Faculty of Arts

Skip to content | Change text size

print version

Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 Undergraduate - Unit

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Arts
OfferedNot offered in 2011
Coordinator(s)Michael Fagenblat and Nathan Wolski


Previously coded JWC3280


From the 11th to the 13th centuries Jewish expression underwent a remarkable renaissance that saw the birth of its greatest philosophical and mystical exponents. We will study Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed as a universalistic philosophy of religion, as well as an exponent of the particulars of Jewish law. The second half of the course will examine the extraordinary rise of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that flourished in Spain from the end of the 13th century. Besides considering the relations between Maimonides and the mystics we will also examine the different but equally daring reading techniques of philosophers and mystics alike.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. Understand and explain the central ideas and the intellectual context of the medieval renaissance in Jewish philosophy and mysticism.
  2. Analyse, describe, differentiate and trace the influences between the basic ideas of Maimonidean rationalism and the mysticism of the early Kabbalah.
  3. Read and analyse selected texts from Maimonides' The Guide of the Perplexed and his Code of Jewish Law and selected texts from The Zohar and the Gates of Light.
  4. Be familiar with contemporary scholarly debates concerning The Guide and The Zohar.
In addition, third-year students will be expected to demonstrate an ability to:
  1. Understand the influence between the medieval texts we examine and the Midrashic literature which it draws upon.
  2. Apply the reading and interpretative skills they have learned to unseen texts of the authors to be studied.
  3. Formulate and develop their own research question.


Written work: 60%
Test: 30%
Participation: 10%

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Irfan Ahmad

Contact hours

2.5 hours (1 x 1 hour lecture and 1 x 1.5 hour tutorial) per week

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study

Jewish civilisation