|Huma 4811: Golden Age?
Jews in Muslim and Christian Spain
Revised Course Requirements: HUMA 4811 3.0 F2008
NOTE: ANY STUDENT WHO WISHES TO COMPLETE THE FORMAL ASSIGNMENTS FOR THE COURSE AS STIPULATED ON THE ORIGINAL COURSE SYLLABUS MAY DO SO. IF THAT IS YOUR WISH, PLEASE EXPRESS IT IN WRITING TO ME BY FEB 13. IN ANY CASE, THE DUE DATES FOR THE ESSAY CHANGE TO THE ONES LISTED BELOW.
Course Requirements / Grade Breakdown
1) Preparation of reading assignments on schedule. Though there is no formal grade for this part of the course (but see the next item), it is crucial. Enrollment in the course constitutes a commitment to diligent preparation. If you are unprepared to meet this requirement, you should drop the course.
a) Informed participation in class discussion (10%). For the purposes of this formulation, “informed” means that a student shows evidence of having engaged in a good-faith effort to understand the readings in advance. Note: this grade reflects informed contributions in class, not attendance.
b) An oral presentation in which you present and lead a class discussion concerning one of the assigned primary sources or a 2-3 page hand-in on a source from the unit on “The Community in Christian Spain” (which, due to the strike, we will not get to) (5%). Due date for hand-in: Feb. 19 (last day of “Fall” term).
3) In-Class Test: Oct. 3 (20%)
4) A paper (10 - 12 pages) that explicates and puts into historical context one or more primary sources (60%).
You MAY SUBMIT a 250 - 350 word proposal outlining your sources, argument, and the like along with an indication of some bibliography to be used worth 10% of the overall grade, in which case the final written version of 10 - 12 pages would count for 50%. Or you may have the final written version count for 60% of the overall grade.
Due date for outline if you choose to do it: Feb. 13.
Due date for final written version Monday March 2.
Lateness penalty for both components of the paper -- 2% / day including the due dates.
5) The remaining 5% of your grade will be determined by taking your highest grade in any unit of the course and applying that grade to this 5%.
Your proposal should accomplish several things:
1) explain the rationale for the choice of topic, showing why it is important. You may also need to indicate the limitations of your aims--don't promise what you can't possibly deliver.
2) Provide an outline of your intended approach, perhaps with comparisons or contrasts to published work you are using (that should appear in your bibliography.
You are not asked to write a long proposal, but you should give a bit of detail to establish your project's feasibility and show your ability to deal with possible problems or changes in focus.
Note: Show confidence and eagerness (use active verbs, concise style, positive phrasing).
The above borrows heavily from http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/proposal.html, by Dr. Margaret Procter, Coordinator, Writing Support, Last modified September 11, 2007. You may wish to visit this site for further tips.
Major Paper: General
Some General Points
Have you prepared some sort of written outline for your essay (indicating thesis, the manner in which each paragraph contributes to the essay as a whole, etc.)? (You do not have to submit this outline; it is for your own use, and will surely serve you well.)
Have you included your name at the head of the first page or on the title page?
Have you formulated a title for your essay that clearly relates to the main topic of the paper (and is it a reasonably interesting one that will capture your reader's attention)?
Does your opening paragraph contain a clear statement about the position which you will take in the essay? (The sort of essay you are being asked to write is an argumentative essay. Hence, it should have a thesis presented in the first paragraph, and be organized as an argument in support of the thesis.)
Does each of your subsequent paragraphs focus clearly on a sub-topic related to the thesis stated in the introduction? Does each paragraph begin with a sentence that makes the paragraph’s topic clear? (Remember that the paragraph is the main unit of writing, marking the major subdivisions of your argument.)
Does the paper end with some conclusion that follows from the discussion and arguments found in your exposition? Is it what you advertised in your introduction?
Is each sentence in the paragraph a complete sentence?
Have you checked your spelling? Are most of your verbs active? Have you avoided common grammatical errors (e.g., the dreaded comma splice)? Have you taken a solemn oath never to confuse “their” and “there” -- ever? Do you know the rules governing the use of “its” versus “it’s”?
Have you paginated your paper?
Academic Honesty: See the attachment to the syllabus.
NOTE: PLEASE PRESERVE YOUR NOTES, ESSAY OUTLINES, ROUGH DRAFTS, AND THE LIKE. WITH THESE IN HAND, YOU CAN QUICKLY ALLAY ANY DOUBTS THAT MAY ARISE AS TO THE AUTHENTICITY OF YOUR WORK.
Recall that when you write your name on the front of your essay, you are claiming authorship (in keeping with accepted academic practices as outlined in York's Academic Honesty Policy. For further information, you should consult the Academic Integrity website indicated on the syllabus or your tutorial instructor.)
The Mission (should you choose to accept it)
The purpose of the paper is to explicate one or more primary sources -- i.e., to do what we do day-in and day-out in class but in a far more elaborate manner and, of course, with you determining the sources, themes to highlight, analytical approach, and so forth. A significant challenge is to choose sources and define your topic well. Make sure the sources are substantial enough to sustain a longer paper but that the topic is sufficiently narrow to allow for reasonably in-depth treatment. While the main purpose of the exercise is for you to choose and investigate primary sources, obviously you need to have in hand information on the authors of sources, larger historical milieu, and the like. Here some utilization of secondary literature is required. In addition, you may wish to incorporate and/or critically evaluate other interpretations of your sources as found in already extant secondary literature. If you go this route, do not let the views of earlier scholars overwhelm your own ideas (and, as goes without saying, be sure to honor rules of academic honesty by giving credit where credit is due).
For the grading scheme, and lateness policy, please consult the syllabus. Don’t forget that the formal submissions are in two parts: abstract and final written version.
Feel free to be in touch for guidance following a period of preliminary research and at later stages of your study.
Some of you may wish to consult general texts that will provide quick orientation in medieval history or a given religious tradition.
A concise and readable general history of the Christian Middle Ages is C. Warren Hollister, Medieval Europe: A Short History, 7th ed. (there may an 8th by now). A concise study of Jewish religious history and practice is Michael Fishbane, Judaism: Revelation and Traditions (San Francisco, 1987). A history of medieval Judaism is the section on this subject in H. H. Ben-Sasson, ed., A History of the Jewish People (Cambridge, 1976).
A general history of medieval Spain is Joseph F. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain (Ithaca, 1975). Two general histories of al-Andalus and medieval Christian Spain respectively are Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus (London, 1996) and, for the later Middle Ages, Jocelyn Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, 1250-1525, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1976-1978).
As regards primary sources, here are some sources materials you may wish to use. Naturally, you are free to discover your own. A few things to note regarding the following list are:
Not all sources listed below are available within the York University library system. I’ve listed some which I have determined are available at the University of Toronto, though I don’t believe you will have stack access with just your York U. library card. You can get such texts through interlibrary loan or by prevailing on a friend studying at that institution. On occasion you can get lucky with local bookstores, Amazon, and so forth, though most of the books listed below will be out of print.
NOTE: Instead of putting dozens of books on reserve, I am counting on your good will to share limited library resources, photo-copy texts and return books, and generally keep other interested parties informed if you have one of the tomes listed below.
One source we did not discuss (but which, as we noted, Baer refers to) is the Letter on the conversion of the Jews by Severus of Minorca, ed. and trans. Scott Bradbury (Oxford, 1996). It presents interesting challenges of interpretation. Having read it, you can grade Baer on his re-presentation of this text in his History.
A basic secondary reference is Ashtor's 3-volume (in English) Jews of Moslem Spain.
In terms of primary sources, there are a few texts relating to Spanish Jews in Norman Stillman, The Jews in Arab Lands (Philadelphia, 1979). These are all brief.
The product of Jewish al-Andalus most extensively translated into English is Maimonides.
For samplings of all the main genres, you can start with Isadore Twersky, A Maimonides Reader (New York, 1972). Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed is available in a complete translation but, as you know from class, this is a challenging work. Some of Maimonides’ public letters are also available in English. The ones more relevant to us are the public letters written in response to the Almohad persecutions and his letter “To the Jews of Yemen,” also written to a Jewish community suffering from persecution and confusion. For these, see A. Halkin and D. Hartman, Crisis and Leadership: Epistles of Maimonides (Philadelphia, 1985).
For a Maimonidean forced to leave Spain in consequence of the Almohad invasion, see the “ethical will” of Judah ibn Tibbon in Israel Abrahams, Hebrew Ethical Wills (Philadelphia, 1976).
In terms of other Andalusi Jewish thinkers, there are a couple of full translations of Judah Halevi’s Kuzari and a partial more user-friendly one for those who want to explore that work further.
For a different spiritual orientation which gives reason its due but also contains Sufi (Islamic-mystical) overtones, one can try Bahya ibn Paquda’s Duties of the Heart (there is more than one translation; one is Menahem Mansoor [London, 1973]), the work of a Jewish scholar whose life is shrouded in uncertainty. The work is large, but one can get a good sense of its aims from the introduction, which we read a short excerpt from in class.
Three Jewish writers are represented Medieval Political Philosophy, ed. R. Lerner and M. Mahdi (Ithaca, 1963). One is Maimonides. The other two are the late medieval theologian Joseph Albo (the whole of whose Book of Roots is available in translation) and Isaac Abarbanel, a biblical commentator and royal servant to Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whom we will meet briefly near the end of our course. A poem of this writer’s son is found in Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. Olivia Remie Constable (Philadelphia, 1997).
For lovers of poetry . . . . there is much in English from the tradition of Andalusi-Jewish poetry. See Hebrew Poems from Spain, trans. David Goldstein (New York, 1966); The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, ed. and trans. T. Carmi (New York, 1981); Selected Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol; Selected Poems of Judah Halevi; Selected Poems of Moses ibn Ezra. (Ibn Gabirol is, perhaps, Halevi’s only competition for best Andalusi-Jewish poet. As the first Jewish philosopher in medieval Spain, much of ibn Gabirol’s synagogal poetry blends philosophical motifs with traditional liturgical themes in a quest for heightened spirituality, all the while drawing on the Arabic and Hebrew traditions of poetry and wisdom literature. In other words, he and his poetry are another quintessentially Andalusi phenomenon.) Note also Wine, women, & death : medieval Hebrew poems on the good life, compiled by Raymond P. Scheindlin
(Philadelphia, 1986) which, as I recall, contains only Spanish poetry.
The capstone of Andalusi-Jewish biblical commentary is Abraham ibn Ezra, whose Torah commentary is available in an English translation by H. Norman Strickman.
If you work on biblical commentaries (the Torah commentary of the greatest of exegetes from Christian Spain, Nahmanides, is mentioned below), speak to me about defining a topic.
From the period of transition from Muslim to Christian Spain, there is, in addition to the will of Judah ibn Tibbon mentioned above, also another we work we sample in class: Tahkemoni of Judah al-Harizi (for a prose translation, see the two-volume edition of Victor Reichert [Jerusalem, 1965-73]; for a poetic rendering into English see the edition of David Simha Segal (London, 2001). This delightful work by a Jew educated in Toledo who headed east reflects ongoing Jewish rootedness in Andalusi culture after the Almohad invasion and the Jewish community’s move north to Christian Spain. Similar in this respect is Abraham ibn Daud’s Book of Tradition, which we have seen a bit of, but this, though available in a fine English translation, with accompanying essay, by Gerson D. Cohen, might be hard to mine for the purposes of the current essay.
Two of three forced disputations recorded in H. Maccoby ed., Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputation in the Middle Ages (Rutherford, 1982) are from Spain, including the famous 1263 Disputation of Barcelona. Two Jewish anti-Christian polemics produced in Spain are The Polemic of Nestor the Priest, ed. Daniel J. Lasker and Sarah Stroumsa, and Hasdai’s Crescas’ Refutation of the Christian Principles (both available at U of T; make sure to ask for the translation rather than the original Hebrew editions edited by the same scholars). Some Spanish sources are excerpted in Hanne Trautner-Kromann, Shield and Sword: Jewish Polemics Against Christianity in France and Spain from 1100-1500.
Writings of the Jewish disputant at Barcelona, Moses ben Nahman, are available (both his commentary on the Torah and other works) in editions prepared by Charles Chavel. Though not so many of them that relate directly to the themes of our course, they can be used in consulation with me.
For the closing period of Jewish life in Spain, one can turn to a number of sources. Some material relating to sermons can be found in Marc Saperstein's Jewish Preaching (note that most of this is not from Spain). IN terms of inquisition records and the edict of expulsion, these appear in Medieval Iberia (mentioned above). The full version of the edict is in The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles, ed. David Raphael (another one where a trip to, or friend at, U of T is required). Alexander Marx, "The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain: Two New Accounts," Jewish Quarterly Review (Old Series) 20 (1908): 240-70 has two accounts of the expulsion in Hebrew and English versions.
One significant figure from the closing period of Hispano-Jewish life is Isaac Abarbanel. His biblical scholarship is reflected in Medieval Political Philosophy (as above). Note also his son's poem in the Constanble volume as above. Some of his letters are in Kobler as above. More of his thought is reflected in The Jewish Philosophy Reader, ed. D. Frank et. al.
All the above should suffice to get you started. They may be a few very recent things that I have missed. Feel free to be in touch as you move along.
Time: 40 minutes
Format (remember to use your time efficiently, paying attention to the relative weight of each section):
Part I (2 x 5 = 10 points)
Identify and give the significance of 2 of the following. There will be a choice of 5.
Part II (1 x 20)
You will be given excerpts from sources we have studied in class and be asked to put one source of your choosing (from a choice of 4) into historical context, explain its significance, and so forth.
Where applicable, remember to comment on issues of genre, rhetoric, and other matters as you see fit.
The test takes place from 8:45 until 9:25. It covers all work and assigned readings through the end of class on Sept. 26.
After a break to recover, we will resume our study of topics listed on the syllabus.