Undergraduate Courses - Fall 2022
Near Eastern Studies
This course examines how political repression has shaped the literature and culture of the modern Mediterranean. Each week we focus on a national space (Albania, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria), approaching work from that space in terms of its aesthetic, political, and cultural significance. Through close, historicized, and comparative readings of these texts, we explore the relationship between literature and politics; translation and identity; and representations of state power, authoritarian rule, and struggles for liberation.
This course follows the development of modern Hebrew prose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How was Hebrew refashioned from a liturgical to a modern literary language capable of narrating novels and conveying contemporary dialogue? Who were the revolutionary writers who accomplished this feat and what ideological struggles accompanied it? We will begin with the haskala (Jewish enlightenment), continue with the tehiya (revival) and early writing in the yishuv (Jewish community in pre-State Palestine), and conclude with dor ha-medina (the "independence generation") and maturation of modern Hebrew. Reading knowledge of Hebrew required.
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.
A sweep through Middle Eastern history, globally contextualized. Weeks 1-6 treat the rise of Islam, the Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, 19th-century reforms, European imperialism, and incipient globalization in the region. Weeks 7-12 focus on state-society relations, political ideologies, and foreign actors in the 20th and 21st centuries. You will come away with a basic grasp of the region's past and present and its mix of idiosyncrasies and global links.
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.
This course exposes students to the historical, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural factors that have shaped Indigenous Amazigh communities in Tamazgha (North Africa) and its diasporas. It examines the role that Amazigh communities have played in revitalizing their cultures in contemporary Tamazgha and makes visible the acknowledgement the Amazighity of lands in North Africa and complexities of language, cultural identity, and colonialism in the region. Many resources in the source will be taken from the instructor's talks with family members, other Indigenous scholars, and activists in the community.
This course offers an opportunity to study the political economy of the Middle East. This semester we focus on oil-exporting monarchical countries in the Gulf/Arabian Peninsula, which are under rapid transformation today. We discuss issues such as the reasons for the durability of monarchism in this region; the unsustainability of their oil-based economies; challenges facing the attempt to make a transition to a post-oil economy (both in terms of income and the source of energy - in light of the rise of renewables and the global climate change regime); the youth unemployment problem and challenges facing the creation and localization of jobs.
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.
Prepares NES majors to conduct independent research in Near Eastern Studies by introducing the central questions, debates, and scholarly methodologies that have informed the region's study in varying disciplines (history, comparative literature, religious studies, political science, and anthropology). Includes practical training in 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 museum visits and guest lectures.
This seminar examines the evolution of American diplomacy and military policy in the Middle East from the late Cold War through the "Unipolar movement" and 9/11 to the very recent past. Given the militarization of American policy, it pays particular attention to the use of force. It asks why military force has become the defining instrument of US foreign policy in this region, seeks to evaluate the efficacy of America's military interventions, and to identify the sources of American conduct. Prior coursework in international relations and Middle Eastern history is beneficial but there are no prerequisites.
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.
This course explores how various forms of violence and urban conflict made the modern Middle East and offers an understanding of how violence is both a destructive and a constructive act. Students will explore different modes of violence as an individual and collective experience, an urban process, and a historical event. Through critical considerations of middle eastern spaces, the course focuses on the transformative powers of violence, its ability to draw the boundaries of urban life, to create and divide communities, and to affect the ruling strategies of governments, local elites, and transnational political players.
The Cairo Geniza is a cache of texts from an Egyptian synagogue including letters, lists and legal deeds from before 1500, when most Jews lived in the Islamic world. These are some of the best-documented people in pre-modern history and among the most mobile, crossing the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean to trade, study, apprentice and marry. Data science, neural network-based handwritten text recognition and other computational methods are now helping make sense of the texts on a large scale. Students will contribute to an evolving state of knowledge and gain an insider's view of what we can and can't know in premodern history.
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."
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.
This course looks at a variety of canonical texts and genres from the Classical Arabic literary heritage and examines 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, and historiography. Readings will be in English. No prerequisites.
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.
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.
In this course you will learn the history of one of the world's most enduring Empires, the Ottoman Empire, from its beginnings in the fourteenth century to the advent of reform in the early nineteenth century. At its height, the Ottomans ruled over the Middle East, Southeastern Europe and much of the Mediterranean. About twenty five countries today were at one time part of the Empire. In addition, empire has been the world's most common form of political organization for the last 2500 years. In this course you will also learn the essentials of this enduring political arrangement in governing the world.
How were just war, holy war, and martyrdom imagined and enacted over the centuries in Islamic societies? How do concepts of the afterlife inform attitudes towards war and martyrdom? We begin in the Late Antique world with a survey of noble death, martyrdom, holy war, and just war, in the Roman, Jewish and Christian traditions. We explore these topics in the Islamic tradition through case studies: the Arab conquests, the Crusades, Spain and the Reconquista, the Iran-Iraq war and contemporary jihadist movements. We use primary sources in translation (including fiction and poetry) and, for modern period, films and internet.
This course traces the emergence of the traditions we now call Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: their first communities, texts, images, and values. Students will learn to examine their histories critically, identify patterns across traditions, uncover the way these traditions shaped one another, trace the developments of beliefs and practices from their earlier forms, and analyze the social and political factors that informed these developments.
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 Levantine colloquial dialects. Class activities are designed to foster communication and cultural competence through comprehension and grammar exercises, skits, conversation, videos and songs.
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.
Development of speaking, listening, reading and writing at the upper-intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency. Course is taught primarily in Arabic.
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.
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.
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.
Achieve a strong command of Modern Hebrew for the purpose of using it for research. Improve reading and writing skills through the reading of academic articles in Hebrew in various fields. During the first half of the semester we will read articles on the revival of the Hebrew language and its place in the family of Semitic languages; in the second half of the semester we will read articles from a variety of academic fields (e.g., literary criticism, comparative religion, political science, history of the Middle East). Emphasis will be placed on grammar and syntax, on writing, and also on conversational skills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The course offers a hands-on introduction to such basic genres of medieval scholarship as biography, history, tradition, and Koranic exegesis, taught through the intensive reading of texts, mostly in Arabic. The syllabus varies according to the interests of the students and the instructor.
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.
This graduate course seeks to provide the participants with a broad introduction to major intellectual trends in the history of Islam in South Asia from the early nineteenth century to the present. We focus on the work of select individuals and discuss their writings in the context of their intellectual, social, cultural, and political milieu. Translations and exegeses of the Qur'an, Islamic law, politics, and social thought are among the themes on which we focus.
'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani's 11th century Arabic work of literary theory, Asrar al-balagha (The Secrets of Eloquence), is arguably one of the most sophisticated treatises on poetics in the world. His aesthetic theory of simile and metaphor, which he develops over the course of his almost 400-page work, resonates with several modern conceptions of the poetic and with Aristotelian poetics. Students will be able to read the entire work for the first time in English as translated by Prof. Harb. We will discuss questions of translation, terminology, and the applicability of Jurjani's poetics cross-culturally. Course is in English.
An introduction to hands-on work with medieval Arabic documentary sources in their original manuscript form. Between 100,000 and 200,000 such documents have survived, making this an exciting new area of research with plenty of discoveries still to be made. Students learn how to handle the existing repertory of editions, documentary hands, Middle Arabic, transcription, digital resources and original manuscripts. The syllabus varies according to the interests of the students and the instructor. Experience reading Arabic is required; experience reading manuscripts is not.
This course introduces students to the historiography of the Ottoman Empire.
Introduces advanced Persian students to Classical Persian prose from the appearance of literary New Persian in the 10th century to the time of the poet Sa'di Shirazi, whose Gulistan was regarded as the culmination of good literary style and a classic in ensuing centuries. Gain familiarity with a variety of genres including history, geography, travelogues, ethical texts, and hagiography. Develop archival skills through an introduction to Islamic codicology. Acquire both linguistic competency in working with Classical Persian sources as well as an introduction to the scholarly debates surrounding the works in question.
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.
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.
This seminar offers a comparative study of the political, intellectual, religious, and cultural transformations of societies of the Near East and Eurasia from the late seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. The course investigates the common geopolitical, economic, and intellectual challenges that Western Europe posed to the societies of the Near East and Eurasia. It seeks to understand the responses of the latter on their own terms, and to relate them to each other. The course aims to stimulate students to move beyond regional particularities and think outside the models and assumptions provided by European historiography.
This interdisciplinary course examines the ideas of the Arab, the Jew, and the Arab-Jew as represented in history, literature, and film. It revisits the interdisciplinary scholarship around "Jews and Arabs" since the 1990s in order to reassess past and current approaches and to assist students with their own research agendas. We consider the following analytical frames: memory studies and its politics; historiography, recovery and the archive; hybridity and cosmopolitanism; language politics; and "passing" and cross-identification. Qualified juniors and seniors are welcome.
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.