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COMPLIT 137 - Child Sacrifice, Pros and Cons: The Binding of Isaac in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Modern Lit or return to Course Catalog Search

160331 – Section 001   

Faculty of Arts and SciencesComparative LiteratureDavid Stern
TermDay and TimeLocation
Fall 2017-2018  (show academic calendar)TuTh   10:00 a.m. - 11:29 a.m.Barker 218 (FAS)
Dana Palmer 102 (FAS)
4  (show credit conversion for other schools)
Credit Level

Child Sacrifice-- specifically, the story of the parent?s sacrifice of the first-born child-- lies at the heart of Western religion and culture. The Biblical narrative in Genesis 22, known as the Binding of Isaac, is one of the most famous and problematic tales in the Bible. The same narrative is foundational to Christianity. Later Jewish tradition has interpreted the Biblical text in countless ways from the ancient period down to the present day. The narrative figures prominently in Islam from the Qur?an on. And the Biblical story has been criticized and critiqued since the Middle Ages as a barbaric narrative. Recent works have blamed it for the ubiquity of child abuse in Western society, and it has become a ubiquitous motif of anti-war and protest poetry all over the world. This course will use the interpretive career and literary history of Genesis 22 as a lens through which to study the place of this foundational narrative in Western culture.Readings will include Biblical texts, Euripides? Iphigeneia in Aulis, Philo of Alexandria, ancient Jewish sources, the New Testament, St. Augustine and other Christian exegetes, the Qur'an and later Islamic traditions, Kierkegaard?s Fear and Trembling, Martin Buber, Kafka, Bob Dylan, Yehuda Amichai, and Leonard Cohen, among many other modern writers and poets.

Exam Group

Cross Registration
Eligible for cross-registration
With permission of instructor/subject to availability

MIT students please cross register from MIT's Add/Drop application.