Scholars of the Bible as literature since the heyday of literary criticism in the 1980s and 1990s have tended to focus on the Bible’s narratives; much less attention has been given to its significant collections of poetry. To what extent do our ideas about poetry shape our understanding of these texts? How do thinkers and poets in different eras approach the poetry of the Bible, and how do their contexts shape their expectations of what they find there? Steven Weitzman and Elaine James discuss the legacy of James Kugel’s history of ideas about biblical poetry (especially his The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and its History [1981]). There is much to learn from how readers—ancient and modern—have read biblical poetry, related it to their own political contexts, and found in it models for new creative expressions.
Do artists have a responsibility to address social issues? Should they advocate for democratic, inclusive values? What is their role in fighting against racism, antisemitism, and inequities in our society? Dorit Jordan Dotan and Lloyd Wolf, distinguished artists and activists, discuss their mandate as expressed through their creativity. 
Dance is an important yet largely unrecognized motif in modern Jewish literature that helps us read and interpret these texts. This talk demonstrates how dance scenes in I. J. Singer’s Yiddish-language family epic Di brider Ashkenazi (The Brothers Ashkenazi)–a novel that chronicles Jewish life in Łódź–juxtapose late nineteenth-century dreams of embourgeoisement with the reality of early twentieth-century antisemitism. By examining seemingly disparate dance scenes, it is possible to gain a deeper perspective into the ways acculturation and antisemitism operate on the Polish-Jewish body.