10915 Jewish Children, Christian Children: Childhood in the Middle Ages 1

Credits: 6 advanced credits in Medieval History of the Jewish People or in Medieval History

Prerequisites: 36 credits, including one course in Medieval History or in Medieval History of the Jewish People. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

The course is based on Medieval Childhood, by Shulamit Shachar (Dvir, 1990, Hebrew) and Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Ashkenaz, by Elisheva Baumgarten (Zalman Shazar Center, 2005, Hebrew; also published as Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton University Press, 2004). The course material includes a reader containing a wide range of primary medieval Jewish and Christian sources as well as pioneering and up-to-date research literature, edited by Orit Ramon.

The course examines the attitude towards children and childhood in Christian Europe in the 11th-15th centuries, as a phase in the cultural and religious history of the period and as a view of life in general. The course focuses on a comparison between the lives of children and their parents in Christian society and in Jewish Ashkenazi society. The course examines the similarities and differences between the attitude of the two societies toward children and childhood, and offers a unique perspective for understanding the religious and social experience of the two groups and their mutual relations. The course also deals with gender and anthropological aspects of medieval society as reflected in the perception of childhood.

Topics: Stages in human life; Historiographic discussion; Pregnancy and childbirth; Childhood rites and rites of passage; Children’s culture – language, toys and games; Disease and disability, murder and death; Children in the Judeo-Christian debate; On the threshold of adulthood – adolescence in the Middle Ages.

1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required.