreted the meanings of common symbols in order to express their particularized sense of God and of the relationship between divinity and humanity? How have Judaism and Islam visually expressed God without the possibility of figurative imaging and how has Christianity gone beyond the limits of figurative expression in visually articulating God? How is the legacy of antiquity and the medieval period still palpable in the era of both modern and contemporary art?

Theological Implications of Holocaust

INAF/JCIV-138-01 Theo Implications of Holocaust Fall 2022

The Holocaust is recognized as one of the traumatic moments in human history. The uniquely systematic depths of human-human interaction it revealed, paired with daring acts of heroism which the period yielded, have raised a range of questions that challenge long-held assumptions about what humanity is, if and what God is, and how to understand the concepts of good and evil. This course has as its goal to assess the Holocaust as it has been approached by a range of thinkers, and to place it within the larger context of theology, history, art and thought. While our primary backdrop will be theological questions provoked by its narrative — from both Jewish and Christian perspectives — we will inevitably encompass the larger historical picture of Jewish-Christian, Jewish-Jewish, Christian-Christian and human-divine relations. We will also consider the importance, in the later part of the twentieth century, of visual (and other) art as a means of response — both in the expression of anger and in seeking healing — to this trauma.


Select Recent and/or Forthcoming Courses:

Jerusalem: City and Symbol

INAF-187-01 Jerusalem: City and Symbol

This course examines Jerusalem through three pairs of multiple lenses that offer a plethora of interesting questions with richly-contoured answers. How, exactly, does the city evolve as a focal point in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions? How does each of these traditions connect to Jerusalem over the course of history, spiritually, liturgically, politically, and with words, images, and even melody? We begin with a discussion of the the beginnings of Jerusalem and how the archaeological record reflects, refracts, validates, or contradicts the biblical references to the city—from the time of the Hebrew, Abraham, to the time of the Israelite King, Solomon. We trace the history of the twice-experienced building and destruction of, and exile from and return to Jerusalem—with an emphasis on its primary structures (the Temple and the royal palace and, subsequently, uppercrust tombs), that carry across a more than thousand-year period from David and Solomon (ca 100-930 BCE) to the First Revolt against the Romans (65-70 CE). From that point we trace the evolving importance of the city, its symbolic structures and/or their remnants to Judaism and Christianity as these two faiths emerge out of a common Hebrew-Israelite-Judaean tradition. How is the importance of the city expressed in liturgy, literature, and visual art as these two contending traditions compete for legitimacy within the pagan Roman world, and how does that change and/or not change in the centuries after Christianity becomes the religion of the Empire by the end of the fourth century? Where, when, why, and how does Jerusalem acquire importance for the Muslim tradition that emerges on the stage of history in the early seventh century? How is that importance expressed in literature and art? How do politics play a role in shaping the city’s skyline in concert with religion and art? How do all three Abrahamic traditions interweave history and legend within the prose, poetry, and diverse visual art forms that they foster over the medieval period? How do these issues and ideas become transformed toward and into the modern era and how does “Jerusalem” as a symbol resonate outward in various directions within particularly the Euro-American world? When does music become part of the artistic expression devoted to the sacred city? As we arrive into the world of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, what elements of continuity and what new issues emerge, informed by the changing Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds? What can one conclude about Jerusalem, given recent political events and artistic expressions, with regard to the present and the future?

God & The Goal Posts

JCIV-217-01 God & The Goal Posts

One football player crossing the goal line with the ball in hand, bends on one knee, crosses himself and looks heavenward, thanking God; a second, having dropped what would have been the winning touchdown pass, tweets angrily the next day: “I praise you 24/7 and you do me this?!?!” Sports and religion repeatedly interweave each other in a range of ways. But this is not new–it goes all the way back to the Bible and the Iliad, and the interwoven relationship has cascaded down through the ages across the planet. Moreover, sports has always been a surrogate for war, and war has been dictated by politics–which has often justified itself through religion. And one way we see this clearly is in verbal and visual art–and more recently, in film–across history and geography. This course considers the dynamic and fascinating interweave between sports and religion throughout time and space, together with the more complex ways in which these two disciplines are interwoven with war, politics and art. It is an exciting ride, with plenty of twists and turns.

Untangling the Web of the Middle East

Kabbalah in Its Contexts: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Mysticism

Magic and Religion in ther Greco-Roman World: The Beginnings of Judaism and Christianity

What is Modern Jewish Thought?

Moses to Muhammad: Judaism and Islam

Death, the Soul, and the Afterlife in the Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditions

The World of Plato

Greco-Roman Epic Poetry