Academic tracks and course highlights

B.A. Liberal Arts degrees are composed of wide ranging studies in a number of discrete areas. First year students study the core curriculum which explores the rich roots of the liberal arts tradition. Students also select four of six tracks in which to gain more speicalized knowledge. 

Below are some sample courses which provide a taste of the program.

To view the full current curriculum, click here.

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Core Curriculum

The core curriculum provides the academic basis of the degree program. Students are required to study courses in political philosophy, the masterpieces of Western literature, critical thinking and the legacy of the European Enlightenment. The connections between science, mathematics and philosophy are explored through an examination of ancient cosmology and the core also provides students with an introductory class on Israeli society, history and politics. In addition, students are required to take a class in academic writing.

Modernism and its Discontents Dr. Yoav Fromer

The course explores the political, philosophical, economic, social, technological and cultural transformations ushered in by western Modernity since the 18th century and, among other things, explores secularism and religion, individualism, science and rationality, democracy, bureaucracy, capitalism, nationalism, industrialization, consciousness, identity, gender and race.

 

Political History of the Economy Prof. Michael Zakim

This course examines how material life has been organized over the past several hundred years, since the advent of Enlightenment thought and practice.  Its subjects include the history of the family, the market, property, land, work, slavery, money, machinery, the corporation, and the rise of a new science of economics itself.  Such an examination of the social and ideological aspects of modern economic activity will encourage students to develop a critical understanding of the structures of power and authority in liberal society.

 

 

Digital Culture and Communication

This track critically examines the theories, promises and consequences of the digital age. Students are offered courses which range from the more traditional areas of rhetoric and persuasion to recent developments in the field such as gaming and post-humanism. Other areas explored include virtual reality, digital anthropology, social media in the Middle East and the crises of visual culture. The track also shares ideas with the philosophy track through joint courses on thinkers such as Walter Benjamin.

Posthumanism Dr. Robin Shochat Bagon

Starting from the premise that man is a construct, this course critically examines what the word human has come to mean and asks what the possible benefits of a posthuman era might be. The Copernican, Darwinian and Freudian revolutions have all dealt severe blows to the human. Are we already posthuaman?

 

Digital Discourse Dr. Carmel Vaisman

The course offers an understanding of digital cultural issues through one of the key methods of interpretation in the humanities discourse analysis – employing both a sociolinguistic and a critical perspective. We treat digital environments as multimedia texts, examining the various linguistic and other semiotic resources that we use in order to accomplish social goals such as identity, community, and conversation. 

 

 

Psychology

The Psychology track is designed to give students a sense of the roots and history of psychology as an academic pursuit and as a profession in a manner which fosters an analytical and critical approach. Key to this are introductory courses which trace the development of psychology from Freud onwards and which pose critical questions about psychopathology in general. Students are also required to study the scientific basis of psychology in a manner which equips them with the tools to critically examine scientific papers. A range of specific topics are covered through elective courses and seminars including personality theory, cognitive psychology and psychology and conflict.

“A Love that is More than Love”: On the Essence of Our Deepest Emotion  
Dr. Gideon Lev

Love has become commonplace, appearing ad nauseam in movies, pop songs and commercials. Studying ideas and descriptions offered by philosophers and psychologists, we will try to detect a deeper core to love, asking whether one can attain, as Edgar Ellen Poe suggested, a state of “a love that is more than love.”

 

Psychopathology Dr. Lisa Law-Armon

What do we mean by “psychopathology”? Can we really measure people? Who is empowered to define mental health? Who is disempowered? Are all diagnosable behaviours unexpected, dysfunctional and maladaptive? This course uses biological, psychological and cultural perspectives to explain traditional clinical diagnoses, as well as current alternative understandings and treatments of mental health problems. In addition to long-established, conventional models, we will explore more contemporary notions and learn to critique traditional DSM/psychiatric concepts.

 

 

Middle Eastern Studies

This track focuses on the history, politics, societies, cultures and religions of the Middle East and North Africa, befitting the region’s mosaic-like character as well as its unifying cultural, social, and religious foundations. Three required courses - the social and cultural history of the region, its modern political history, and an introduction to Islam - are complemented by a wide variety of electives and seminars on both broad topical themes such as the history of education in the region, health and the natural environment, Islamic politics and terrorism, and youth culture and civil society, and country-specific courses, e.g. the modern histories of Iran and Turkey, respectively.

Social and Cultural History of the Middle East Dr. Danny Zisenwein

Over recent decades, historians have broadened their perspectives from addressing the lives and deeds of “big men,” to incorporating new groups and social structures (including women, families, and youth) into their work. This course therefore examines the history of the modern Middle East from the bottom up:  shifting social structures, and the agendas of different social groups in the region. The course situates these themes in the broader theoretical debate about social history and its contribution to the study of history, and discusses the impact of social history on prevailing assumptions that underpin modern Middle East history.

 

Islamic Philosophy in the Modern Era, Dr. Rachel Kantz Feder

This course introduces students to the seminal debates and historical developments that defined the tradition of Islamic philosophy and its evolution into the modern era. We explore Arab and Muslim thinkers’ reception of critical developments such as Darwin’s evolutionary biology and the emergence of modern psychology. We conclude by examining philosophical issues that shaped discourses on self-hood, decolonization, and modernity and found expression in various political and social currents in the modern Middle East.

 

 

Philosophy

The Philosophy track gives students both a thorough schooling in the fundamentals of Western philosophy and a sense of the wide range of modern schools and contemporary applications of philosophy. Students study the ancient Greek tradition as well as a range of canonical thinkers including Descartes and Kant. Close reading of philosophical texts is encouraged and students are explicitly guided through their readings of key texts. There is also a diverse range of elective courses which allow students to explore areas such as truth, ethics, language and love. This track also crosses over with Middle Eastern Studies, allowing students to study Islamic philosophy.

Vita Activa Dr. Alma Yitzhaki

The tradition of Western philosophy places the life of contemplation in opposition to the life of practice. Contemplation was regarded as the highest human faculty, whereas engagement in worldly affairs was disparaged as the domain of illusion, futility and confusion. This hierarchy, however, has largely changed with the advent of the modern age: for philosophers such as Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt and Franz Rosenzweig, human life is defined primarily by the capacity to actively engage with and transform the world around us. 

 

Introduction to Ethics, Dr. Rona Cohen

Ethical theory is concerned with questions of rightness and wrongness, obligation and permissibility, moral decision-making, virtue, and so on. At its grandest and most ambitious, ethics tells us how to live and explain why we should live that particular way. Most of us engage in intuitive ethical theorizing all the time, when we think about what we ought to do, read about a certain government policy, make major life decisions, or just ask questions about the rightness or wrongness of our decisions and actions. Ethical theorists pursue these kinds of questions systematically and thoroughly. 

 

Jewish and Israel Studies

Drawing on the university’s extensive expertise, the Jewish and Israel Studies track has a wide range of courses which cover Israeli history, politics, culture, economy and environment. Courses which focus on Judaism explore Jewish philosophy, the bible and the Mishna as well as Jesus as a Jewish figure. While there is a focus on developments in Israeli history and society since the establishment of the state there are also numerous classes on the pre-state British Mandate era. The track also allows students to study the 100 year history of Tel Aviv and includes a course where students tour the city as part of their learning.

Palestinian Arabs under the Mandate Dr. Itamar Radai

Having contextualised our studies with an introduction to the transformations of the late Ottoman era, students begin by studying political events in the wake of the British invasion. These include the formation of Muslim-Christian societies, the Palestinian Arab executive committee, the Muslim Supreme Council and the Grand Mufti. We then move on to the often violent events of the 1930s and examine the reorganization of the Palestine Arab national movement in the lead up to 1948. We also study socio-economic changes to Palestinian society over this period.  

 

A History of Antisemitism Dr. Katherine Aron-Beller

This course offers an analysis of articulated hatred toward Jews as a historical force. After treating precursors in the pagan world of antiquity and in classical Christian doctrine, the course will focus on the modern phenomenon crystallizing in 19th-century Europe and reaching its lethal extreme in Nazi ideology, propaganda, and policy. Expressions in the U.S. and in the Arab world, as well as Jewish reactions to antisemitism, will also be studied.

 

 

Literature
The program is able to draw on the vast experience and wide range of courses offered by the university’s Faculty of English and American Studies in order to present an extremely diverse range of literature courses. Students can choose to focus on the American or English literary tradition and are required to study literary theory. Elective classes in literature offer students the chance to specialize in areas of interest which include Shakespeare, postcolonial science fiction, creative writing, the modern American novel, comics, African American literature among many others. There are also some classes which cross over with the Jewish and Israel Studies track such as The Holocaust in American Culture.

Postmodern Fiction Dr. Yael Maurer

The term “postmodernism” is notoriously difficult to pin down. However, this is what we’ll attempt to do.

In this course, we’ll read theoretical and literary texts which have been labelled “postmodern” and focus on the ways the postmodern text questions notions of “self,” “body,” “narrative” and “history.”

 

African American Literature Dr. Sonia Weiner

This course explores the emergence of the African American literary tradition and its unique modes of expression informed by slavery, prejudice, discrimination and racism. We will engage with canonic texts of the African American literary tradition (slave narratives, autobiographies, short stories, essays, novels), while reflecting on identity and racism, blues and jazz, language and the vernacular, form and voice, gender and sexuality.

Please note that the curriculum changes every year and that there is no guarantee that a particular course will be on offer. 

 

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