History of Antisemitism


Antisemitism is one of the most powerful, recurring hate ideologies in world history.  It appears even in countries with few Jewish citizens (e. g. Japan).  Although the term is modern, the phenomenon is ancient.  Antisemitism has assumed many and contradictory forms.  Whenever countries enter into a period of social ennui, economic stagnation, and popular anxiety, antisemitism increases.  It comes in both organized and unorganized forms.  The purpose of this s/dg is to study the history of antisemitism and try to understand its roots and staying power within the context of Jewish history.  Its malleability reflects a persistent societal need to identify the Jew as the Other, even though Jews were not prevented from living amidst their non-Jewish neighbors.  This "double gesture" helps explain both the extraordinary persistence of antisemitism and the equally extraordinary survival of the Jews.  

David N Myers, distinguished Professor Jewish History at UCLA provides the Jewish history, Walter Laqueur, the doyen of the history of hate-groups in Western societies, provides an interpretation of antisemitism through the centuries, and Deborah Lipstadt, an authority on the Holocaust (see Denial, the movie about her clash with Holocaust-denier David Irving), offers an analysis of the current situation.

Weekly Topics

1. Sept. 5  Myers, Who Are the Jews "Introduction, Names, Numbers, Cultures" pp xx1-72

2. Sept. 12   Lipstadt "Antisemitism A Conversation", pp ix-41

3. Sept. 19   Laqueur, "The New Antisemitism", "Interpretation of Antisemitism", pp vi-38

4. Sept. 26   Laqueur,  "Ancient and Medieval Antisemitism", pp 39-70

5. Oct. 3      Laqueur, "The Enlightenment and After", pp 71-89

6.  Oct. 10   Laqueur, "Racialism and Jewish Conspiracies", pp 91-106,

7.  Oct. 17 "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/kidd/thesis/pdf/protocols.pdf

8.  Oct. 24   Laqueur,  "Toward the Holocaust", pp. 107-124

9.  Oct. 31   Laqueur, "Contemporary Antisemitism", pp 125-150, https://www.adl.org/audit2018#major-findings

10. Nov. 7   Laqueur, "Assimilation and Its Discontents", pp 151-169

11.  Nov. 14 Laqueur "Antisemitism and the Muslim World ", pp 191-206

12.  Nov. 21 Lipstadt  "Toxifying Israel" pp 167-191, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/06/29/skin-in-the-game-how-antisemitism-animates-white-nationalism/#sthash.L8ae0KdG.pYwirGBY.dpbs,   https://forward.com/opinion/419988/debunking-the-myth-that-anti-zionism-is-anti-semitic/

13. Nov. 26 Myers, "Politics", pp 73-97

14.  Dec. 5   Lipstadt  "Oy versus Joy: Rejecting Victimhood" pp 225-243, Myers " Perception" pp 98-115, Laqueur "In Place of a Conclusion" pp 207, 208


David N Myers, Jewish History A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press) 

Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (Oxford University Press, paperback)

Deborah Lipstadt, Antisemitism Here and Now (Penguin Random House)

The Crusades, 1095-1204


Why study the Crusades?  Although not the first clash between East and West, of Christianity and Islam, it was the first originated by a call to arms by the Pope himself.  It has left behind a heritage of brutality and fanaticism.  To understand the legacy of this series of events (the first four Crusades), and why religion was not the only driving force behind them, we will examine the calls to arms by four popes, the motivations of those who joined, the impact on Jews who lived along the crusading route, the effect of Western Christian militarism on Eastern Christianity, the occupation of the Holy Land by foreign forces, and the successful counterattack of the Muslims.  Our core book is by Jonathan Phillips, a highly respected British scholar, who has made the Crusades the main subject of his recent research.

Weekly Topics

1.  Introduction and First Crusade

2.  Establishment and Settlement of the Christian State

3.  The Military Orders (Templars and Hospitallers) and the Second Crusade

4.  Warfare, Strategy, and the Rise of Nur ad-Din

5.  Government, Religion and Pilgrimages

6.  The Rise of Saladin and the Third Crusade

7.  The Fourth Crusade and Conclusion


Jonathan Phillips, The Crusades, 1095-1204, second edition (Routledge paperback)

White Backlash: Immigration Challenges in the US and UK


Political polarization is not limited to the United Sates. Britain politics are also polarized. In both countries, as extreme left and extreme right political movements gain strength, one of the key demographics is the white working class, who, feeling alienated from the political process, has abandoned the political center.This SDG will consider both countries, looking for underlying causes for white working class alienation. We will see how, in both countries, the decreased political center makes it difficult to build centrist coalitions, that, in previous periods, account for well-functioning governments. This SDG will raise critical questions about how political beliefs and future elections will change the fate of immigrants and minorities in terms of their relationship with the rest of the UK and/or US.We will use two core books to explore this subject.  The first, The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality by Justin Gest, looks at both Youngstown, Ohio and Dagenham, England to present a nuanced understanding of white working class politics and values. The second core book, White Backlash: Immigration, Race and American Politics by Marissa Abrajano and Zoltan Hajnal, won the American Political Science Association's Ralph J. Bunche Award.  It is focused on the US, and we will use it as a case study.  

Weekly Topics

1.     The theory of immigration politics (White Backlash introduction and chapter 1) (60 pages)

2.     Political Marginality, a new minority and Displacement in East London (The New Minority, chapters 1,2 and  3) ( 73 pages)

3.     Insecurity in  Youngstown, Ohio (The New Minority, chapter 4) (42 pages)

4.    Crumbling Institutions and Class and culture identities: understanding social hierarchy (The New Minority, chapters 5, 6 and 7) (47 pages)

5.    Views on Immigration and the vote (White Backlash, chapters 2 and 3) (54 pages)

6.    Understanding the roots of the backlash: the geography of immigration and media coverage (White Backlash, chapters 4 and 5 and Newark article) (65 pages)

7.    British and American support for the radical right and appeals to the white working class

 (The New Minority, chapters 8 and 9) (27 pages)

The Consequences (White Backlash, Chapter 6 and the conclusion) (27 pages)


The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality by Justin Gest (2016).

White Backlash: Immigration, Race and American Politics by Marissa Abrajano and Zoltan Hajnal (2017).

Other resources:

The Politics of Losing: Trump, the Klan and the Mainstreaming of Resentment, by Rory McVeigh and Kevin Estrep February 19, 2019, Columbia University Press

Five Decades of White Backlash, by Vann Newkirk, The Atlantic Monthly, January 15, 2018

Beyond Hollywood: A Wealth Of Latin American Films


Earlier film S/DG focused mostly on American, Japanese and European films.  There is much impressive talent outside of Hollywood, and in particular, coming from Latin America.  For the past fifteen years the region has been producing exciting and marvelous work, and these filmmakers are on the vanguard of great cinema.  

Overall, Latin American film offers us new societal and cultural areas for film enjoyment and rich discussions.  For example, the Fall 2018 release of the critically-acclaimed film Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, re-emphasizes the quality of Latin American film. One critique:   "Roma finds writer-director Alfonso Cuarón in complete, enthralling command of his visual craft – and telling the most powerfully personal story of his career."  

Exciting films such as The Secret In Their Eyes, Like Water For Chocolate, City of God and Pan's Labyrinth have come out of Latin America.  Overall, these films challenge the traditional notions of politics, culture, identity and even mass entertainment.  Join us to watch and discuss the films of phenomenally talented directors such as Guillermo del Toro, Lucrecia Martel, Pedro Almodóvar and Alfonso Cuarón, among others, who have created new and engaging narratives and cinematic styles. Other fine Latin American films may be found at the annual Latin American Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film nominations.

Our core book by Isabel Maurer Queipo, Directory of World Cinema: Latin America (IB - Directory of World Cinema) addresses traditional and contemporary Latin American films for our consideration.    


We will view at home, and then discuss during the SDG sessions, fourteen selected films from Latin America.  Given the usual S/DG time constraints, this S/DG will take a broad—rather than a deep—look at selected films which critics and reviewers have identified as “important” or “influential”.  The desired outcome is to understand better these major Latin films, and their influences—within both film appreciation and film studies contexts.

Some Recommended Areas and Topics for Discussions (As taken from past film SDGs)

Remember that our Latin American films are much more than just the plot and storyline, the back stories on the production, or the cast members.

1. The Basics:

    — Year of Release

    — Producer, Director, Screenwriter(s), Cinematographer, Music/Composer, Editor 

    — The Cast

    — Awards

2. Place within Latin American film, and place within the overall “world of film.”  (viz., Does this film “stand up” over time? Was it a product of its time and fashion, or a unique work of art?)

3. Setting of the film and Plot summary (Brief descriptions)

4. This film’s unique characteristics, techniques or breakthroughs

5. Director's own commentary on the film—Summary

6. Various critics’ reviews and commentaries—Summaries

7. Discussion about the film’s:

    — Key themes, Symbology and Imagery

    — Influences:  Societal, Stylistic, Political, Philosophical, Religious or Market audiences

    — Interpretative frameworks (e.g., Auteur theory, Realism, Feminist film theory, etc.)

    — Messages, or political or social commentary

    — Screenplay/Screenwriting (Quality, uniqueness, …)

    — Establishment of Time and Place

    — Main and Supporting Characters (and were the roles well- or mis-cast?)

    — Mise-en-scène (composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting)

    — Cinematography

    — Montage (Assembly, Editing, Juxtapositioning or Special sequencing of shots)

    — Music/score

    — Special Effects

    — Ending, “loose ends”, ambiguities, disconnects, surprises, etc.

8. Selected Important/Interesting scenes to view in class (Limited to < 15 minutes total so we’re not just re-watching the movie).

Weekly Topics

Proposed Weekly Films—All available on Netflix, and some on Amazon Prime

  1. ROMA (2018)









  10. CIDADE DE DEUS (CITY OF GOD) ( 2003)







Core Book (available used):

Isabel Maurer Queipo, Directory of World Cinema: Latin America (IB - Directory of World Cinema,  Paperback, Intellect Ltd (August 15, 2013)

OR as an alternate if you like:

Rafael Hernandez, Splendors of Latin Cinema, 1st Edition, Praeger; (November 19, 2009)

Reference Books (available used):

Keith John Richards,Themes in Latin American Cinema: A Critical Survey, McFarland (July 20, 2011)

Deborah Shaw, The Three Amigos: The Transnational Filmmaking of Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón, Manchester University Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2015)

General References on Film Studies (available used):

Monaco, James, How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, and Beyond, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press, New York (2009)

Giannetti, Louis, Understanding Movies, 11th Edition or later, various publishers

Armer, Alan, Directing Television And Film, 2nd Edition, Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, California, 1990


http://sensesofcinema.com/issues/issue-89/  (Latin American Cinema Today: An Unsolved Paradox)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_American_cinema {Latin American Cinema]

The David Story


Of all the Bible’s diverse figures, the one who is portrayed most graphically and who has enjoyed a vibrant post biblical afterlife, is King David.

In the ancient Near East ,where kings were thought of as deities or almost deities, whose lives are described in the most glowing terms, King David is the exception.

David, the founder of the Davidic dynasty that lasted for about four hundred years, is described as a flawed human being.  Yet both Christians and Jews believe that the Messiah was or will be a descendant of the House of David.

In this SDG, we will discuss the depiction of David in the Books of Samuel as well as Wolpe’s Analysis of the David story. Moreover, we will also discuss King Saul and the reason the editor(s) of the Books of Samuel chose to depict the personalities in the book as they did. We will not discuss the historicity of the stories.

Weekly Topics

1.              In those days, there was no King in Israel, the people demand a king. (Robert Alter, The David Story, 1 Samuel, Chapters 1 – 8; 

2.              Samuel vs. Saul - the power struggle between the prophet and the king  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 9-15)

3.              Young David - an obscure shepherd, of less than stellar ancestry, is anointed and steals the heart of the people.  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 16-23; David Wolpe, David the Divided Heart, chapter 1; Genesis, 38 6-30; Ruth, 4  18-22)

4.              David vs. Saul. Saul is haunted by David and is finally killed in a battle against Israel’s arch enemy, the Philistines.  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 24 – 31; Wolpe Chapter 3)

5.              David, the king - consolidating power. (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 1-4;  Wolpe, Chapter 4)

6.              David, the sinner - is the king above the Law? (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 2-5; Wolpe, Chapters 2, 5)

7.              David, the father (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 13-17; Wolpe, Chapter 6) 


8.              Discord  (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 18-20); Wolpe, Chapter 7)

9.              Contrition (Alter, 2 Samuel,  Chapters 21- 24)

10.          Death of a King - the struggle for succession and David’s revenge. (Alter, 1 Kings, Chapters 1,2; Wolpe, Chapters 8, 9 and introduction).


Core books:

1. Robert Alter, The David Story (Translation and commentary of 1 and 2    Samuel) (2000)

2. David Wolpe, David, The Divided Heart (2014)

 3.  https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol13no2/html/v13i2a04p_0001.htm

Additional bibliography:

Jacob L. Wright,  King David and his Reign Revisited,  New Perspectives in Biblical Scholarship (2013)

(Emory University, E book)

The evolution of computers: The impact on society, economics, and war


Computers and software impact our lives, our economy, even international relations and war, deeply, often without our thinking about it. "Artificial Intelligence" has brought attention to advances in computer technology in a particular way, with warnings AI will let computers at least take most jobs if not become our master.

The core book takes the position that AI is part of a long-term trend in the development of "computer intelligence," a broader view of computer capabilities than AI. This view allows a better understanding of what role AI will play, what led up to AI, and what to expect of future evolution of computer intelligence. What will it do for us, and what will it do to us?

The book is directed at a layman audience and does not require a technical background. 

Weekly Topics

1. The role of computer intelligence in our lives

What is “computer intelligence (CI)”? How does it relate to “Artificial Intelligence (AI)”? Why is the distinction important to understanding its past and future impact on society, economics, and war?

2. The history of computer intelligence I

The evolution of CI from early computer concepts through Apple and the Graphical User Interface.

3. The history of computer intelligence II

The evolution of CI after the Graphical User Interface to ride-sharing services.

4. The history of computer intelligence III

The evolution of CI from ride-sharing services to the present, with a hint of the future.

5. How computers think I

“Algorithms” versus software. An indication of what is going on behind software code.

6. How computers think II

More on Algorithms—erasing the mystery.

7. The impact of CI on society: The advantages

Connecting with CI and its impact on healthcare and other parts of our lives

8. The impact of CI on society: Issues

From too much “screen time” and “disinformation” to hacking and privacy issues

9. The impact of CI on economics I

Increasing productivity and delivering increased utility

10. The impact of CI on economics II

The impact on jobs

11. Cyberattacks

Malware, hacking, manipulation of social media

12. Cyberwarfare

The changing nature of war with cyberattacks on elections and infrastructure and manipulation of elections, international competition in AI

13. The Future I

In what ways will CI continue to evolve?

14. The Future II

What to expect in CI’s impact on our future—details, please!


William Meisel, Computer Intelligence: The past and future of computers in our lives, 2019 (to be published)

T. S. Eliot


Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) was one of the founders of modernist poetry. Born in St. Louis and educated at Harvard, he spent his adult years in the United Kingdom, working as a bank clerk, literary critic, and editor at Faber and Faber, while writing several of the great poems of the century. He also wrote several highly regarded plays and a number of literary essays. Eliot marked out a new path for poetry in the post-World War I period. Melding a revolutionary technique with classical content, he sought to revitalize what he termed the moral imagination and find a way out of the disordered and disoriented (secular) world in which he lived, and prepare the ground for a world based on the principles of his religious beliefs. (He was a devout Roman Catholic.) We will read the major poems (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Wasteland, and The Four Quartets) and one of the plays (Murder in the Cathedral).

Weekly Topics

Week 1:  “Tradition and the Individual Talent"; The Love Song of J. Alfred PrufrockGerontion 

Week 2:  The Waste Land

Week 3:   The Hollow Men; Ash Wednesday

Week 4:  The Ariel Poems; Sweeney Agonistes

Week 5:  The Four Quartets (1-2)

Week 6:  The Four Quartets (3-4)

Week 7:  Murder in the Cathedral (play)


T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1901-1950 (Harcourt Brace)

American Science Fiction of the Mid-Fifties


The novellas covered in our SDG are "a sublime reading experience," in the words of Junot Díaz. "These novels testify to the extraordinary range, profound intelligence, and indefatigable weirdness of '50s American science fiction." Jonathan Lethem adds, "Here's the heart of the heart of where those who take American science fiction would want to begin--the genre's equivalent of Hollywood's classical period, and the books [that] subsequent creators like Thomas Pynchon and Stanley Kubrick used to bend their brains . . ."

 In Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (1953), for example, a group of damaged individuals finds a strange new fulfillment in what may be the next stage of evolution. One of the first women to make her mark as a science fiction novelist, Leigh Brackett in The Long Tomorrow (1955) pits anti-urban technophobes against the remnants of a civilization that destroyed itself through nuclear war. 

We include one ringer: a dazzling novella by Rachel Ingalls from the 1980s that changed the B.E.M. [bug-eyed monster] paradigm.

Weekly Topics

1. Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human. pp. 157 - 366. [210 pp.]

2. Ingalls, Mrs. Caliban.111 pp.

3. Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow, pp. 367 - 480. [103 pp.]

4. The Long Tomorrow, pp. 480 - 584. [104 pp.]

5. James Blish, A Case of Conscience, pp. 459 - 584. [181 pp.]

6. Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination, pp. 153 - 266 [103 pp.]

7. The Stars My Destination, pp. 266 - 371. [105 pp.]


Gary K. Wolfe, ed., American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1953 - 1956. (NY: Library of America, 2012). NOTE: The Wolfe anthology comes in two volumes. 

Rachel Ingalls, Mrs. Caliban. (New Directions, 1983/2017), Ingalls' book inspired The Shape of Water, directed in 2018 by Guillermo del Toro. It won four Oscars.

Some extras, in case you haven't got enough to read . . . 

Lidja Haas, "The Hallucinatory Realism of Rachel Ingalls," New Yorker (March 4, 2019), 7 pp. [to be supplied by coordinators]

Lisa Yaszek, ed., The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin. Library of America. 2018. This is FYI—worth being aware of, but we won't draw on the book in the current SDG. Similarly, in the fall of 2019, the Library of America is scheduled to release another anthology edited by Gary Wolfe, devoted to American science of the 1960s.

Nicole Rudick, "A Universe of One's Own," review of The Future is Female! New York Review of Books  (July 18, 2019), 6 pp. [to be supplied by coordinators]

The Medici


From modest textile merchants to one of the most powerful families in Europe, the Medici family was one of ambition, power and money. The Medici were enormously wealthy. Through their wealth and character they were able to rule Florence, control the papacy and influence the entire continent. They produced popes and queens, saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning, revolutionized the banking system, sponsored art and architecture and spurred the birth of the Renaissance. In this SD/G we shall explore the dramatic rise and fall of this remarkable family, as well as the politics and intrigues of the times. We’ll follow the lives of great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and da Vinci and scientists like Galileo. And we’ll look into the political influences and intrigues of such men as Savonarola, Machiavelli and Sforza.

 Our core book, Paul Strathern’s The Medici, is a dazzling history of a modest family that rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe. Against the background of an age that saw enormous changes, Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage.

Weekly Topics

1. Background, Prologue, Chapters 1-2: Ancient beginnings, Florence, banking and the Medici Bank, Giovanni de' Medici

2. Chapters 3-4: Giovanni de' Medici legacy, Cosimo de' Medici, patronage, consolidation of power, progressive ideas, war

3. Chapters 5-7: Prison, exile, Venice, the Abbizzi, Cosimo returns, reforms, Sforza, dawn of humanism

4. Chapters 8-9: Ecumenical Council of 1439, Ottoman invasion of Constantinople, , Florence's role in founding of Renaissance

5. Chapters 10-11: Cosimo de' Medici, power, Sforza, politics, Piero the Gouty, Lucretia, conspiracies

6. Chapters 12-13: Lorenzo de' Medici, pope Sextus IV, Pazzi bank, conspiracy, murder in the cathedral

7. Chapters 14-15: Lorenzo the Magnificent, patronage, politics, the arts

8. Chapters 16-17: Savonarola, death, succession, French invasion, banishment, Piero the Unfortunate, decline of Medici Bank, occupation, the Holy League

9. Chapters 18-19-20: Michelangelo, Rome's acendency, Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia, return of the Medici

10. Chapters 21-22: Pope Giovanni de' Medici, Pope Leo X, Rome's golden age, Martin Luther, the Reformation, death of Leo X

11. Chapters 23-24: Pope Adrian VI, Pope Clement VII, Guilio de' Medici, foreign and internal threats/alliances, fall of Rome, siege of Florence, Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, civil unrest, Spanish invasion, Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, Cosimo de' Medici, fresh start

12. Chapters 25-26: Cosimo's rule, Strozzi, invasion, Florence from city state to sovereign territory, war, scientific, humanistic, political reform, arts and artists, Florentine power extended, Caterina de' Medici, Maria de' Medici, Protestant Reformation, Henry IV of France

13. Chapter 27: Science, Galileo, the arts, astronomy, Fernando II, 

14. Chapters 28-29: Grand Duke Cosimo III, education/moral censorship, social purity, anti-semetism, Medici decline, end of the Medici


Strathern, Paul, The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance, Pegasus Books, 2016