Application Deadline: November 9, 2014

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The mind, as the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria recognized two thousand years ago, is not guided by rationality alone; it is also driven by appetite and by the passions, and from his age until our own, Jewish thinkers and producers of culture have recognized something nonrational at the core of being human. Ancient rabbinic sources speak of the yetser, an inclination or impulse, as a driver of human behavior, and source of creativity and destructiveness. The medieval philosopher Maimonides subordinated imagination to philosophy, and yet without imagination, he also realized, there would be no prophecy. And the world owes the discovery of the unconscious to the Jewish physician Sigmund Freud. Jewish thought, history, and culture offer many opportunities to explore those aspects of the mind that lie beneath reason, that go beyond it, that resist it.

During its 2015-2016 fellowship year, the Katz Center will focus on those aspects of internal life that lie beyond reason–emotions and feelings, the unconscious, sensation, imagination, impulse, intuition, and the nonrational dimensions of reason itself. The topic can be explored through various disciplinary perspectives such as history, literary criticism, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, art, and musicology.

Relevant fellowship proposals might address any of the following topics:

  • Emotions and feelings. Though rooted in neurological and physical responses, scholars recognize that emotions-like love, anger, anxiety, joy, fear, empathy, sympathy, sadness, desire, pain, and pleasure-are shaped by culture. What is there to be learned about emotions in Jewish cultural contexts?
  • Sensation. Another area of research that engages fields such as art history, film studies, ethnomusicology, ethics, and literature is sensation, a topic that includes sight, sound, touch, or scent within Jewish cultural or artistic contexts.
  • The unconscious. Interest in psychoanalysis continues to thrive, as does the deployment of psychoanalytic approaches to analyze literature and understand behavior. The Center welcomes proposals that bridge Jewish studies and the study of psychoanalysis and its history.
  • Mental illness. The idea of “madness” or mental illness in Jewish contexts approached from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
  • Imagination. What is the history of imagination in Jewish culture? How is the imagination understood within specific periods of history or by particular thinkers, and how does that history relate to the broader history of imagination? Also potentially relevant are studies of Jewish artists and their engagement with movements that emphasize the non-rational (Romanticism, Expressionism, etc.).
  • The nonrational within rationality itself. One of the projects associated with post-modernism is a critique of rationality, the exposure of its metaphysical foundations and blind spots. The year is open to research that explores nonrational dimensions of Jewish philosophy or other modes of rationality, including that which draws on new methods or theories to challenge the distinction between reason and nonrational dimensions of subjectivity/cognition.

The Katz Center invites applications from scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts at all levels, as well as outstanding graduate students in the final stages of writing their dissertations. Stipend amounts are based on academic standing and financial need with a maximum of $50,000 for the academic year.

Fellowship recipients will be notified by February 6, 2015.

NEW: Proposing an annual theme for a research group at the Katz Center

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Shaping the theme of a fellowship year at the Katz Center is an opportunity to have a major impact on scholarship, directing the center’s resources in support of more than twenty scholars each year, generating new conversations and collaborations that include conferences and a book, and helping to set an agenda for new research and thought. The center welcomes scholars to propose a theme and will consider all submissions it receives.

About the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is devoted to post-doctoral research on Jewish civilization in all its historical and cultural manifestations, and is a model for institutions of its kind. The Katz Center’s distinguished scholars and superb library holdings, along with Penn’s outstanding faculty in Judaic studies, have established the University of Pennsylvania as one of the world’s major centers for the study of Jewish civilization.

For more information and questions, please visit:

or contact:
Carrie Love, Fellowship Coordinator
P: 215-238-1290 x.505