NELC Course Catalog


1125 Stories of the Middle East and South Asia

This course will read and analyze a variety of short stories to illuminate different cultures of the Middle East and South Asia. The goal of the course is to introduce students to diverse cultures through literature. Students will be become familiar with a variety of literary representations, social structures and religious, ethnic and racial diversity after the completion of this course. GE Literature and Diversity: Global Studies course.


2220 Introduction to South Asian Studies

A multi-disciplinary introduction to South Asia's geographical, political, cultural, and religious contexts and connections.
Prereq: English 1110 (110) or equiv. Not open to students with credit for 265 or CompStd 2220. GE culture and ideas and diversity global studies course. Cross-listed in CompStd.


2241 The Middle East Close-Up: Peoples, Cultures, Societies

Introduction to the culture of the Middle East as lived in its villages, towns, and cities.  Not open to students with credit for 241 or Anthrop 241. GE cultures and ideas course. Cross-listed in Anthrop.

This course provides an ethnographic overview of the "Culture" and cultures of the contemporary Middle East. It is designed to increase student knowledge and awareness about the Middle East in regard to its cultural, social, political and religious institutions. The history of the region is examined as background to developing a more thorough understanding of the contemporary Middle East as represented by its villages, towns, and cities. This is also a course in the comparative study of culture, addressing essential questions in the study of societies located within a single regional context which are informed by different cultural traditions. Films, tapes, slides and other resources will supplement course readings.


2244 Films of the Middle East

Overview of contemporary films from different Middle Eastern countries; how filmmakers of the region view, present, and construct their countries using particular modes of representation.  Prereq: English 1100(110). Not open to students with credit for 244. GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.

In this course, contemporary films of different Middle Eastern countries will be approached from several perspectives. The course will present films of several countries in the region to give an introductory account of the specific cultures of their production. The emphasis will be on how various national cultures have built popular cultural products that may be representative of their specific cultural locations. In this respect, the course will bring about national, social, cultural, and historical issues and problems pertaining to the region. Film as a form of popular art will be considered as useful for understanding the production of narratives about Middle Eastern lives. Both a narrative and a visual medium, film will be presented as a way of seeing and representing the realities and fictions of these societies. Students will be asked to relate, compare and contrast these films as examples of national projects and cultural products. This introduction to different cinematic experiences in a particular region will consider how the representation and narration of reality in filmic texts are related to its contexts. This course will equip students with a basic knowledge of contemporary Middle Eastern culture. It will give students a chance to understand foreign cultures by presenting examples of how these cultures envision themselves in their films. Film, as a social practice and as a medium for national imagination and representation, will provide students a comparative and critical perspective with which to reconsider their own understanding of film.


3101 Language Evolution and Language Change

A study of how and why languages change and evolve over time, taking into account the linguistic, historical, ideological and cultural factors involved.  Prereq: Not open to students with credit for 311, Ling 3901 (Linguist 301), 311, or 385. GE cultures and ideas course. Cross-listed in Ling 3901.

This course is designed to provide the student with a broad perspective on some of the different mechanisms shaping language evolution. The insights of historical linguistics are examined alongside a critical study of other ideological, historical, and cultural issues which can be seen to inform the development of languages outside the Indo-European language family. Traditional courses on historical linguistics are, in essence, introductions to Indo-European linguistics. In contrast, this course seeks to achieve a much broader perspective, in which, for instance, Afroasiatic, African, Far Eastern, and Amerindian languages deserve the same attention and contribute in the same way to our better understanding of the mechanisms of language evolution. Moreover, that broad perspective will put special stress on how ideology shapes historical linguistics, through an overview of the history of the research. Furthermore, linguistics will be just one part of the course, since the ideological, historical, and cultural issues involved (re-construction of identity, ethnicity, gender, etc.) will play an essential role. Thus, a problem like the search for the homeland of the primitive speakers of Semitic or Indo-European will be analyzed not only from a linguistic point of view, but also from that of the critical study of the theoretical framework used in that research and the ideology hidden behind each hypothesis.

3111 Ancient Empires

Introduction to the history and cultures of the ancient empires of southwestern Asia, focusing on the period from the Assyrian and Persian Empires to the establishment of Islam (ca 900 BCE - ca 750 CE).  Prereq: English 1110. GE historical study course.

Students will learn how to use ancient primary sources critically to create a historical narrative and to understand the modern appropriation of ancient history for political and other purposes.

Major topics include the formation of early states, the kingdoms of Mesopotamia, Anshan and the Elamites, the Achaemenid  dynasty,  Alexander  and  his  successors,  the  Parthian and Sasanian Persian empires and their rivalries with Rome, as well as the empires of Afghanistan and the kingdom of Armenia. The course will include an introduction to the geography of southwestern Asia and a survey of languages, Iranian and other religions, and some ancient literature from a variety of cultures. Extensive readings of primary sources will include classical Greek and Latin authors, as well as works composed in Iran, from royal inscriptions to neighboring Armenian and Aramaic sources chronicling war and strife. Finally we will explain how the population of Iran and its neighbors became predominantly Muslim. Two major themes will be the nature of empires and the use and interpretation of primary written materials to reconstruct past cultures.


3201 Muslims in America and Europe

A multi-disciplinary introduction to Muslim diasporic communities in western countries. Prereq: Not open to students with credit for 341. GE Social Science: Individuals and Groups & GE Diversity: Social Diversity in the United States course.

This course considers historical and structural forces driving migration and settlement; and personal negotiations of cultures, identities, and experiences.  Course themes include the conditions for overseas mobility and migration; understanding culture, values, and cultural differences; understanding Islamic belief and practice; tensions between traditions and modern life; considering whether America is (or should be) a melting pot or multicultural society; the importance of (extended) family and generations; ideas about authority and freedom; the meanings of citizenship and national belonging; migration and refugees as a global problem; explaining Islamic radicalism.


3204 The Middle East in the Media

Examination of contemporary Middle Eastern cultures through critical evaluation of the media which inform our understanding of international politics. Prereq: English 1110 (110). Not open to students with credit for 344. GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.

With deep historical roots, intricate ties with Europe, Asia, and Africa, and a dynamic contemporary environment, the cultures of the Middle East are suffused with numerous political issues. Not only does the complexity of these issues often make the cultures of the Middle East difficult to understand, reporting on these issues often tends itself to subtle journalistic bias. By focusing on several ongoing situations of modern Middle Eastern history, this course offers student insights into contemporary Middle Eastern cultures while fostering the ability to critically evaluate the media which inform our understanding of international politics.


3205 Women in the Muslim Middle East

Examination of the position of women in the contemporary Middle East; impact of regional environment on gender identity; gender bias studies in various Middle Eastern countries. Prereq: English 1100 (110). Not open to students with credit for 345. GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.

This course enhances an existing series of NELC courses which focus on the peoples and cultures of the Middle East region, providing an overview of the position of Muslim women of the contemporary Middle East. Emphasis will be put on similarities and differences between Western feminist theory and current Middle Eastern regional theories and experiences. These objectives will be accomplished through studying some of the important socio-historical, cultural, and economic trends that shape the present condition.

The positions of Middle Eastern women are not expressions of traditional or religious sentiments in any essentialist way. Rather they are patterns in which large social and historical issues, including religious issues and processes, are expressed. Therefore, after introductory reading of the major theories and interpretive models of gender based inequality, the concept of women of the Middle East will be placed in its own socio-historical and cross-cultural framework. While some have treated the Middle East as though it formed a single culture area, others have emphasized its diversity, seeing it as a border in which many different cultures have historically come into contact and, at times, conflict. Thus, one of the course's central questions will concern the nature and extent of the "unity" of the Middle East as constructed by scholars. Through a series of readings and discussions, students will be able to explore the realities and representations of the women in the region.


3230 Introduction to Shi'i Beliefs and History

Introduction to the history, doctrinal tenets, and social manifestations of Shi'ism within Islam and in the context of Islamic civilization.
Prereq: English 1100 (110).


3501 Introduction to Islam

Examination of Islam as a world religion, enabling an understanding of its major tenets and beliefs as they are envisioned by insiders and outsiders.  Prereq: English 1100 (110). Not open to students with credit for 351. GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.

This course intends to provide an introductory survey of some of the central premises of Islamic beliefs and practices. It aims to delineate not only the development of Islam as a religion and as a system of belief, but also its growth into a multi-faceted and rich culture and civilization that contributed significantly to the currents of world civilization. This would entail a look at the growth of the major intellectual and spiritual traditions within the Islamic civilization as well as the relation of these to the milieu of their production. The course is broad in scope and introductory in level.


3502 Islamic Civilization Through the Ages

Islamic civilization through the ages offers a panoramic view of the interrelated social, political, economic, religious and intellectual developments of regions of Africa and Asia where the religion of Islam has had significant historical impact.


3508 Sufism

Examination of the distinctively Islamic mystical and spiritual features of Sufism and the relevance of its historical and cultural context.
English 1100 (110). Not open to students with credit for 358. GE cultures and ideas course.

"Mysticism” and “spirituality” have been highly popular categories in the academic studies of religion, and they have been used use as self-evident, uncontested, and universally applicable categories. In studying Sufism the use of these two analytical categories resulted in an essentialist approach which described Sufism or tasawwuf as the major Islamic mystical tradition within Islam. Instead of focusing on the universality and spirituality of mysticism this course will approach Sufism as an inner, esoteric Islam, which means that its purpose is to offer a religion-specific study of Sufism. The focus will be on the distinctively Islamic mystical and spiritual features of Sufism as well as on the relevance of its historical and cultural context.

We shall study Sufism by focusing on four major themes: Sufi cosmology, knowledge (gnosis), literature and culture. The readings for this course combine a number of interpretative scholarly works with texts written by Sufi authors. Additionally, student groups will be formed to examine and prepare presentations on the new, contemporary way of disseminating Sufi knowledge, and establishing and maintaining Sufi networks: the Sufi brotherhoods’ web pages online.


3620 Everyday Life in South Asia

An examination of everyday life as experienced by members of the culturally diverse population of South Asia.  Prereq: English 1100 (110). Not open to students with credit for 380 or CompStd 3620. GE cultures and ideas course.  Cross-listed in CompStd.

The cultural wealth and diversity of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) mainly comes to the attention of the American public in the form of brief news reports on sectarian and other violence or concerning interruptions of national and international political processes. This course is designed for those who want to know more about how members of the culturally, religiously, and professionally diverse population of this important region experience, manage, and find meaning in their everyday lives. Anthropologists, historians, folklorists, and scholars of religion, media and cultural studies all contribute different insights on this subject. The broad-ranging essay collection of Mines and Lamb, (eds.),Everyday Life in South Asia, will ground the course, balanced with readings on contemporary folklore in everyday use and several recent documentary and feature films.

By the end of this course, students will have familiarized themselves with a general picture of South Asian societies and cultures, from written case studies and sample documentary films, and will have had practice in interpreting indigenous folk narratives told in local contexts and international feature films as two kinds of artistic representations of social settings and groups.


3625 Understanding Bollywood, Knowing India: Hindi Cinema Since 1960

Explores life in India from the lens of Hindi language cinema. The course will engage with social class, gender, sexuality, Indian diaspora in the West, family structure, marriage, politics, caste, language (with special focus on multilingualism in India), religion, and globalization, and how these relate to lived experiences of people in Indian society. Not for Film Studies credit.
GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.


3700 Mythology of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

An introductory comparative survey of the mythology of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Prereq: English 1110 (110). Not open to students with credit for 370. GE cultures and ideas and diversity global studies course.

This course is designed to provide students with a comparative overview of the mythologies of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Its focus is the stories that were recounted as successful integrators of perceived reality in the context of these two major ancient cultures. As such, it will identify and explain basic theoretical issues involved in the analysis of myth; examine the central narratives that have been preserved from those cultures; and investigate the varied perspectives that characterize the world-views and life-concerns expressed in these texts. By reading representative selections of both primary and secondary sources, students will be exposed to both the ancient texts themselves as well as relevant contemporary scholarship.


3702 Literatures and Cultures of the Islamic World

A survey of the Islamic world by way of literature and culture.  Prereq: English 1110 (110). Not open to students with credit for 372. GE lit and Global Studies course.

This course is a selective survey of Islamic culture and literature--literature of pre-modern times. Films occasionally shown in class complement lectures and readings.

Religion is one element of culture, and we will concentrate on the religious element in those societies whose populations have been primarily Muslim. Religion is at once a world-view, a collection of abstract principles, and a heritage of concrete, lived experiences--all of which have histories. Understandings and practices of Islam have differed from era to era and place to place, so that while codified principles have a degree of universal validity among Muslims, Islam has been practiced differently in diverse regions at different times. We will concentrate on the roots of Islamic doctrine and belief and on Sufism, Islamic mysticism, which played a central role in the development of literature.

In lectures we will also consider the political history of Muslim states, European relations with the Muslim world and Orientalist views of Islam, as well as Muslim responses to European domination of the regions where Muslims have lived.


3703 Middle Eastern Literature and Post Colonial Theory

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

3704 The Novel in the Middle East

The emergence of the novel in the Middle East and development of its major themes and forms.  Prereq: English 1110 (110). Not open to students with credit for 374. GE lit and diversity global studies course.

The novel emerged in part as a self-conscious response to the challenges of modernity in the Middle East. In some cases it played a significant role in a program of cultural revolution. The conflict between east and west, old and new, city and countryside; the experiences of European colonialism, resistance and diaspora, industrialization, urbanization, nationalism and national independence have been common themes. Questions of language and style have often been addressed in terms of traditionalism and modernity, localism and universalism, orientalism and occidentalism. The role of women in society has been contested everywhere in modern times and is a primary concern of the novel in the Middle East as well. We will examine how selected authors have employed novelistic forms in dealing with these concerns.

4597 Islamic Revival and Social Justice: Utopian Ideals and Lived Realities

Examination of modern Islamic revival movements in selected contemporary Muslim-majority societies.  Prereq: 4th level standing or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 597.01. GE culture and ideas course and Cross-Disciplinary seminar.

Islamism is the belief that Islam should guide the political, economic, social, and cultural organization of an entire society. Especially in our world after 9/11, outsiders usually see Islamism as an extremist, or even terrorist, ideology inherently opposed to modernity and the West. But there is a wide variety of Islamists, and most of them have a constructive goal: bringing social justice to societies plagued with poverty, oppression, and corruption. Many of them value modern science, technology,economic development, and even democracy. These values often mean different things to Islamists than to those in the West, and one needs to understand what Muslims mean by these as they describe what agood society looks like in their eyes.

We will take a close look at modern Islamist movements in this Capstone course. We examine both utopian ideals (in the religious manifestos of influential Islamist leaders about society and justice), and lived realities (in ethnographies and films showing how Islamist communities actually live). We consider how and why these ideals translate to realities, or fail to do so. Do Islamists actually have a viable vision of good society for the world today founded on justice and virtue? Does their vision pose a credible alternative to the Western model founded on individual freedom, consumer capitalism, and democracy? These are some of the most urgent global questions underlying the contemporary world’s political and social dilemmas at the start of the 21st century.

Course materials include 3 ethnographic books giving an on-the-ground view of societies recently shaped by Islamism in Egypt, Turkey, and Iran (the most populous countries of the Middle East); excerpts from the writings of Islamist thinkers; analytical articles on Islamist figures and movements; newspaper articles with accounts from across the Muslim-majority world; documentary films, and fiction films.


4601 Israeli and Palestinian Literature

An exploration of Israeli and Palestinian history, identity and conflict using a variety of Arabic and Hebrew texts in translation.
Prereq: English 1110 (110).


5101 Introduction to the Field of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures

This one-credit hour lecture/discussion course is intended primarily for first-year graduate students in NELC as well as advanced undergraduates (seniors or juniors) majoring in the NELC department. Graduate students in other departments with research interests in the Near East are encouraged to take the course, too.

It offers a concise introduction to the field of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and its close cognates (Middle Eastern Studies, etc.), focusing on the history and constitution of institutional bases for the study of the Near East, the major debates about how the field is constructed, the development of the terms by which it is defined (“Near” vs “Middle” East, “civilizations,” etc.), the debate over Orientalism and its aftermath, the background to Area Studies, controversies about the study of the region, and the place of NELC knowledge in higher education/scholarship generally and in various publics, and how careers in NELC are made.  Prereq: Jr or Sr standing, and Arabic, Hebrew, or Islamic Studies major; or Grad standing in NELC.


5103 Grammar of Selected Ancient Near Eastern Languages

Fundamentals of grammar and reading in ancient Near Eastern languages (e.g., Egyptian, Coptic, Sumerian, Babylonian, Northwest Semitic dialects, Syriac).  Prereq: Knowledge of a Semitic language, or permission of instructor. Repeatable to a maximum of 12 cr hrs.


5111  Comparative Semitic Linguistics

An introduction to the study of comparative Semitic linguistics.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 611.

The aim of this course is to familiarize the student with the basics of comparative Semitic linguistics, the current issues of comparison, the possibilities and nature of linguistic reconstruction, and the most important bibliography. Students are not expected to have any previous knowledge of a Semitic language. Moreover, the course is designed for two possible audiences: students interested in Semitic languages (perhaps with some previous knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew, or any other Semitic language); and students interested in general linguistics and historical linguistics (who may not have any familiarity whatsoever with any Semitic language). Furthermore, even for those already familiar with Semitic languages, this course will try to open a window onto other languages not commonly studied in NELC (Old South Arabian, Modern South Arabian, Ethiopic languages, etc.), as well as onto the more general picture of the Afroasiatic languages. At the end of the course, students will know the basic sound correspondences between some major Semitic languages, to be able to explain why some sets of words are cognates and others not, and to be familiar with some issues of reconstruction (the problematic status of proto-languages, the meaning of isoglosses in Semitic, etc.) and comparison (the nature of the so-called "emphatic" consonants, the different ways of establishing morphosyntactic determination, etc.).


5112  Languages and Cultures of the Middle East

Wide overview of languages spoken in the ancient, medieval, and modern Middle East; their linguistic affiliation; main periods of their history; their different writing systems.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 612.

The goal of this course is to go beyond the merely linguistic sketches of the main grammatical features of these languages. In fact, the focus will be placed on historical, literary, social, anthropological, and ethnic matters: language contact settings; relations between language and ethnicity; sociolinguistic aspects of language evolution, language variation, bilingualism, and diglossia; relations between historical and social patterns and the literary, bureaucratic, and popular uses of language; etc. In order to address this ample variety of issues, students will be introduced first to the essential set of facts needed to comprehend the sociolinguistic history of each region, i.e., basic overviews of the languages in question, their linguistic affiliation, the main periods of their history as evolving linguistic realities, and their different writing systems. These overviews will immediately open the door to the discussion of a tapestry of topics concerning the realities behind these languages, especially their speakers and their ethnic, historical, and political identity. This inquiry into the facets of language as an inherently human reality will lead to a miscellaneous constellation of problems, such as, for instance, the construction of a national identity through the use, revival, or vindication of a concrete language or dialect.

5120 Biblical Aramaic

Introduction to the language of the Aramaic sections of the books of Daniel and Ezra in the Old Testament.  Prereq: Hebrew 1103 (104) or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 620.

Biblical Aramaic is the language of the non-Hebrew sections of the biblical books of Ezra and Daniel. Aramaic is a West Semitic language closely related to Hebrew, and this course introduces students with a background in Hebrew to this dialect of Aramaic.  Aramaic is a language known from ca. 900 B.C.E. until ca. 600 C.E. A greatly developed dialect known as "Neo-Aramaic" or "Neo-Syriac" is still spoken today in some parts of the Middle East, and inscriptions have been found from Spain to India.  The textbook is supplemented by class handouts and copies of the biblical text. An ability to read the Hebrew alphabet is a prerequisite; however, advanced students in linguistics or ancient history who wish to prepare beforehand are most welcome.


5121 Jewish Aramaic

Provides students grammatical and textual skills to read Jewish post-biblical Aramaic and to introduce them to some of the most important texts written in the language. Introduces grammar of Jewish Aramaic, dialectical differences among the Aramaic of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Palestine, and Jewish Babylonia, and how these differences are reflected in the manuscript and inscriptional evidence.  Prereq: Hebrew 1103, or permission of instructor.

5125 Syriac I

Introduction to Syriac


5126 Syriac II

Continuation from NELC 5125 Introduction to Syriac (Syriac I)


5130 Ugaritic

Introduction to the language and literature of Ugaritic; readings in the Ugaritic mythological literature.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 630.

This course introduces the student to the Late Bronze Age language, literature, and culture of the city-state of Ugarit, a kingdom that flourished in northern Syria ca. 1400 B.C.E. The discovery of Ugarit in 1928 opened the world of the Canaanites (in particular their mythological and religious texts) to biblical scholars, and revolutionized scholarly approaches to the Hebrew Bible. Students in linguistics or ancient history are also welcome, since all readings are in transliteration. The course will provide a foundation for further work and research in the areas of ancient Near Eastern religion, culture, history, linguistics, and biblical studies.


5140 Phoenician Language and Culture

A survey of Phoenician-Punic texts in their cultural contexts.  Prereq: Knowledge of Hebrew or another Semitic language (Arabic, Aramaic, Akkadian), or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 632.

5150 Akkadian I

Examination of the basics of Akkadian grammar; introduction to a variety of literary and non-literary texts and genres.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 635.01.


5151 Akkadian II

Reading Akkadian texts in their original cuneiform script and understanding them within their historical and cultural contexts.  Prereq: 5150 (635.01), or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 635.02.

This course aims at familiarizing students with the basics of Akkadian grammar and enabling them to read legal and literary materials. Students will be introduced to two major compositions: the so-called "Code" of Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh. In order to achieve an efficient knowledge of Akkadian grammar, the dialect chosen will be Old Babylonian, the language of the period of Hammurabi. Old Babylonian (OB) presents many advantages: the importance and variety of its textual corpus; the very easy transition from OB to texts in other Akkadian dialects (Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, etc.); and the fact that OB constitutes the basis of the main Akkadian literary dialect (Standard Babylonian, as used in Gilgamesh).


5202 Representing the Middle East in Film

Examination of the discourses of Orientalism using film as the primary medium of expression and discussion. Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 642.

By looking at films made in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, this course examines the process of identity production and critically reconsiders the phenomenon of orientalism. It culminates with examples of how tropes of viewing the Middle East have become incorporated into how peoples of this region evaluate their own identities.

5204 Culture and Politics in Central Asia

Comparative study of cultural legacy and change, including religious and secular life and civil society development, in relation to political trends in Central Asia.  Prereq: Jr standing, or permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 644.

This course offers an overview and limited comparative study of cultural legacy and change in relation to political developments in Central Asia. A quick review of Central Asian cultural history and demographics prior to the Russian expansion into Central Asia will be followed by more detailed assessments of cultural matters in the expanded sense, and their significance to and within political developments of recent decades.


5206 Colonial Cities in Postcolonial Memory: The Politics of Urban Development in the Near East

Introduction to colonial and post-colonial studies through a comparative examination of various cities that developed in the Near East during the late nineteenth century.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 646.

This course will focus on various cities that developed in the Near East during the late nineteenth century, either under colonial administration or influence. It gives students the opportunity to conceive of cities as political structures, and to evaluate the roles of urban planning and architecture in reflecting and imposing social relationships. Students will learn to interpret visual evidence—primarily maps and photographs—in the light of critical discussions of culture, and they will gain experience in following intellectual debates through book reviews and articles. They will also learn about cultures restructured through the tensions of colonial projects and post-colonial aftermaths.

5241 Interdisciplinary Approaches to South Asian Studies

A connection of the disparate threads of the geographic and cultural entity of South Asia, offering an overview and interdisciplinary perspective on the factors that affect everyday life in the region.  Prereq: English 1110 (110).


5401 Methodologies for the Study of Ancient Religions

Introduction to the methodologies and the scholars who have significantly influenced the study of ancient religion.  Not open to students with credit for Classics 5401. Cross-listed in Classics.


5568 Studies in Orality and Literacy

Examination of major theories of writing and of oral composition and transmission, in juxtaposition to case material deriving from a variety of Middle Eastern cultures.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 648 or CompStd 5668 (648). Cross-listed with CompStd 5668.

This course introduces the major theoretical trends concerned with literacy and oral communication and their interactions in global perspective, then critiques those theories in the light of case material primarily from the Middle East. All readings are in English. Students working in other areas of the world are encouraged to write their final research papers on case material or theory with direct reference to their own areas of specialization, and to bring their perspectives derived from other parts of the world to bear on classroom discussions of assigned readings. Global theories of literacy and orality owe a great deal to Middle Eastern data, which may in fact limit their applicability elsewhere. The writing system invented in southwestern Asia became the parent of all the surviving alphabetic writing systems of the Middle East, Europe, and South Asia. Furthermore, a rich body of research on oral traditions, testing certain dominant theories of oral formulation and transmission, has also accumulated for the region over the last thirty years or so. This course will sample this rich double data base to juxtapose and critique concepts and research strategies in comparison to one another. The course will equip students with an overview and critique of theories of literacy and of oral communication which is applicable worldwide.


5571 Canon and Communities in the Near East

Investigation of the process by which Near Eastern sacred texts (Bible, Qur'an, and others) become sacred and the interaction between texts and the communities holding them sacred.  Prereq: Not open to students with credit for 671.

After defining the scope of the study and discussing the issues associated with what constitutes a sacred text and in what context it is to be studied, the structure of the course will be tripartite as follows: (1) Text - what does the text itself tell us explicitly or implicitly about its origin? a. Texts which are sacred (i.e. texts which are not overtly sacred but which are ultimately interpreted so, e.g., wisdom literature, epistles) b. Texts which are in some degree self-consciously sacred (e.g. prophetic oracles) (2) Text and Community - how does the community affect the text? (Both the physical shape of the text as well as the issue of canon, i.e. affirming or denying the sacred nature of the text.) (3) Community - how does the text function in the community? By the end of the quarter, the student will be able to articulate the issues associated with the generation and preservation of sacred texts in the religious traditions of the Near East.

5575 Intellectuals in the Middle East

Concerns and conditions of intellectuals in the modern Middle East.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 675.

The intellectual is a modern figure, and the course will emphasize developments during the early 20th century before the foundation of Israel, while attention will also be paid to the subsequent emergence of Islamist intellectuals and critiques of modernist projects. We will examine the conditions and concerns special to Middle Eastern intellectuals who participated in the cultural and political conception of their nation-states. As the losers of World War I, these nations experienced situations of "dependent modernity" in relation to western Europe, whether as subjects colonized territorially or economically. They differed from other postcolonials greatly in that their ancestral polities had long threatened Europe, while they shared with others the importation of organizing social structures from Europe.

5578 Islamic Law and Society

Examination of the relationship between Islamic law and society; the concept of justice in Islam.  Prereq: Permission of instructor. Not open to students with credit for 678.

5645 Contemporary Issues in the Middle East

Intensive examination of contemporary issues in the Middle East by applying an interdisciplinary approach.  Prereq: IntStds 2200 (245) or jr standing. Not open to students with credit for 645. Cross-listed in International Studies.

This course has developed out of the consensus among Middle East experts that a proper understanding of recent current events in the Middle East requires more than a casual or introductory level of knowledge of the cultural, social, historical, economic, religious and political background of these events. It will provide students with an opportunity to study, through an in-depth interdisciplinary approach, one of the world’s most important and complex regions which, except for its crises, is virtually ignored in the major news media. The course will seek to illuminate the host of factors underlying contemporary issues in the Middle East.


5672 Poetry and Politics in the 20th-Century Mediterranean

Exploration of several poets and poetic traditions around the Mediterranean in relation to modern political struggles.  Prereq: English 1110 (110), or Grad standing. Not open to students with credit for 672. Cross-listed with CompStd 5602 (672).

In this course, students will read (defining lyric poetry broadly) ballad and protest chant as well as avant-garde literature from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Readings for the course will also include short fiction, memoir and critical essays. A poem is a performance for an audience inhabiting a social world. This course will examine the nature and limits of agency as it is created through poetic form, figurative language and the voice of the subject in writing within specific political contexts. All texts will be read in translation (provided in the original on request). Knowledge of a Mediterranean language is useful but not required.

5801 Basic Bibliographic and Reference Tools in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

Basic bibliographic and reference tools in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.  Prereq: 6 cr hrs in Middle Eastern history or literature or equiv. Not open to students with credit for 680 or Hebrew 5801.

The course examines basic research methods in Near Eastern languages and cultures and works with major reference tools necessary for research at the upper undergraduate or graduate level. The tools covered include: books, periodicals, government documents, manuscripts, biographical materials, microfilm, and non-print media. Students work with reference works, bibliographies, and indexes to produce a subject bibliography on a topic of their choice. The semester-long bibliography project consists of six smaller segments which define the topic, examine its limitations, and investigate source material in a variety of formats and media. At the end of the course, students are able to research in depth any topic in Middle Eastern studies and have a clear understanding of search strategies and basic research methodologies. There is no textbook for the class. It is essential that all students attend class meetings for handouts and discussion. Evaluation is done of the six short bibliography assignments and of the completed bibliography.  Evaluations of the project and topic make up the remaining part of the grade.

7301 Theorizing Literature

Accelerated introduction to literary theory and criticism, surveying significant developments in modern and contemporary literary and cultural studies. Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor(s). Not open to students with credit for CompStd 7301. Crooss-listed in CompStd.


7401 Ottoman Manuscript Cultures

Historical anthropological approach to the study of the manuscript cultures of the Islamic Middle East/North Africa Ottoman period.  Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor(s).

7402 Cultural Currents of late Antique Middle East: The Arabs, Byzantines and the Sasanians

Contextualizing the rise of Islam in terms of the cultural and historical currents/contacts of the Middle East in late antiquity: Byzantium, Sasanian, Arab, etc.  Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor(s).


7501 Narratives of Origin: The Islamic Tradition

How the contours of the Islamic narrative fare in a source-critical context.  Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor(s).


7503 Religions of Ancient Iran

Advanced study of the religions of ancient Iran, including Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and religions of those ruled by the ancient Persian Sasanid dynasty.  Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor.


7880 Interdepartmental Studies in the Humanities

Two or more departments present colloquia on subjects of mutual interest; topics to be announced.  Prereq: Grad standing, or permission of instructor(s). Repeatable to a maximum of 12 cr hrs or 5 completions.


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