The Song of Songs and the Love Affair with God
All of Torah is Holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies
Rabbi Aqiva (c. 40-135 CE)
Source: Song of Songs; Bernard of Clairvaux, Excerpts from Sermon on the Song of Songs; Richard of St. Victor, "On the Four Degrees of Passionate Charity;" [class handout] ;Hadewijch of Brabant, "Poems in Stanzas" [class handout]; D. Matt, ed., trans., Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment , 43-45 [coursepack]; Midrash Rabbah on the Song's "ointments"; Zohar on "the kiss"
Your first assignment is to write a four- to five-page paper using the readings on the Song of Songs as a point of departure for considering the way in which the text of the Song of Songs informs medieval ways of understanding of the divine-human relationship. In what ways are these texts similar and in what ways are they different? Are they all equally dependent on the Song of Songs? How do they use the text differently? Does Hadewijch's approach differ from her male counterparts? What is the role of popular culture? You will need to focus your attention on the Christian writings here, because you don't have enough material in the Jewish texts. Feel free to draw on them as you see fit, however. If you want to see a sustained Jewish reading of the Song, you can look at a translation of the Targum to Song of Songs on line. The Targum is an Aramaic translation of Tanakh which, in this case, presents a complete interpretation of the text. Please note that while the Targum on the Song looks like allegory to us, it was understood as a "historical" interpretation in the Middle Ages.
Your pursuit of this topic is meant to be an exercise in close reading and hard thinking. Introduce specific passages of text (citing page or passage numbers where applicable) to illustrate your points. It is not necessary or desirable to quote extensively simply introduce and summarize or paraphrase the passage. (e.g.: We see in Hadewijch's poem entitled x (Hart, p. 0) that her understanding of y was z.) Of course you will then go on to elaborate and provide analysis. You should consider contextual/historical issues as well as theological ones.
Remember that this is not a research paper. Do not consult materials outside of the course syllabus. (You may utilize *other* texts from the reading list, if they seem appropriate and helpful.)
Your paper will be judged on the care with which you construct your analysis, good writing (including grammar and spelling, proper citation of sources, and so on), and your mastery of the course materials thus far.
Your paper should be between four and five pages, double-spaced with the usual margins (1" at top and bottom, 1.25" left and right.) Please remember to include page numbers. You must cite all sources which you quote or paraphrase, as well as works to which you refer or from which you have culled information. Please follow proper format as described in Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers or The Chicago Manual of Style. Whatever form of citation you choose, it is important to be consistent. If you refer to class notes, cite them as "class discussion" and date. There are proper ways of citing electronic source material; you should consult and use the MLA guidelines available through the library's web pages.
Please remember that a good paper should ultimately contain some sort of thesis. I strongly encourage you to look at the following very helpful guides to writing papers, one put together by the History Department at the University of Colorado Boulder and another written by Caroline Schriber of Rhodes College on how to forge an argument. You should also consider making use of BU's URC Writing Center. Information on setting up an appointment is available by clicking here.
Deadline, extensions, and late papers
Papers are due in class Thursday, October 11 (Please do not come to class late--allow yourself plenty of time to print out your paper in advance). Extensions will be granted only in cases of extreme necessity, and all requests for extensions must be made by 3:00 PM Tuesday, October 9 at the latest. You will need to explain why you need an extension, what you have done so far, and how that will impact on the rest of your course work. Papers that are late without an approved extension will lose one letter grade for each day they are late. The same rule applies to any new due date given by extension.
My office hours are Tuesday 11:00-12:00 and Wednesday, 1:00-2:30. Please don't hesitate to contact me by phone or e-mail if you can't make it during that time: 358-0186 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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