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We will refer to a mix of sources including memoirs, interviews and poems to explore how feminist aspirations are repressed or expressed in a society dominated by patriarchal values. Yet, how much of that reflects the reality of ancient Babylon? This course will explore the city of Babylon through its texts and archaeology and contrast this data with the way the city has been remembered over the past two thousand years.

However, the goal of the course is not only to investigate how myths about Babylon have been constructed throughout the centuries. It will also look at the shortcomings of contemporary academic research on Babylon, and how difficult it is to reconstruct humankind's distant past. Focuses on the origins and development of the novel genre in the Arabic tradition. Examines the aesthetic qualities of the genre as an artistic form and the ways that it has depicted and intervened in the modern social, political, and cultural upheavals that have shaped the Arab world in the 20th century.

Readings of novels and criticism in English. Focusing on Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, this course raises some controversial issues in coming to grips with the impact of war on retrieving, interpreting, and preserving the past. Find out the many ways we can work to preserve the history and culture of places at risk, now and in the future.

What does archaeological evidence tell us about political and social power? Explore the origins and rise of leadership in the Near East from the Neolithic period to the famous kings and military commanders of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon.


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Examines questions of gender and sexuality in modern Arabic literature from the colonial period to the present through readings of literary and cultural texts, including novels and essays. Focuses on intersections of Arab feminist thought and literary and artistic constructions of gender and sexuality. Taught in English. An instructor-supervised group project in an off-campus setting. This is an intensive education in the archaeology of death. Working as a study group, the participants in this class will examine in detail the primary archaeological data for mortuary practices in the third millennium in the Big Bend region of the Euphrates River.

Readings focus on the development and evolution of language, style, and form. The course traces the history of ancient Egypt from the foundation of the Egyptian state around BCE to its incorporation into the Roman Empire. The focus is on various aspects of Egyptian culture, including the institution of kingship, the role of women, and the peculiarities of Egyptian art, literature, and religion. Emphasis is placed on the methods by which knowledge about this ancient civilization can be obtained. From city state to empire. Their cultural contributions, from the development of writing to their achievements in law, administration, science, art and architecture, religion, and literature.

What makes a certain thing a state, art, law Islamic? When and how did what we think about as the Islamic today come about? With these questions in mind, this course introduces students to major peoples, events, intellectual currents, and institutions in Islamic history. Topics to be covered include an overview of the geography and history of Ancient Israel and Judea, the role of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, the literary genres reflected in biblical and some contemporary non-biblical texts, and the scholarly methods by which the Bible is studied.

This course offers an introduction to the contemporary Middle East from an anthropological perspective. Topics will include gender, kinship, religion, modernity, popular culture, and the study of everyday life. Examines modern Arabic literary works that portray marginalized social figures and groups, including the criminal, the urban poor, the peasantry, the delinquent, the prostitute, and the political outcast. Explores issues such as political violence, marginality, precarity, social reform and social exclusion.

The course examines written and archaeological sources to discuss the status and role of women in the ancient Near East, focusing in particular on the first millennium BCE. It surveys the major genres from ancient Mesopotamia, including epics, myths, lyrical poetry, wisdom literature, and humorous tales. Survey of the intellectual life in the Ancient Near East from the emergence of writing in Mesopotamia and Egypt at the end of the third millennium BCE until the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Covers issues of orality vs. Covering the period from 9, to B. E, the course will track the development from simple storage and accounting procedures in Neolithic villages to administrative complexities in urban settings, leading to the advent of writing systems. Introduces students to the culture of ancient Egypt through the study of 'functional' textual materials, including domestic, religious including funerary and ritual , historical, and scientific texts, to paint a rich picture of the daily life and experiences of the ancient Egyptians.

No knowledge of Egyptian required; all texts read in translation. English translations used; no knowledge of Hebrew is required. Offered alternate years.


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  • Definitions and historical developments will be discussed. All texts will be read in translation. This course explores the significance of mummies in contexts ranging from ancient Egyptian to modern, tracing the development of Egyptian mummification techniques and the roles and uses of mummies as transformative elements allowing access to the afterlife, sources of information about ancient individuals, characters in literature and film, and objects for display in museums. Students read closely classic works in translation, through class discussion, in-class exercises, and short essays.

    Reveals how the Nights was created, transformed, and disseminated. We consider the politics and aesthetics of medieval and modern adaptations - manuscripts, films, ballet, novels, and short stories produced around the world.

    Builds toward a final project -- either a creative project or an essay. An introduction to the history and culture of modern Turkey through readings of modern Turkish literature in translation. Topics such as cultural revolution, migration, identity and gender, production and transmission of literature in today's literary market will be discussed. Readings will include a variety of genres, notably the short story, poetry, and the novel. The Persian Book of Kings, or Shahnameh, composed in the 11th century by Ferdowsi, is the most important book in Iranian national culture and one of the great works of world literature.

    This course explores the shared world of myth and ritual between Zoroastrianism and Hinduism and examines the contours of early Iranian thought. The course will survey mythoepic literature in translation from the archaic Avesta through the late antique Middle Persian Pahlavi corpus. The course will include a broad introduction to ancient and late antique Iran.

    This is an experiential course that asks what it would have been like for people in the ancient Near East as their world underwent the profound changes wrought by domestication, farming, urbanism, and state formation.


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    • We focus on the sensory experiences of the body, and their effect upon the mind, by reconstructing and using spaces and objects that have come to define the archaeological periods from 10, to BCE. From circular communal buildings and the constraints and possibilities they offer, to replastering skulls and making hand-held figurines, to the performance of a ritual text, we link traditional teaching with walking a mile in ancient footwear. Participation in this course requires an active imagination and a willingness to get physical.

      This experience is then critiqued in a previously assigned essay researched and written under guidance upon return. Departmental permission is required in December-February prior to the fieldwork. Explore the archaeological evidence for these events in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia and the Levant.

      This class investigates archaeological traces of human interaction with the supernatural world in the ancient Near East, including figurines, temples, skulls, statues, and cylinder seals. In order to contextualize different ways of thinking about other worlds, we also look at cross-cultural comparisons ranging from Africa to the Americas.

      Discover how the structure of animal skin enables the making of leather and tattoos; why mighty kings boasted about tree-cutting expeditions; how chariots, stirrups, and gunpowder changed the very structure of contemporary societies; why spears are better than swords. Understand and appreciate the materials in the world around you. The course will introduce students to the Christian communities living in the Middle East since the distant past, identified by ecclesiastical and or ethnic terms, including Armenian, Copt, Greek-Melkite, Maronite, and Syriac.

      The course will discuss the plurality of their cultural, literary, and theological traditions, the social and intellectual roles of their monasteries, the contributions of their top religious authorities in diplomacy between Byzantium and the Sassanians, their position in the Islamic world and contributions to Islamic culture, philosophy, sciences, and theology, interreligious dialogues and polemics with Islam.

      Offered in alternate years. Explores the roles of Turks as raiders, migrants, slave-soldiers, and empire-builders in the formation of the Islamic world prior to the Ottomans Readings include primary sources in translation on the Islamization of the Turks in Central Asia and their gradual takeover of Iranian and Arab lands. The rise of the Mongols and creation of their world empire and its role in the making of the modern world. Political, military, cultural, and economic aspects of the formation and disintegration of the largest land empire in world history The emergence of modern states in the Middle East, against a background of empire, world wars, and national and religious movements.

      Students will learn why the modern map looks the way it does, and how Middle Eastern peoples' self-identifications have changed over the past years. Explores the interaction between Jewish religious and secular movements and feminism, focusing on conflicts between Jewish law halakhah and ideas of egalitarianism, particularly in legal disabilities for women connected to marriage and divorce, lack of access to high-level Torah study, and discrimination in public religious roles.

      Examines competition among the movements to include women in Torah study has led to, and the extent to which inclusion and egalitarianism have become a complement in Judaism.

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      Offered in alternate years, topic changes. Concern is mainly with the sacred character of the Quran koran , its preeminence in Islam. Topics include: the idea of the sacred book, the Quran and the Bible, the influence of the Quran on Islamic spirituality, literature, theology, law, philosophy, and the various apporaches taken in interpreting the Quran. Knowledge of Arabic is not required. This course is a continuation of NMCH1.

      Minor in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies | Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies

      Students will be required to engage directly with the text in English or French translation, to discuss and write on major and minor quranic topics and themes and to study the works of other astute readers of the text. Arabic is not required or expected. Overview of the history of the Copts from political, religious, social and economic perspectives. Literary and documentary sources will illustrate these different aspects of Coptic Civilization. The focus on Coptic Monasticism will underline the role of monasteries as conservers of the Coptic Orthodox Church tradition.

      This course investigates formal properties of Arabic language. It provides students with an in-depth knowledge of the grammar of the language focussing on the areas of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and the interaction between phonology and morphology. Explores the cultural politics of encounter, narrative, and representation in modern Arabic narrative. Examines literary, historical, anthropological, and visual texts to consider how Arab writers have imagined and documented their cultural and political encounters with difference both in and outside the Arab world.

      Presents an historical overview on the origins of Egyptian monasticism based on written sources. Comparison of written sources with archaeological artifacts reveals the relation between spiritual and material aspects of monastic life. Literary sources produced for different monastic orders -- such as sermons, canons and biographies -- will be studied.

      Exploration of the primary archaeological, architectural, and inscriptional sources, questioning and analyzing ideas about Egypt's development from farming communities at the dawn of history to an early state that built great pyramids for its kings, collapsed into civil war, and grew to become a colonizing power in the Middle Kingdom.

      Islamic Civilization

      Exploration of the primary archaeological, architectural, and inscriptional sources, questioning interpretations and analyzing how Egypt confronted foreign domination and developed into a major empire in the New Kingdom under Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, and Ramesses II, then fragmented politically in the Third Intermediate Period and ultimately became a colony itself. Examines the political history and cultural legacy of the Sasanian empire and transmission of Persian concepts of kingship, administration, and social organization into Islamic civilization, Perso-Islamic cultural synthesis under the Samanids, the interaction between nomadic and sedentary cultures under the rule of Turkic and Turko-Mongolian dynasties, and the Safavid state.

      The Persian idea of court and kingship, religion, and organization of the empire will also be investigated. Survey of various literary genres from works produced by Armenian, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, and Syriac authors between the 3rd and the 19th centuries CE. Genres include theology in poetry, biblical commentaries, historiography and chronicles, hagiography, songs and epics, apologetics, and travel accounts.