The Book of the World: Interpretation in Freud, Kafka, Benjamin, and Derrida

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Literary Studies

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
The Book of the World
Fall 2023
Taught By: Carolyn Vellenga Berman
Section: A

CRN: 15927

Credits: 4

This course surveys some of the founding 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. The 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,” ranging from dreams and free-associations (Freud) to private fantasies and public bureaucracies (Kafka), from storytelling practices and city planning (Benjamin) to philosophy and autobiography (Derrida). In this course, we read short works by all of these writers alongside biographical and critical essays exploring how they confronted their Jewishness. We develop an understanding of influential strands of modern thought, while highlighting their roots in Jewish culture.

After the first week of the semester, permission of the instructor will be required in order to register for this course.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Literary Studies (LIT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 5:10am EST 2/22/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday, Wednesday
Times: 10:00am - 11:40am
Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th
Room: 615
Date Range: 8/28/2023 - 12/11/2023