English 190

Research Seminar: Anti-Jewish Diatribe in Medieval England


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2021 Miller, Jennifer
TTh 5-6:30 141 Giannini

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Description

 

The readings for this course will provide a framework for independent research on Jewish-Christian relations from 1066 CE when, the histories tell us, Jews first arrived in England under the auspices of William the Conqueror, to 1290 CE when they were officially expelled, enriching the English royal treasury in the reign of Edward I. We will examine the thriving Jewish communities of, for instance, medieval Oxford, upon which foundations the famous university was quite literally built; of Norwich, first victims of the infamous “Blood Libel” or ritual murder charge by which Jews were identified as crucifiers of Christ in perpetuum; of London, who bore the brunt of the crusading fervor of the followers of Richard I Lionheart; and of York, who, in 1190, tragically witnessed and succumbed to one of the most devastating massacres of the Jews in medieval Europe. We will study together the theological, social and economic arguments (and anxieties) which fueled anti-Jewish hatred in England, as well as the impact of the Crusades and continental hate-crimes such as the burning of the Talmud on the streets of Paris outside Notre Dame, on English motivations and mentalities. We will attend, as far as the record allows, to dissenting Christian voices, as well as Jewish ones, learning as much as we can in a positive way about the lost multicultural/multilingual Jewish communities of medieval England, their commemoration and modern revivals. What did England lose when it exiled its Jews?

Beyond immersing ourselves in this fascinating history, which has much to say to our own contemporary experience of systemic racism, we will learn how to ask research questions which both derive from and fuel our curiosity, and how, in attempting to answer those questions, to build step-by-step, through prospectus, detailed notes, multiple drafts, oral presentations and consultation with peers, a seminar-length research essay which represents our own original contribution to the subject, ready to be revised for publication.

 
 

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