The narrative of the story of Esther creates an atmosphere of a satire. Details are exaggerated, behavior is crass. The carefully crafted biblical story gives way to comic story telling. The reader gets the sense that the text is intended for a carnival.
The Megilla (scroll) of Esther is colorful and exciting, and hardly inspires religious reverence. What is it about? Who are the characters in it? We might be familiar with the happy, simple versions, but taking an in-depth look at the biblical text might reveal some additional layers.
Translations: We will pay attention to what the Hebrew biblical text has to offer. Without that we will miss many references to other biblical stories. However, you are welcome to read the text in any language and in any translation that you feel comfortable using. Any section that has to be read in Hebrew will be provided in the class material, along with a translation into English. The translation is based on the JPS translation, with some changes to highlight the key words in the text.
Havruta (Study-buddy) Not obligatory, but the best way to learn might just be to have another mind to challenge you and push you forward. You can meet in person (if physically possible,) over the telephone, over the internet, whatever works for you. It is sure to enhance your learning.
For further reading: Adele Berlins book on Esther (2001) has background material, a good bibliography and a commentary on the text. It is also available in Hebrew as part of the series מקרא לישראל.