Meital Orr

Assistant Professor of jewish civilization

OrrMeital Orr holds a doctorate in Modern Jewish Literature from Harvard University, as well as an M.A. from Columbia University in Comparative Hebrew Literature. 

Dr. Orr teaches courses of comparative Jewish literature and culture, and Hebrew language at Georgetown University's Program for Jewish Civilization.

Previously, she has taught Modern Jewish Literature at Harvard University's Near East languages and Cultures Department, and Hebrew at Columbia University.

Her current academic research focuses on parallel depictions of Jewish-Arab relations in Israeli and Palestinian literatures, and the surprising intersections between these. She publishes articles on the benefits and challenges of viewing the Israeli-Arab conflict through literature, and on the portrayal of the Arab in early Hebrew fiction. One of her upcoming lectures is on the portrayal of the Israeli in Palestinian literature, from its inception until today.

View Meital Orr's GUFaculty360 profile.


JCIV 199 Introduction to Jewish Civilization: Great Jewish Texts in Space and Time

An exploration of the fundamental historical experiences, cultural, religious and philosophical ideas, and the hermeneutical processes which shaped them through literature and art, that have served to define Jewish Civilization from biblical times to the present.

The literary critic George Steiner made the intriguing observation that the true homeland of the Jewish people was not necessarily Zion, the synagogue, or some other space, be it physical or meta-physical. Rather, Steiner insisted that the true Jewish homeland was the text. In this course, we will introduce you to a wide variety of classic and less than classic Jewish texts. We will argue that for Jews the process of interpreting those texts is every bit as important—if not more so—than understanding the intentions of those who originally authored them. This then is a class about Jewish texts and all the many ways that Jews read their texts. It will be our working hypothesis that it is this very interpretive, or hermeneutical, process that lies at the core of Jewish identity.

We will never assume that a text is merely a literary concoction. Indeed, texts can be works of art, physical objects, musical recordings, and so forth. Our inquiry is also beholden to certain classic Jewish forms of argumentation and disputation. As such this class will be taught in a manner that replicates many classic Jewish learning styles. So the student should be prepared to speak out, all the while listening very carefully to the thoughts of their colleagues.

INAF 196/JCIV 196 Re-Examining the Middle East Crisis: Israeli-Palestinian Literature and Film

This course will examine how Israeli and Palestinian literatures depict the “other” through text and image, from the early years of Zionism to the twenty-first-century. Using the methodologies of comparative studies, we will attempt to understand how each nation’s views evolved and changed over time, with a focus on works which shifted these perceptions in revolutionary ways. Various depictions of the “other” will be examined, such as the noble hero, the sexual predator, the lover, the suicide bomber and the ally. We will also discuss how both art forms grappled with the many issues that together contribute to the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, including: identity, language, class strife, and the deceptively difficult task of defining homeland. Weekly critical readings will include the theoretical ideas of Orientalism and post-colonialism enabling students to understand both literatures within the wider context of world literature.

Among the many authors covered are: Yosef Chaim Brenner, S. Yizhar, Sami Michael, A.B. Yehoshua, Eli Amir, Amos Oz, David Grossman, Ibrahim Touqan, Emile Habibi, Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud Darwish, Samir El-Youssef, Rula Jebreal and Sayed Kashua. All readings, literary and critical, will be read exclusively in English translation, and five films will be screened as part of the course. This class fulfills the Global Diversity and HALC Core Curriculum requirements.

INAF 251/JCIV 251 Holocaust Literature and Film

More than half a century later, the Holocaust remains one of the most traumatic events of modern Western experience. The shock of the catastrophe sets up a tension between a desire to efface, forget, or disbelieve and an even stronger imperative to record, reveal, and remember what the imagination could not have invented. This seminar will explore a range of responses to the Holocaust through the study of a variety of texts and films drawn from different eras, nationalities, languages, genres, and points of view. Using documents, memoirs, fiction, literary criticism and cinematic images, we will examine how atrocity and loss shaped narrative memory, how texts in turn influence public public or historical memory, and the sets of cultural meanings that the Holocaust  event  has acquired. We will also examine the way that in which Holocaust literature shapes a contemporary sense of exile, diaspora or home, and how it challenges our notions of national and linguistic borders.

Among the authors we will read are: Abraham Sutzkever, Anne Frank, Primo Levi, Charlotte Delbo, Chaim Grade, André Schwarz-Bart. Uri Orlev, Elie Wiesel and Cynthia Ozick. All works will be read in English translation from the originals. Films, as well as critical, theoretical, and historical texts, will all inform our discussions. This course fulfills the Global Diversity and HALC Core Curriculum requirements.

HEBR 022 Intermediate Modern Hebrew II

HEBR 011 Introduction to Hebrew I (Intensive)