Literature GE courses


NELC - Arabic - Hebrew - Persian - Turkish


3702 Literatures and Cultures of the Islamic World

A survey of the Islamic world by way of literature and culture. [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.

3704 The Novel in the Middle East

The emergence of the novel in the Middle East and development of its major themes and forms. [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.

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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. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

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 Modern Arabic Literature in Translation [also available for Honors as 2702H]

Reading and analysis of representative works of the 19th and 20th centuries by contemporary Arab women authors. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

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.

2705 The Arabian Nights

Readings from The Arabian Nights; the history of the text, translations and literary and cinematic adaptations. [GE lit course.]

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.

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2700 Biblical and Post-Biblical Hebrew Literature in Translation [also available for Honors as 2700H]

Reading and analysis of selected chapters from the Hebrew scriptures and post-biblical Hebrew writings representative of major historical, cultural, and literary trends. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

The purpose of this course is to provide the student with some fundamental insights into the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) within the context of their social, cultural, and historical milieux, as well as their common Near Eastern setting. One of the main objectives is to explore the searching spirit of ancient man for ultimate issues, such as the purpose of existence, the destiny of man, the problem of evil, etc. While this course stresses that the Hebrew Scriptures cannot be understood and still less appreciated without their larger cultural setting, it also strives to point out the distinctive features of these scriptures. Insights from post-biblical Hebrew exegeses (Talmud, Midrash, etc.) are provided. In addition to the traditional approach, contributions from a great many academic disciplines are utilized to provide diverse scholarly and objective views of the Holy Scriptures. This course is taught in English.

2702 Modern Hebrew Literature in Translation [also available for Honors as 2702H]

A survey of major themes and topics in Modern Hebrew literature from the middle of the 19th century to the present. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the richly variegated body of modern Hebrew literature, while challenging them to read and write analytically. The major elements in this literature, from its origins in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe to its flowering in present-day Israel, will be examined. Addressing questions of aesthetics and literary context, the course will highlight such major themes as the tension between tradition and modernity; the rise of Zionism; the negation of the Diaspora; the pioneer experience; the Arab-Israeli conflict; responses to the Holocaust; the relationship of the individual to the collectivity; optimism and disillusionment. Readings will consist of novels, short stories and poems in English translation. Literary critical evaluations will be assigned in connection with oral presentations and term papers.

2703 Prophecy in the Bible and Post-Biblical Literature

The dynamics of Israelite prophecy and apocalyptic in the context of ancient Near Eastern culture. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

By the end of this course, the student will be able to: 1) articulate the essential features of Israelite prophecy as a distinctive social phenomenon in the context of ancient Near Eastern culture; 2) trace the evolution of the phenomenon in Israel from its rise to its decline and ultimate transformation into apocalyptic; 3) identify the nuances and idiosyncrasies of certain individual prophets; and 4) identify the primary contributions of the prophetic phenomenon to the Judaeo-Christian heritage. To achieve these objectives, class lecture coupled with class discussion will form the core of this course, supplemented by outside readings and written assignments. The readings will include primary and secondary sources, providing the student opportunity for exposure to the prophetic literature at first hand while also supplying input from contemporary scholarship.

2704 Women in the Bible and Beyond

An examination of the social, legal, and religious position of women as they appear in the Hebrew Bible and the ways in which the have been represented and interpreted in later textual, visual, and audio sources. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

This course examines the cultural images and legal status of women during biblical times and late antiquity. Although its focus will be on the period of ancient Israel, students will also examine how biblical narrative and law have continued to have an impact on Jewish, Christian and secular culture. By looking at the images of women in biblical texts, students will be asked how contemporary feminist readers of the Bible have found new meanings in a literature that has been the subject of so much re-reading and re-writing over the centuries. The course will begin with a general review of biblical literature and a historical survey of the status of women in some ancient societies. Throughout, its approach will be interdisciplinary, inviting students to pursue interests in historical, literary critical, feminist, and religious studies approaches.

2708 Biblical and Post-Biblical Wisdom Literature

An examination of the various ideas, themes, attitudes, implications, and genres of biblical and post-biblical wisdom literature. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

This course will explore a number of the biblical sapiential texts and compositions, mainly in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Psalms, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. The wisdom literary corpus can be divided into two separate yet overlapping categories. One category, exemplified in the Book of Proverbs, constitutes a comprehensive code of conduct, which aims at directing society on the path to success, happiness, and reasonable harmony with its environment. The other category, exemplified by the Books of Ecclesiastes and Job, grapples with the eternal problems that beset humanity, primarily the agonizing question, "Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?" The course will stress the indivisible unity of the secular, religious, and ethical aspects of biblical wisdom. It will also explore the universal aspects of wisdom and its search for a certain regularity within the diversity of the phenomena of the world. Proper comprehension of biblical wisdom depends upon an understanding of related texts in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The course will address the striking similarities, in thought and form, between biblical wisdom and the Wisdom of Amenemope, Instructions of Merikare, Ptahhotep, and others. Only by means of such comparison will the distinctive features of Israelite wisdom come to prominence. Insights in Rabbinic wisdom (Pirqei Avot) will also be provided. By the end of this course, students will have achieved a broad exposure to the ideas and genres of Old Testament wisdom literature and the values affirmed therein. Through reading the biblical texts and selected secondary literature and commentaries, students will be able to identify the major themes addressed by wisdom literature and the various attitudes, solutions, and consolations it affords.

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2301 Persian Mythology and Folklore

Mythology and folklore of Persian-speaking lands, from cosmological texts through popular theater and narrative performance to popular customs and beliefs.  [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

Students will become familiar with the concepts and individuals (gods, heroes, demons) of ancient and more recent Persian mythology, as well as with various categories of folklore and folklife in present day Iran. This course will also introduce students to the basic concepts and methods of comparative myth and folklore studies. Although a variety of texts will be read, the emphasis of the course will be on the mythological and folk aspects of the texts, rather than their purely literary qualities.

2701 Persian Literature in Translation

A study of Persian literature in translation and the history of its discourses, genres, and styles.  [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

This course will expose students to Persian literature in translation from both classical and modern periods in order to make it available to students and comparativists in other languages and disciplines. The aim of the course is for the student to become acquainted with a number of representative works of Persian literature, to identify enduring themes in the literature, and to see the ways in which modern Persian literature has grown from its classical origins.

2704 Introduction to Persian Epic

An introduction, in English, to the Shahnameh of AbolQasem Ferdowsi. [GE lit course.]

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2701 Turkish Literature in Translation

A study of Turkish literature and the history of its discourses, genres, and styles. [GE lit and diversity global studies course.]

Students will be introduced to masterpieces of Turkish literature through the reading of texts in translation. They will come out of the course with a basic yet comprehensive knowledge of the history of Turkish discourses, genres, and styles gained through lecture and discussion.

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