Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I like the new "Navbar" feature on Blogger -- pretty neat, in my opinion. While I've been gone, my brother seems to have started his own blog: My Popular Music Tastes. Not much there thus far, but I have high hopes.

Other news: the fall semester is fast approaching, so I have to get down to work on my course planning and syllabi. This fall I'm teaching two of my usual courses: Hebrew Scriptures and Jews in the Modern World, and a new course, Jewish Magic and Ritual Power. For the last course, it's definitely been hard to find a textbook! I'm having the students buy Joshua Trachtenberg's Jewish Magic and Superstition, published in 1939, and a much newer book by J. H. Chajes, Between Worlds, about spirit possession among Jews in the early modern period. The rest of the reading is translations of primary texts, ranging from biblical prohibitions of "magic" (kishuf, the story of the raising of the shade of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 28), to the various rabbinic discussions of what kishuf is, demons, various kinds of healing, etc., and then onto to various texts and material objects: amulets, spell formularies (like Sefer ha-Razim), Babylonian incantation bowls, and the like. We'll be starting off by considering the question of what "magic" is -- is there something definite that that term defines? Or is it always used ideologically? Are there other more useful concepts to deal with this corpus of material? Etc. It should be fun, although we'll have to see how much the students are capable of taking in and comprehending.

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