Jewish Studies 39, Section 1

Holy Fanfiction: Retelling Stories from the Bible and Quran (2 units, LG)

Graduate Student Instructor Madeline Wyse and Professor John Efron
Monday and Wednesday 4:00-5:00, 179 Dwinelle Hall, Class number: 25202

Jews and Muslims of the medieval Islamic world produced a vast literature reimagining and embellishing the tales of famous biblical and quranic figures like Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David. This "holy fanfiction" ranges from poems to romances, mystic parables to cutting satire. It grapples with thorny theological issues, as well as other contemporary concerns, from gender relations to coping with life as a religious minority. We will read and analyze a selection of these tales and pay particular attention to the ways they complicate conceptual boundary lines that we might have taken for granted: the line between Jews and Muslims, between popular culture and scholarly culture, between piety and entertainment.

Instructor Bio

Madeline Wyse is a doctoral student in Near Eastern Studies specializing in Rabbinic and Islamic Studies. She works on legal and literary approaches to interpreting and "retelling" canonical texts. Her work engage classical genres ranging from Talmud and uṣūl al-fiqh to tafsīr and aggadic midrash. She attends to how the texts of these corpora function as sites for working out hermeneutic, theological, philosophical and political questions, often in a creative and subversive manner.

Professor Efron is the Koret Professor of Jewish History at U.C. Berkeley. He specializes in the cultural and social history of German Jewry. His scholarship is focused on the ways that German Jewry has attempted to reinterpret and reinvent Jewish culture in the wake of its complex encounter with modernity. In particular, he has written on the German-Jewish engagement with medicine, anthropology, and antisemitism. His publications include Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Yale, 1994), Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (University of New England Press, 1998), co-edited with Elisheva Carlebach and David Myers, Medicine and the German Jews: A History (Yale, 2001), The Jews: A History (Penguin, 2nd edition 2013), with Steven Weitzman and Matthias Lehmann, German Voices of the Jewish Sixties, co-edited with Michael Brenner (2014) and German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic (Princeton, 2016). Efron is an elected fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research.


All readings and discussions will be in English.