Yiddish and German, and the interactions between them, present an intriguing case of inter-cultural relations. Of these relations, the linguistic affinity between the two is but one aspect. With their geographical proximity and long history of interaction, the encounter between Yiddish and German had far-reaching implications for the development of both cultures, while undergoing important transformations in varying historical contexts.
The course will focus on important chapters in the history of the Yiddish-German encounter from its very early, medieval stages, and up to the twentieth century.
The course seeks to introduce the students to the intricate cultural relations between Yiddish and German throughout the centuries, and thus to shed light on important and relatively unknown aspects of both German and Jewish-Ashkenazi history and culture.
On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
- Describe the evolution of Yiddish in its German context
- Asses the influence of German on Old Yiddish literature
- Explain the reasons for the interest of early modern Christian scholars with Yiddish literature and their pejorative attitude toward Yiddish culture
- Describe the process of linguistic shift that took place among German Jewry from the late 18th century onward and explain the internal and external reasons for this shift
- Identify the main arguments in the ongoing debate regarding the relations between Old Yiddish and Middle High German and assess them in their respective ideological frameworks
- Describe the circumstances of the transition of Yiddish culture from western and central Europe to eastern Europe, and analyze the various ways in which German (and German-Jewish) language and culture influenced and shaped the emerging modern Yiddish
- Explain the growing interest of German Jews in the Yiddish culture of the "Ostjuden" at the turn of the century, and describe the cultural implications of that interest
- Assess to what extent one can see in the interest in Yiddish in post-war Germany a case of "postvernacularity"
- Analyze historical documents
- Discuss items of research literature and identify their main arguments
- Write a research paper on the topic of cultural interactions and exchange