History of Yiddish language
This is a live, online course held on Zoom. Enrollment will be capped at about 25 students. All course details (Zoom link, syllabus, handouts, recordings of class sessions, etc.) will be posted to Canvas. Students will be granted access to the class on Canvas after registering for the class here on the YIVO website. This class will be conducted in English, and any readings will be in English.
Instructor: Dovid Katz
Focusing in on the origins of Ashkenazic civilization, this course will begin by conceptualizing early Yiddish in a society with three Jewish languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish) and will pivot to the development of Yiddish per se, alongside west-to-east migration precipitated by the Crusades and other episodes of violent intolerance.
The cultural dialectology of Yiddish and Eastern Ashkenazic history will be discussed, with an overall East European tolerance punctuated by massacres and false messiahs. These were followed by Hasidism, demographic explosion, and the rise of modern literary genres, followed by late 19th century political polarization linked to contemporary revolutionary movements ranging from revolution at the left, to Zionism at the nationalist end of the spectrum, all of them giving rise to a major new European literature in the folk language. The twentieth century creation and achievements of modern Yiddish institutions, Yiddish-Hebrew battles, and the internal conflicts centered on religion, politics, culture, or aspects of dialects, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling. Discussion of the sociology of Yiddish with reference to the recurring phenomena of love and hate for the language. Twenty-first century Yiddish debates. The advent of a new Hasidic period: the final session will include a survey of current Hasidic magazines (and video clips) alongside analysis of the contemporary secular scene.
This course will use the second revised edition of the instructor’s Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish (Basic Books, NY 2007) (Available here). The instructor will provide all other course materials digitally throughout the class on Canvas.