Topics in Modern Hebrew Literature and Culture
Narratives of the Hasidic Mystics
Fall 2001, 10A
Lewis Glinert
Office: 305 Bartlett Hall


Of all the Hebrew literature of modern times, the Tales of the Hasidim, with their immediately accessible yet underlyingly Kabbalistic message, have probably had the greatest impact on Jewish identity. American Jews' rediscovery of their Eastern European folk 'shtetl' roots, and the positive images that the wider world has had through Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl, and Chagall, is largely due to the ability of thinkers like Martin Buber and Elie Wiesel to transmit the Tales of the Hasidim to a modern readership. This course examines the thematics and form of these tales and the broader cultural genre to which they belong. You will focus on the stories of the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, probing their literary force and spiritual intent, and setting them in the context of traditional Hebrew wonder tales and the world-view of the emerging Hasidic movement. You will also study Buber's and Elie Wiesel's versions of the tales and new tales that have sprung up among Hasidim today, a token of their ongoing effect on Jewish culture. No knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism is assumed.


Course requirement

There will be a midterm (30%) and two final essays (50%), and one or two thematic projects (20%) for which you will do library research, write up your findings and describe them briefly in class.


The following books are required and can be purchased at the bookstore:

The following books have been placed on 24-hour reserve in Baker Library:


Week 1      Topic: Introducing Hasidism
    Dawidowicz The Golden Tradition. 5-27
    Encyclopedia Judaica vol 7, pp 1390-1416 ('Hasidism')
    Green, 'Teachings of the Hasidic Masters' in Holtz, pp 361-401

    Buber, Tales of the Hasidim. 2 vols. [dip in!]
    Buber, Ten Rungs: Hasidic Sayings.

Week 2      Topic: The Hasidic Tale: Form and Function
    Georges, R. 'Toward an understanding of storytelling events', J of American Folklore 82, 326 (1969), pp 313-328.
    Dundes, Alan. 'From etic to emic units in the structural study of folktales', J of American Folklore 75 (1962), pp 95-105
    , Guy erature,pp. 142f-144
    , R Image, Music, Text , chapter ductionuctural study of narratives'

    Newman, The Hasidic Anthology:, introduction.
    Buber, 'Interpreting Hasidism', Commentary 36:3, Sept 1963.
    Scholem, 'Martin Buber's interpretation of Hasidism' in idem The Messianic Idea in Judaism
    Judith s N, 'J' in , J M (ed)

Week 3-4-5      Topic: "In praise of the Baal Shem Tov"
    In praise of the Baal Shem Tov. (selections)
    Rosman, Moshe. Founder of Hasidism ch 9, 10

Week 6-7      Topic: The Tales of Rabbi Nahman

Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman's Stories will be our basic source for the tales themselves
Steinsaltz, Beggars and prayers will be our basic commentary on the tales

    Tales 1,2,3 in Steinsaltz ed. (=1,10,11 in Kaplan ed.)

    Wiskind-Elper. Tradition and Fantasy 1-39
    Schwartz, Gates to the New City, 35-48
    Band, The Tales of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav

    Berger, A. 'Approaches to Rabbi Nachman and his tales' in Berlin, pp 11-19.
    Kaplan, Chasidic Masters , 103-121

Week 8     Topic: The Later Tales
    Heschel, A Passion for Truth [selections]
    Langer, Nine Gates to the Chassidic Mysteries. [selections]
    Wiesel, Souls on Fire, pp 89-112, 140-163, 228-254 (Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, R abbi Yisroel of Rizhin, Rabbi Mendel of Kotsk)

    Schwartz, Howard. Gabriel's Palace. pp. 245-271, 347-355 Buber, Tales of the Hasidim. Pt 1, pp. 203-234, Pt 2, 52-69, 270-289 (and relevant pp in intros to both parts)

Week 9     Topic: The Tales and their Cultural Impact
    Langer, Nine Gates to the Chassidic Mysteries, foreword, intro
    Mendes-Flohr, P ŒFin-de-siecle orientalism, the Ostjuden and the aesthetics of Jewish affirmation', in Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Bloomington, 1984. Dresner, 'Hasidism through the eyes of three masters'
    Buber 'My way to Hasidism'

    Mintz, Legends of the Hasidim. intro, 308-336 ('Hasidim and Tsaddikim in America'), 356-379 ('Napoleon through Hitler'), 380-392 ('Wives and husbands')
    Polsky, & Wozner, ch 2-3 'The pyschology of the Hasidic story. The drama of the story'
    Shmueli 'The appeal of Hasidism for American Jewry today', Jewish J of Sociology 11, 1969, pp 5-30

Final projects:
Two 8 pp projects, each counting for 25% of the grade , for last day of exam period:
(a) "How are wealth and intellectualism portrayed, in terms of morality or spirituality, in Rabbi Nachman's tales?"
(b) What has been the effect of Hasidism on the outside world?

* If you have any questions about this course, you can reach Prof. Glinert at Lewis.H.Glinert@Dartmouth.EDU.

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