Course descriptions

Discourse and Identity in Asia & the Middle East 
This course introduces theories of discourse, communication and sociolinguistics and illustrates how Asian and Middle Eastern cultures employ language to construct and reflect values, identities and institutions, to negotiate relationships, and to perform actions (such as ending a phone call, apologizing, worshipping and writing a scientific paper). Particular attention will be paid to uses of orality and literacy, to gender and ethnicity, and to the social and material contexts in which language and literature operate.

Discourse Analysis
Whole conversations and written texts 'hang together' and fulfill their functions by judicious use of lexis, grammar, intonation, thematic organization -- and paralinguistic features such as formatting, graphics, body language. From another angle, the identity and interaction of speakers and addressees, the ideologies they are expressing and the types of speech act and genre they are seeking to perform all have a regular effect on their language. This course gives a brief outline of discourse analysis, with particular focus on advertising, doctor-patient talk, and literature. You will also analyze the discourse of a presidential campaign.

Semantics and Pragmatics
Semantics is the study of what words and sentences mean; pragmatics is about what speakers mean and how hearers make sense of them.  This course introduces basic concepts in semantics and pragmatics, such as relevance theory and formal semantics, applying them to everyday linguistic concerns and topical issues -- such as ‘how does one successfully indicate one’s train of thought?’, ‘how can we define what words mean?’, ‘what is an apology?’ You will have an opportunity to write projects on semantic and pragmatic issues arising from legal English , personal e-mails and US diplomatic apologies. 

Midrash
The Rabbis of Late Antiquity employed a highly creative method of interpreting the Bible for its underlying Jewish values and imperatives, reading it intertextually as an organic whole – and often expressing this in parable and symbolism.  This is Midrash, a mode of thought and expression at the core of the traditional Jewish 'mindset'. We will focus on Midrashim of Genesis, Exodus, Jonah and Samuel’. We also position Midrash vis-à-vis other ancient streams of Biblical interpretations, upon which Christianity and Islam would eventually draw. 

Jewish Humor and its Roots
What is Jewish humor, what are its roots, and what can it tell us about Jewish society, its values and its self-image? This course mines the rich tradition of Hebrew humor and the Yiddish and modern English-Jewish humor that have sprung from it – all the way from the comedy and satire of the Biblical Esther and Jonah, via the bitter-sweet humor of the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Russian Shtetl, down to contemporary Israeli humor, Groucho, Woody Allen and Seinfeld. We also compare the joke, popular song, film and the cartoon, asking how genre impacts on theme. A unique resource for this course is the online Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive.

Film, fiction and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
This course explores Israeli cinema and fiction against the social and historical backdrop of the Arab-Israeli conflict -- and the painful emergence of a new Jewish-Israeli identity in the shadow of the Holocaust and constant warfare. We will study a dozen or so films in depth, situate them in the evolution of Israeli cinema, and consider the problems of turning fiction into film.

         Introduction to Hebrew and Israeli Culture
The Hebrew language has had a unique spiritual hold on both the Judeo-Christian imagination.  We first sample Biblical poetry and narrative -- in translation but with a taste of the original -- and then the Midrash and Talmud, the artistic writings of Diaspora, and the emergence of Israeli culture. Alongside, we trace the origins of the Hebrew alphabet; the 'death' of spoken Hebrew and the often stormy relationship between Hebrew and Yiddish, climaxing in the attempted linguacide of Hebrew by the Soviets;   the quest for spiritual significance in the letters and language, and the emergence of Christian Hebraism that inspired Colonial America. We also explore a modern mystery: Israeli Hebrew, the only known case of a mother tongue reborn.
Courses taught
Discourse and Identity in Asia             and the Middle East

Discourse Analysis

Semantics and Pragmatics
Midrash
 
Jewish Humor and its Roots
 
Film, fiction and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
 
Introduction to Hebrew and Israeli Culture