Undergraduate Courses - Fall 2020

Near Eastern Studies

Arts of the Islamic World
This course surveys the art and architecture of the Islamic world from the 7th to the 16th centuries. It examines the form and function of architecture and works of art as well as the social, historical and cultural contexts, patterns of use, and evolving meanings attributed to art by the users. Themes include the creation of a distinctive visual culture in the emerging Islamic polity; urban contexts; archaeological sites; key architectural types such as the mosque, madrasa, caravanserai, and mausoleum; portable objects and the arts of the book; self-representation; cultural exchange along trade and pilgrimage routes.
Instructors: Patricia Blessing
This course offers an introduction to Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylon. The first half of the course introduces students to the basic concepts of Akkadian (old Babylonian) grammar and the cuneiform script. In the second half students consolidate their knowledge of the language by reading selections from classic Babylonian texts, such as the famous law code of King Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Instructors: Johannes Haubold
Jews and Muslims: History and Culture
This interdisciplinary course examines Jewish-Muslim interaction in the spheres of written culture, kinship, shared culinary practices and living spaces, neighborhoods, musical customs, and overlapping religious practices. It considers these relations in Spain, Egypt, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and modern France. Historic contexts include the amazing medieval world of the Cairo Geniza and Islamic Spain; colonialism and modernity in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Mediterranean; and the present-day aftermath of Jewish emigration from the region. This is a rich history with many paths, as viewed through the prism of culture.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics
What is the relationship between culture and ethics in conflict zones? Can culture be a force for conflict resolution or social change? This course examines these questions in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. How does the conflict permeate everyday life, and how do Palestinian and Israeli artists, writers and filmmakers respond? How have they pushed aesthetic and ethical limits in representing extreme violence and loss? How does the cultural imagination transgress borders? Course material includes film, literature, memoir, visual art, photography, theater, dance, music, TV satire and cookbooks, all in English translation.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Topics in the History of Modern Syria: The Making and Unmaking of Modern Syria
The seminar explores the making of modern Syria from late 19th century through early 21st, and then turns to investigate the country's unraveling during the 2011 uprising and its aftermath. Topics include: the nature of Ottoman rule; the transition from imperial territory to Syrian nation-state; the French colonial Mandate; postcolonial state-building; minorities, ethnicity and the politics of sectarianism; ideologies of nationalism, Communism, Ba`thism and political Islam; literature and cultural politics; state secularism and authoritarian rule; the Syrian revolution of 2011, the subsequent civil war, and the ongoing struggle for democracy.
Instructors: Max David Weiss
Near Eastern Humanities I: From Antiquity to Islam
This course focuses on the Near East from antiquity to the early centuries of Islam, introducing the most important works of literature, politics, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and science from the region. We ask how, why, and to what ends the Near East sustained such a long period of high humanistic achievement, from Pharaonic Egypt to Islamic Iran, which in turn formed the basis of the high culture of the following millennium.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski, Deborah A. Vischak
Muslims and the Qur'an
A broad-ranging introduction to pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Islam in light of how Muslims have approached their foundational religious text, the Qur'an. Topics include: Muhammad and the emergence of Islam; theology, law and ethics; war and peace; mysticism; women and gender; and modern debates on Islamic reform. We shall examine the varied contexts in which Muslims have interpreted their sacred text, their agreements and disagreements on what it means and, more broadly, their often competing understandings of Islam and of what it is to be a Muslim.
Instructors: Muhammad Qasim Zaman
The Politics of Modern Islam
This course examines the political dimensions of Islam. This will involve a study of the nature of Islamic political theory, the relationship between the religious and political establishments, the characteristics of an Islamic state, the radicalization of Sunni and Shi'i thought, and the compatibility of Islam and the nation-state, democracy, and constitutionalism, among other topics. Students will be introduced to the complex and polemical phenomenon of political Islam. The examples will be drawn mainly, though not exclusively, from cases and writings from the Middle East.
Instructors: Bernard A. Haykel
Seminar in Research Methods
Introduces NES majors to the sources, tools, and methods used in Near Eastern Studies, and to central questions and debates that have informed the region's study in varying disciplines (history, comparative literature, religious studies, political science, and anthropology). Also covers the nuts and bolts of academic research and writing: how to design a research project, find and make sense of relevant primary and secondary sources, develop an argument, and write a compelling scholarly paper. Includes guest lectures and visits to Firestone Library.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
This course examines the fascinating and tragic history of the encounter and conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine/Israel beginning in the late 19th century. We will try to understand the evolution of the conflict from the distinct perspectives of the different parties engaged in it, aiming to comprehend their motivations, their ethical commitments, and the obstacles that have stood in the way of a peaceful resolution. The course is structured around questions, inviting students to partake in the challenging task of exploring one of the world's most complex, ever-developing and enduring political conflicts.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Introduction to Islamic Law
A survey of the history of Islamic law and its developments, and the attempts of the Muslim jurists to come to term with the challenges of modern times. It will focus on issues in constitutional and personal laws that have the greatest relevance to the modern era.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood
Are the Jews a separate nation? Should they have their own country? Where should it be located? This course investigates why Jews and non-Jews alike began asking these questions in the late eighteenth century and explores the varieties of answers they offered. The course's focus is on those who insisted that the Jews were a nation that required a state in the Jews' historic homeland. We will try to understand why these people - known collectively as Zionists - came to these conclusions, and why many others disagreed. The final part of the course will address debates within the State of Israel about what it means to be a "Jewish state."
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Global Feminisms: Feminist Movements in the Middle East and Beyond
This course explores how feminist thought & activism circulates globally by examining a variety of feminist movements in the Middle East & North Africa. Beginning with modern feminist thought and activism in mid-19th century Syria & Egypt, we'll trace feminist movements in various contemporary contexts, from Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Tunisia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon & Egypt in the 20th century, to women's participation in the Arab Spring and transnational Islamic movements in the 21st century. We'll map the local and geopolitical discourses that have shaped regional feminisms, and ask how local feminisms are transnational or global.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Marriage and Monotheism: Men, Women, and God in Near Eastern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
The decline of marriage in recent decades is often tied to the decline of religion. But why should marriage, a contractual relationship centered on sex and property, be seen as a religious practice? This seminar considers the varied and surprising ways in which the great monotheistic traditions of the Near East came to connect certain forms of human marriage - or their rejection- to divine devotion, and considers how marriage worked in societies shaped by these traditions. Spanning biblical Israel to the medieval Islamic world, this course will introduce you to the historical study of Near Eastern religions and to the field of family history.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
The Nature of Reality in Medieval Arabic Literature
This course will look at a variety of canonical texts and genres from the Classical Arabic literary heritage and examine them through the question of "truth" and "representation." In a culture that is often said to frown upon fictional writing, we will explore attitudes towards language as a means of gaining knowledge about the world, on the one hand, and as a way to depict "reality," on the other. The texts we will be reading range from pre-Islamic poetry to 13th century shadow plays and cover a wide range of topics, including philosophy, mysticism, historiography, as well as Islamic science and art. Readings will be in English.
Instructors: Lara Harb
This course introduces students to classic and recent theoretical debates about secularism and secularization. We will consider a range of historical-ethnographic examples, focusing particularly on the limits of secularism in its modern encounter with Islam and Muslim communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America. By comparing the realities of everyday life in a variety of national contexts, we will ask what secularism offers as a human way of experiencing the world, a mode of legitimating norms and constructing authority, and a method of telling stories and creating myths about human values and historical progress.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
'Global Algeria' in the 20th Century: Beyond France and Fanon
From the mid to late 20th century, Algeria has occupied a key position in the imagination of major world actors such as the Black Panthers, Viet Cong and George W. Bush administration. Yet, observers have often examined the global significance of events in the North African nation, namely its storied revolution against France, while neglecting Algerians' lived experiences of these same moments. This class re-centers attention on different Algerian communities' views of histories concerning their country from the rise of nationalism in the early 20th century through the ongoing 2019 Hirak movement within local, regional, and global frameworks.
Instructors: Elizabeth M. Perego
Imperialism and Reform in the Middle East and the Balkans
The major Near Eastern diplomatic crises and the main developments in internal Near Eastern history. The focus will be upon the possible connections between diplomatic crises and the process of modernization. Oral reports and a short paper.
Instructors: M. Sükrü Hanioglu
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Their Emergence in Antiquity
The period studied in this course saw wide-ranging transformations that inform religion and culture to this day, such as the emergence of the traditions now called Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a spread in allegiance to a single God, and a decline in public animal sacrifice. The course will introduce students to a critical examination of these changes. We will learn to identify patterns across different traditions, uncover the ways these traditions shaped one another, trace the development of beliefs from their earliest forms, and analyze the social and political context of these changes.
Instructors: Moulie Vidas


Elementary Arabic I
This class develops the basic structures and vocabulary for understanding, speaking, writing and reading Modern Standard Arabic, the shared formal variety of Arabic used throughout the Arab world. Students will also gain some familiarity with both Egyptian and Syrian colloquial dialects. Classroom activities are designed to foster communication and cultural competence through comprehension and grammar exercises, skits, conversation, videos and songs.
Instructors: Gregory J. Bell, Nancy A. Coffin, Thomas Henry Hefter
Intermediate Arabic I
This course builds on the skills developed in Elementary Arabic. Students in this course work to improve their proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing. We will focus primarily on Modern Standard Arabic in reading and writing, but Levantine and/or Egyptian dialect will be used in informal speaking and listening exercises.
Instructors: Faris Zwirahn
Intermediate Arabic II
Study of Arabic grammar and syntax, and use of the language in functional contexts. Reading of extra material from articles, newspapers, short stories. Discussions are held in Arabic to enhance students' speaking skills.
Advanced Arabic I
Development of speaking, listening, reading and writing at the upper-intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency. Course is taught primarily in Arabic.
Instructors: Thomas Henry Hefter
Media Arabic I
In this course, students will develop their skills in reading and listening to Arabic news media, including newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and satellite TV broadcasts (including BBC and al-Jazeera, among others). Attention will also be given to informal discussion of current news, and we will also take a brief look at political cartoons. Language of instruction will be primarily Arabic.
Instructors: Hannah Essien
Levantine Colloquial Arabic
An introduction to spoken Levantine dialect. Materials in the course are designed to promote functional usage of the language, stressing the vocabulary and grammar of conversation as used in daily life in the Levant, particularly Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
Instructors: Faris Zwirahn
Egyptian Colloquial Arabic
An introduction to the spoken dialects of Egypt, particularly of Cairo. Students in this course are assumed to have a functional, working knowledge of classical Arabic, and the course will focus on developing the ability to use conversational language in common, everyday situations.
Instructors: Tarek Farag Elsayed
Topics in Arabic Language and Culture: The Modern Debate between Secularists and Islamists in the Arab World
This course will focus on readings on the modern debate between Islamists and secularists. Students will develop their skills in listening, speaking, writing and reading through the analysis and discussion of texts by Arab authors of religious and secular outlook. Assignments will focus on improving comprehension and developing compositional and analytical skills. Students will complete an independent project in Arabic throughout the semester, focusing on a particular author.
Instructors: Thomas Henry Hefter


Elementary Hebrew I
This course is designed for students with little or no previous exposure to modern Hebrew. Over the fall semester, students will become familiar with the Hebrew alphabet, and acquire rudimentary skills in reading, writing, speaking and comprehending modern Hebrew. By the end of the semester, students will be able to read short texts, construct normative sentences, and conduct simple conversations. In addition, a wide range of audiovisual materials will provide the students with an immersive environment, contextualize their knowledge of the language, and help them gain an understanding of life and culture in Israel.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich
Intermediate Hebrew I
This course is designed for students who have completed basic modern Hebrew language courses, and aims at further developing reading, writing, speaking and comprehending skills. Emphasis will be placed on grammar and syntax, on conversational skills, and on creative writing. By the end of the Fall term students will be able to read and analyze literary texts, respond to and discuss contemporary media contents (films, journal and newspaper articles, blogs), to give class presentations and write short essays.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich
Israeli Film and Literature
The course - taught in Hebrew - traces themes in Modern Hebrew literature and cinema. Discussion in class will focus on the themes and language of Israeli authors and on the representation of these themes in Israeli films. Topics covered in the course include Holocaust, immigration, Israeli-Palestinian interactions, Jerusalem, and others. As all course materials will be in Modern Hebrew, the course will not only strengthen the students' grasp of the language in general, but it will also introduce the students to the particular Hebrew vocabulary related to the societal issues that are represented and examined in Israeli literature and cinema.
Instructors: Philip Zhakevich


Elementary Persian I
The focus of this elementary course is on sounds, letters and basic grammar of Persian language. The students will be exposed to the Persian culture through selected prose, daily news and class discussions.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Intermediate Persian I
PER 105 is designed to introduce students to intermediate level Persian. It stresses oral fluency, written expression, and reading comprehension. It will help the students to read texts of intermediate level difficulty communicate and converse in Persian in everyday situations write intermediate narrative style paragraphs coherently with reasonable accuracy.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati
Advanced Persian Reading I
This course is designed to improve the student's proficiency in the reading and comprehension of Persian texts. The emphasis is on reading and understanding and translating modern and classical prose. In the Advanced Persian course students are also expected to write essays in Persian during the course of the semester. Advanced Persian Reading class will be conducted in Persian.
Instructors: Amineh Mahallati


Elementary Turkish I
A performance-oriented, multi-media introductory course in modern spoken and written Turkish. Based on authentic input, grammatical properties of the language are introduced. Cultural aspects are stressed throughout. Language skills are developed through communicative activities in class and individualized work with interactive digitized learning aids.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Intermediate Turkish I
Extensive exposure to current news, authentic multimedia sources; in-depth review of grammar. Introduction to modern Turkish literature, with close reading of selected prose and poetry. Development of all language skills and cultural understanding is emphasized.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi

Graduate Courses - Fall 2020

Introduction to the Professional Study of the Near East
A colloquium primarily intended to introduce graduate students to major scholarly trends and debates in the various disciplines and methodologies of Middle East and Islamic Studies.
Instructors: Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi
Introduction to Ottoman Turkish
An introduction to the writing system and grammar of Ottoman Turkish through close reading of graded selections taken from school books, newspapers, short stories, and travelogues printed in the late Ottoman and early Republican era.
Instructors: Nilüfer Hatemi
Introduction to Syriac
A systematic introduction to Syriac language. Close reading of selected passages of Syriac texts.
Instructors: George Anton Kiraz
Themes in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence
Selected topics in Islamic law and jurisprudence. The topics vary from year to year, but the course normally includes reading of fatwas and selected Islamic legal texts in Arabic.
Instructors: Hossein Modarressi
Studies in Modern Arab History: Readings in Islamic Revivalism, Islamist Politics and Law
This course aims to survey a variety of historical and religious texts in Arabic. Students must have mastery of advanced Arabic. Some of the texts that will be studied have been edited and published, others remain in manuscript form.
Instructors: Bernard A. Haykel
Ma'arri's Epistle of Forgiveness
In this course we read Abu-I-Ala al-Ma'arri's (d. 449 AH/1057 CE) masterpiece, "Risalat al-ghufran," in its entirety. Often compared to Dante's "Divine Comedy," al-Ma'arri's "Epistle" takes us on a journey to heaven and hell, where we meet, read the poetry of, and have conversations with famous dead Arab poets. Filled with biting irony, "Risalat al-ghufran" not only exposes you to Ma'arri's wit, genius mastery of language, and his philosophical outlook, but also to the landscape of the Arabic literary heritage in the 5th/11th century. Advanced knowledge of Arabic required.
Instructors: Lara Harb
Problems in Late Ottoman History
A study of a number of central problems, historiographical issues, and primary sources relevant to the history of the late Ottoman Empire. Topics vary from year to year.
Instructors: M. Sükrü Hanioglu