Arabic Course Catalog


Language Courses, core Modern Standard Arabic sequence

1101 Elementary Modern Standard Arabic I

Developing the ability to use Arabic functionally and communicatively in context; intensive oral interaction with instructor and fellow students; the basics of the writing system.


1102 Elementary Modern Standard Arabic II

Developing further language ability through learning how to perform certain functions orally and using them with fellow students; reading and writing passages reflecting their abilities.  pre-requisite: 1101, or placement exam.


1103 Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic I

Building on previously acquired functional abilities; using Arabic to express opinion and feelings; oral interaction in the classroom; reading authentic texts or various genres.  pre-requisite: 1102, or placement exam.


2104 Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic II

Initiating and sustaining communication; reading and understanding short authentic passages; and writing to express many language functions.  pre-requisite: 1103, or placement exam.  Typically taught Spring semester.


3105 Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic III

Developing reading skills through reading adapted and authentic Arabic texts; selections reflect cultural and literary aspects of Arabic culture.  pre-requisite: 2104, or placement exam.   Typically taught Autumn semester.


4106 High Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic

Continued development of language skills through reading and evaluating a variety of authentic Arabic texts and genres; writing compositions on various aspects of Arabic culture.  pre-requisite: 3105, or placement exam.  Typically taught Spring semester.


4108 Advanced Arabic Grammar

Advanced discussion of Arabic morphology and syntax with readings from both modern and classical texts from various genres.  pre-requisite: 4106, or placement exam.  Typically taught Autumn semester.


Language Courses, other

1113 Introductory Arabic for Heritage Learners I

This intensive course is intended for heritage speakers and qualified Arabic speakers. It combines three semesters of Modern Standard Arabic into one semester and focuses on the productive skills (speaking and writing). To qualify for this course, students are expected to be able to speak and understand well an Arabic dialect. This prior knowledge of a dialect is essential and will be used as a bridge towards learning Modern Standard Arabic. An interview will be conducted by the course instructor in order to establish a proficiency level.

2001 Arabic Pronunciation

The Arabic Pronunciation course is designed to improve and perfect the student's pronunciation of Modern Standard Arabic. Students will learn the articulatory features of speech production and ways in which to correct and enhance their oral production. They will gradually be introduced to some basic linguistic terminology of articulatory phonetics. Students will develop functional intelligibility.

2101 Arabic Grammar I

Accelerated introduction to the structure of modern standard and classical Arabic: phonology, morphology, and syntax, with emphasis on development of reading comprehension skills.  pre-requisite: 1103, placement exam, or instructor permission. 


2111 Colloquial Arabic I

Introduction to the phonology and grammar of the everyday spoken language used in the Eastern Arab World. Registering for Colloquial Arabic I assumes successful completion of prerequisite: AR 1102 Elementary Modern Standard Arabic II and enrollment in AR 1103, or permission of instructor


2112 Colloquial Arabic II

Continued study of the phonology and grammar of the everyday spoken language used in the Eastern Arab world. pre-requisite: 2111, or placement exam.


4120 Arabic Media

Reading/Listening to contemporary media in Arabic--youth culture, politics, contemporary issues.pre-requisite: 2104, or placement exam.


Seminars & Lectures

2241[/H] Contemporary Arabic Cultures: Arts, Mass Media, Society

A general survey and examination of the socio-cultural structure of the modern Arab world.  Taught in English.

This course explores the intersecting political, artistic, and intellectual currents and practices that have shaped contemporary Arab cultures. It is organized as a survey of different cultural phenomena in Arab societies and diasporas including: the Arabic language and its varieties, music, poetry, law, television & cinema, and more. We will critically examine various meanings of the term “culture,” such as social norms, popular culture, and the arts, asking: what is “Arab culture” and how should we study it? In the class, we will engage in self-reflective practices where we examine our experiences and shifting understandings of culture and put these in dialogue with scholarly sources. We will read essays from The Cambridge Companion to Modern Arab Culture (Ed. Dwight F. Reynolds) and engage with literary narrative, poetry, film, music, theater, and architecture from Arab regions. This course takes an active learning approach; we will cultivate a learning community that supports the intellectual development of each member and the whole. Students will play an active role in curating course content.


2367  Issues in Arab-American Society, Culture, and Literature

Discussion, analysis, and writing about issues relating to Arab-American culture, society, and literature within the context of social diversity in the United States.

The first aim of this course is to introduce students to the history and structure of the Arab-American community in the United States, providing in this way a diachronic and synchronic cross-cultural approach to the development of American society. Reading materials derived largely from critical, anthropological, sociological, and literary texts will be discussed from the perspective of important social issues such as gender, class, race, marginality, identity, ethnicity, discrimination, assimilation, acculturation, representation, alienation, and otherness. Through close reading, discussion, and writing assignments, students will think critically about social issues in the United States from the perspective provided by the Arab-American response to the American vision and experience. An overall objective of the course, therefore, is to encourage students to reflect on the social diversity of experience, to think beyond the language and codes of their own culture, and to appreciate and articulate other points of world-view.


2701 Classical and Medieval Arabic Literature in Translation

Reading and analysis of major works of Arabic literature from the 6th to the 17th centuries including classical poetry, the Qur'an, and the Arabian Nights.

This course introduces students, through a series of texts in English translation, to important works representative of pre-modern Arabic literature -- the longest continuous literary tradition in the Western world. These works (including pre- and early Islamic poetry, the Qur'an, cAbbasid court and urban literature, Hispano-Arabic poetry and the Arabian Nights) are set in their cultural and historical context through reading assignments and classroom lectures, and they are discussed in some depth with full student participation. Students not only become acquainted with a number of masterpieces of a major and highly influential world literature, while considerably expanding their cultural horizons, but also encounter basic approaches of dealing with translations of those texts. Serious attention will be devoted to the nature of literary evidence and its utilization in support of aesthetic and critical judgments.


2702[/H] Modern Arabic Literature in Translation

Reading and analysis of representative works of the 19th and 20th centuries by contemporary Arab women authors.

This course provides an informative and perceptive account of the literary developments in the Arab world from the beginnings of the literary Renaissance to the rise and development of the major genres of poetry and prose of the 19th and 20th centuries. Poetic selections, short stories, novels, and plays of wide-ranging orientation (romantic, mystical, socio-political, religious, and philosophical) are read and discussed. The course will focus on a number of important modern Arab writers, with particular attention to women writers. Students also develop insights into the nature of literary evidence and its utilization in support of aesthetic and critical judgments.


3702 Place, Space, and Migration in Modern Arabic Literature and Film

This course on modern Arabic literature and culture in translation focuses on questions of belonging, relationship to space, and migration. It examines how Arabic literary narratives, films, documentaries, and other arts have imagined modes of belonging to spaces such as cities and nations, the natural world (and even the universe!) from the early postcolonial period to the present.

3705 A Thousand and One Nights: Storytelling in Arabic and World Literature

Readings from The Arabian Nights; the history of the text, translations and literary and cinematic adaptations.

The course treats three related areas: i) the stories of the Nights themselves; ii) the textual history of the collection and its various editions and translations; and iii) some of the transformations and transmogrifications of the Nights, both literary and cinematic. The overall aim of the course is to demonstrate the range of the literary and cultural importance of the Arabian Nights. The origins of the collection lie in the Islamic Middle East, but the versions we know today are a direct result of a fascinating cross-cultural encounter, beginning with Antoine Galland’s translations of anonymous Arabic manuscripts in late seventeenth-century Paris. The subsequent vogue for “oriental tales” spread throughout Europe and back to the Islamic world, where subsequently there appeared a number of greatly expanded Arabic editions of the collection, apparently at least partly in response to European manuscript hunters. Within the Arabic world, such frivolous narratives were not regarded as serious literature, a prejudice that has not entirely disappeared today.

The Nights are a remarkable example of a shared literary heritage, and at the same time have played a major part, for better or worse, in shaping Western perceptions of the Arabic-Islamic world. In this course students will be exposed to the original stories, which remain delightful to this day, as well as to the process by which manuscripts were bought, sold, copied, forged and  translated. Then we will consider the remarkable diffusion of the tales and their characters, especially in cinema and modern literature.


3301 Contemporary Folklore in the Arab World

Study of comparative folklore in the Arab world, including verbal art, material culture, visual self- presentation, and performance.

This course will introduce students to a wealth of Arabic folklore, including the lore of Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs as well as Berbers, Kurds and other Arab world communities. For the purposes of this course folklore will be defined as traditional expressive culture—verbal art (e.g., myths, legends, folktales, riddles, jokes), material culture (e.g. the construction of local shrines, homes, boats as well as production of pottery, jewelry, embroidery, carpets), visual presentation of self (e.g., applications of henna, tattoos, dress, hairstyles), folk religion, rituals, festivals, and folk music (e.g., lullabies). Emphasis will be not on finished products but on cultural process. Students will look at what Arab world "folk" from different regions, religions and language and ethnic traditions have in common in regard to ethos, world view, practical and aesthetic needs and how they differ. By the end of the quarter it is to be hoped that students will have an enhanced respect for the power of traditional expressive culture, as a medium for understanding the affective dimension of any culture or community, and that of the Arab world in particular. Students will be given the theoretical tools to begin to be able to study other folklore forms and folk communities in which they are interested.


3501 Middle Eastern Literature and Post Colonial Theory

Surveying and examining literary texts, theories, and films that explore the relationship between cultural power, colonialisms and different forms of representation.

3601 Introduction to Arabic Philosophy

Surveying the development and major subjects and thinkers of the most vivid period of Arabic philosophy.


4626 Introduction to the Arabic Qur'an

A linguistic, literary, and cultural analysis of selected chapters from the Qur'an.

In this course, students are introduced to the Qur’an, the foundational text of Islam. After a few background lectures dealing with its historical and linguistic context – including its unique orthographic features –, students undertake a careful, detailed, and analytic reading of selected chapters (suras), with special attention to language, style, and content. Students will become acquainted with fundamental secondary source materials that are essential to an adequate understanding of the Arabic text, drawing on both modern scholarly research and classical Islamic sources. In addition to increasing students’ mastery of Classical Arabic, this course will give students the ability to analyse critically the Qur’an’s original Arabic.


5162 Origin and Development of Arabic-Islamic Concepts

An examination of Arabic-Islamic terminology.


5401 Translation: Theory and Practice

Examination of some general guidelines for translating from Arabic to English or from English to Arabic, depending on the first language of the student. Requires advanced reading proficiency.

This course put the practice of Arabic-English translation in conversation with the field of translation studies, especially as it pertains to the Arabic language. One of our weekly meetings will serve as a workshop where students share, discuss, and revise their own translations in a collaborative and supportive environment. We will experiment with different texts and approaches to translation and eventually select our own translation projects. In addition, we will read and discuss foundational texts in the field of translation studies on topics such as translatability, fidelity, the role of the translator, and audience. The field of translation studies has increasingly emphasized the political and ethical dimensions of translation; in this course, we will consider a number of different Arabic language contexts where translation has become a rich site of meaning. These include the aesthetics and politics of translation in postcolonial contexts and in zones of conflict, “translingual” immigrant literature, and the politics of Arabic translation in a global market for books. During the term we will speak to several guest translators about their approaches and endeavor to develop both the linguistic and theoretical skills to make translation an ever-evolving self-reflexive practice.


5611 History of the Arabic Language

Survey of the evolution of the Arabic language in its cultural and historical setting.

This introductory lecture course surveys the development of the Arabic language from its origins to the present, with particular emphasis on its external history; i.e., the cultural factors that led to its evolution from a tribal dialect into a unique literary language. The emergence, growth, decline, and revival of Classical Arabic and the development of the Arabic script and its relationship to other writing systems are traced. The structure of Classical and dialectal Arabic, their affinities to Afro-Asiatic languages, and their interrelationships with other indigenous languages are outlined. The course treats the rise of communal dialects (Middle Arabic: Islamic, Judaic, and Christian); sociolinguistic variation (urban, rural, and Bedouin); diglossia; cultural phenomena; lexical and stylistic developments; and language reform.


5627 Classical Arabic Poetry

Selected readings from classical and medieval Arabic poetry; Arabic metrics and literary theory.

Pre- and early Islamic Arabic poetry may justly be considered the highest art form of a people who delighted in and were devoted to the art of the word. Although the Arabs had surely been composing longer and shorter poems since, and prior to, Biblical times, the earliest examples of Arabic poetical art available go back to the fifth century A.D. These poems are characterized by complex meters and unique rhyme, rich conventions of style and imagery, and a special language of their own that was later to become the "classical" and literary Arabic that is known today. The course offers a few introductory lectures on historical, socio-cultural, and linguistic background and on the source materials available for the study of this poetry. The main part of the course centers upon close and careful reading of a range of early poetical texts, beginning with short, so called "fragments" and concluding with longer formal "odes" (qasidas). Some attention is also given to the nature of Arabic meters and rhyme and to their influence on the forms of poetic statement. Although the primary interests are to perceive and appreciate these poems as works of verbal art, students invariably ground perceptions and appreciation in an understanding of the Arabic texts themselves. Students may expect to experience considerable improvement in their ability to deal with the complexities of the Arabic literary language.


5628 Classical Arabic Prose

Selected readings reflecting the evolution of Arabic prose literature from its origins to the late Abbasid period.

Out of the metrically restricted and conditioned language of classical Arabic poetry and the religiously charged language of the Qur'an, and through a process of linguistic evolution that is still a mystery, emerged the Arabic literary language of the eighth to eleventh centuries, the basis of today's Modern Standard Arabic. This language served as the vehicle for all forms of prose statement that might have been necessary or desirable in an imperial civilization like that of medieval Islam. Literature, history, religion, philosophy, science, philology, and bureaucracy are among the many areas on which volumes of "classical Arabic prose" have been written. Obviously a course such as this can provide students with no more than a sampling of a few works, a few authors, a few genres. The objectives of the course, then, are: to introduce students to a kind of written Arabic whose syntax had not yet been affected by Western languages (other than Greek); to give them some sense of stylistic characteristics and differences; to acquaint them with a small number of major writers or writings; and to make them aware of the primary and secondary sources relevant to the study and understanding of medieval Arabic prose (literary historical, bio-bibliographical, philological, etc.). The major focus in classroom discussion and analysis is an accurate comprehension of what an author has said in close connection with how he has said it.


5651 Contemporary Arabic Prose Fiction

Reading and analysis of short stories and novels representative of major developments and trends of the 20th century.

This course examines the historical and aesthetic development of Arabic prose fiction, with particular emphasis on the themes and techniques of the late 20th century, when the novel and short story reached a period of maturity and were firmly established as dominant Arabic literary genres. Students broaden their understanding of the basic technique of narrative and acquire an appreciation of stylistic variation through analysis and discussion. They also become familiar with the critical connections between writer, medium, and reader; develop their analytical skills; and cultivate their aesthetic judgments in dealing with contemporary Arabic prose. 

5652 Contemporary Arabic Poetry and Drama

Reading and analysis of plays and poems representative of major developments and trends of the 20th century.

This course examines the major historical, aesthetic, and formal developments of 20th century Arabic poetry and drama, with emphasis on more recent Western literary influences. The structure and content of poetic and dramatic selections representative of major trends are discussed and analyzed. Students become familiar with the major stages in the evolution of Arabic poetry and drama and the figures responsible for them. They also broaden their understanding of the major formal characteristics of Arabic poetry and drama, and examine their relationship to other genres and to Arabic culture as a whole. Students are given an opportunity to develop their analytic skills and cultivate their aesthetic judgments in dealing with the significant and critical issues relevant to contemporary Arabic poetry and drama. 

5701 The Qur'an in Translation

An introduction, in English, to the literary, religious, and cultural implications of the fundamental book of Islam.

As the unique scripture for the world's millions of Muslims since the early seventh century, the Qur'an has been the foundation of faith, the pattern and text for ritual, the source of law, the link with Judaeo-Christian monotheism, and the wellspring of an international, multicultural Islamic civilization. As verbal art, the Qur'an is held by Muslims to be linguistically and stylistically inimitable; and it is unquestionably a - if not THE - masterpiece of Arabic literature, even though its style, content, and arrangement are often poorly appreciated, misunderstood, and even misrepresented in this country. Through lectures and assigned readings, this course acquaints students with the geographical, historical, social, political, cultural, and religious environment of sixth and seventh century Arabia. There, in the international trade center of Mecca around 610 A.D., a moderately successful merchant from a moderately important family, Muhammad son of cAbdallah, received the first of a series of revelations from God that ended with his death in 632 A.D. and radically transformed his life, the lives of his people, and the history of the world. These revelations, which collectively comprise the Qur'an as it was established shortly after the Prophet's death, will form the primary subject matter of the course, i.e., through careful examination and serious discussion of extensive passages in at least three translated versions of the Arabic original. The primary object of the course will be to bring students to some understanding of just what the Qur'anic revelations might have meant to those who first heard them from the Prophet, how they might have affected different listeners in different contexts, and why they could so effectively move individuals, families, tribes, and whole societies in order to bring about the monumental personal and social reorientation that was - and is - Islam.    Example Syllabus

5702 Arabic Folk Narrative in Translation

Literary and cultural aspects of 1001 Nights and other popular narratives (epics, legends, folktales) in the Arab world.

Literary and cultural aspects of 1001 Nights and other popular narratives (epics, legends, folktales) in the Arab world. The purpose of this course is, first, to examine in detail a representative body of Arab popular narrative as a living tradition: What is the significance of verbal art as it is performed in present day social and cultural contexts? Second, it is to introduce students to methodological approaches (structuralist, semiotic, formalist, contextualist, performative and others) to the study of folk narrative. The Arab world maintains side-by-side rich traditions of oral and written literatures. Although the course will focus on folk and popular narrative, the effect that the existence of a literate population has on verbal art as a process and a product will also be considered. The course will study how and to what degree verbal art in general, and narratives in particular, can be studied as mirrors of culture. What is the relationship of folk and popular narrative to other verbal art forms, and how does folk narrative reflect or comment upon Arab society and culture of a given time and place? Sample readings may include 1001 Nights (selections), Antar (selections), Folktales of Egypt, The Social Use of Metaphor by Shapir and Crocker (selections), and The Domestication of the Savage Mind by Goody.      

5703 Common Heritage: Biblical Figures in the Qur'an

Examining and comparing the images of important prophets in the Bible and the Qur'an.

6401 The Experience of Modernity and its Aesthetic Representations: Europe and the Middle East

Examining and comparing the cultural travel and translations of the modern experience in the Middle East and Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

6501 Modern Arab-Muslim Thought

Examining critically contemporary responses and revisions of Arab and Muslim classical Humanism.

6701 Major Issues of Arabic Philosophy

Analyzing important texts dealing with God, man, knowledge, society, religion and politics; discussing modern approaches and interpretations.

 7601 Studies in Arabic Poetry

Advanced study of specific poetic periods, figures, and/or topics involving extensive reading and discussion of appropriate primary and secondary source materials.

Sample Topic (1): Umayyad poetry. This topic provides advanced students in Arabic an opportunity for serious and detailed examination of poetical texts from the Umayyad age (661-750) -- the crucial transitional period between "classical" Arabic poetry and the largely urban and court poetry of the imperial cAbbasid age. Through close reading of a number of texts and consultation of major secondary sources, students become acquainted with a range of poets, genres, and critical questions, as well as with the historical and cultural context that gave rise to them. In addition, students advance their ability to deal with complex Arabic linguistic problems and gain greater familiarity in sources dealing with these problems. Primary emphasis is on analysis and discussion of the assigned poetical texts as verbal art, and students develop a relatively efficient way of perceiving and understanding the structure, style, and effectiveness of these poems. Students prepare, with a reasonable degree of completeness and accuracy, all assigned texts by the day they are to be discussed. Midway through the course each student, in consultation with the professor, selects a poem that is assigned to the class and dealt with on a designated class date in a discussion which that student directs. In addition, the student submits a complete, annotated translation of the selected poem, with an accompanying interpretive study (due by the last week of class). There is a final exam (assigned at the last class meeting and due on the day scheduled for the final) consisting of a single essay question and a small number of short poetical texts, both seen and unseen previously, for translation and brief discussion.

Sample Topic (2): Neoclassical Arabic Poetry. This topic provides students with an opportunity to study critically, discuss thoroughly, and appreciate perceptively the structural, stylistic, and cultural features that characterized the neoclassical poetry of the 19th and 20th centuries. Through close reading of several representative original texts, consultation of major secondary sources, and the application of selected literary criticism, students develop a capacity for the analytical exploration of neoclassical Arabic poetry not only as part of a cumulative legacy, but also as social, aesthetic and psychic events. In addition, students increase their competence in dealng with complex Arabic linguistic problems in poetical texts. Assigned texts are prepared for discussion in class. Two poems are selected by students, in consultation with the instructor, for translation, critical analysis, and presentation during the quarter. One research paper is prepared and presented in class demonstrating how any two of the neoclassical poets managed to combine a return to the purity of diction, forceful statement, and the classicism of the cAbbasids, with the ability to express their individual experiences in terms of their contemporary environments.      

7602 Studies in Arabic Prose

Advanced study of specific periods, authors and/or genres of prose writing (literary or non-literary) involving extensive reading and discussion of primary and secondary materials.

Sample Topic (1): Three Faces of Adab. This topic offers advanced students of Arabic a chance to encounter three important representatives of early adab literature. Adab is a uniquely Arabic form of belletristic prose tending to combine elements of instruction, entertainment, edification, exhortation, and stylistic virtuosity in elucidation or elaboration of a particular theme or set of themes, often from diverse sources (including poetical citations). Through close reading of extensive passages by Ibn al-Muqaffac (d. ca. 759), Ibn Abi ad-Dunya (d. 894), and al-Jahiz (d. 889), students become aware of questions and factors involved in the development of a distinctly "secular," non-scientific Arabic prose style and of three different approaches to adab composition. In addition, students increase their ability to deal competently with complex Arabic linguistic problems and gain much greater familiarity with the many and various sources where aid in dealing with these problems may be sought. Primary emphasis is on accurate understanding and rendition of the Arabic text and perceiving the relationship between stylistic and communicational uses of language. Students are expected to prepare all assigned passages by the day they are discussed with a reasonable degree of completeness and accuracy. Each student, in consultation with the professor, selects a substantial passage or group of passages from one or more of the three authors and prepares a fluent and accurate annotated translation of it to be submitted during the last week of class. There is a final exam (assigned at the last class meeting and due on the day scheduled for the final) consisting of a small number of relatively short passages from the three authors, both seen and unseen previously. These are to be identified by author, translated, and, where appropriate, annotated.

Sample Topic (2): The Short Stories of Yusuf Idris. A critical study and discussion of selected short stories which represent every stage of Idris's development as a writer of Arabic fiction (1954-70). Through close reading of the texts, limited consultation of secondary sources, and application of selected literary criticism, students develop insights into the relationship between stylistic and communicational uses of language. They also gain greater ability to deal competently with complex Arabic linguistic problems, particularly the mixture of literary and colloquial expressions. Two research papers are to be prepared and presented in class analytically demonstrating how Idris developed a mode of statement quite new to Arabic literary tradition by making full use of colloquial Arabic and how he used the short story as a functional medium to dramatize the need for revolutionary change in Arab society.     Example Syllabus

7603 The Arabic Detective: Classical and Modern Crime Narratives

Narratives of crime and detection in classical and modern Arabic literature.

7604 The Poetics of Arabic Narrative

Introduction to the strategies and features of prose narrative in Arabic.

8891 Seminar in Arabic Studies

Intensive investigation of a selected topic or problem in Arabic linguistics, philology, literature, or literary culture.

This course will give graduate students an opportunity to explore thoroughly a major issue or phenomenon in the larger context of Arabic literary culture or linguistics and to examine its ramifications and implications. The objective is to provide a well-defined area of concentrated literary/cultural or linguistic study and invite the investigation of a specific scholarly problem through the application of appropriate research skills and methodological approaches.


8892 Studies in Arabic Philosophy

Study of important selections of Arabic philosophy in the source language; students will explore a major issue or phenomenon in the larger context of Arabic philosophy.