Can a book teach us more than just what is written inside of it? Beyond the words on a page, physical texts provide insights into the history, culture, and people of a time. One such text is the Jewish Bible, which has a physical history as storied and diasporic as that of the Jewish people.
When studying the Jewish Bible and other historical works, the physical attributes determine how we read the book and understand its meaning. Whether learners are interested in literature or history, ancient or religious art and texts, or looking to deepen their understanding of religion and its impact on the world, this course delves deeper into the Jewish Book as a physical object.
“This course requires no previous background in Jewish history or Judaism, but it will take you on a tour of Jewish history from the ancient period until today,” notes David Stern, Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. “More than anything else this course will teach you that a book is more than just words on a page, but as an object, it has a life of its own that is worth pondering and understanding.”
David Stern joined the Harvard faculty in 2015, after teaching at the University of Pennsylvania for many years. He has been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Princeton University, among others. The main topic of Stern's scholarship is the nature of Jewish literary creativity within its larger historical and cultural contexts. Stern’s teaching focuses both on Jewish Studies and the history of the book.
The physical Torah has been a revered part of the Jewish community for centuries; there is even a tradition of touching the Torah as it is brought around the congregation as a sign of respect and paying homage to its history. In this course you will learn about the birth of the scrolls; their evolution from scrolls to codex; and the Jewish Bible through culture, history, and religion.