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Course Descriptions

Program in Middle East Studies


Overview Due to the rise in commercial and cultural interaction with Middle Eastern countries, interest in the Middle East its languages, literature, culture, religions, histories, and peoples is ever increasing. In order to meet these growing needs, the Program in Middle East Studies, with its interdisciplinary approach, provides a unique opportunity to learn about the languages, peoples, literatures, cultures, religions, and histories of the region from the Maghrib in the west to Iran in the east. The program encompasses the study of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic civilizations from antiquity to the modern era as they seek to maintain their traditional strengths while coping with regional conflicts and the challenges of modernity.

Middle East studies courses are offered in the departments of anthropology, art, Asian and Middle Eastern languages and cultures, French, history, politics, and religious studies. Moreover, Middle East studies are of growing interest to students in the School of Law, the McIntire School of Commerce, the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, the School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing. There are four core fields of study in the Middle East studies program: language(s) and literature(s); history; politics; and religious studies.

Language courses are available in Arabic, Biblical and Modern Hebrew, Persian, and occasionally Turkish. Non-language courses cover the history, literatures, religions, and civilizations of the area extending from Morocco to Iran; the politics of the region; the history of Islam; Islamic thought and culture; Middle Eastern literatures in translation; women's studies; mysticism; Judaism; and relations between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Faculty  The faculty of the Program in Middle East Studies are recognized scholars, researchers, and teachers with national and international reputations in their respective fields. Many hold positions in regional and national organizations in Middle East studies. The faculty members are dedicated to their fields and to their students, making themselves easily accessible for consultation outside of the classroom.

Students  Students have the choice of majoring in Middle East studies, minoring in it, or including it as a dual major. The major is directed at preparing students for graduate study or professional fields involving Middle Eastern relations. Our undergraduates go on to graduate or professional schools or work in governmental, federal, and congressional agencies. Some have joined the Peace Corps in Middle Eastern and North African countries and are now serving as rural community development specialists, teachers in schools for the blind, and teachers of English as a Second Language.

Special Resources
Media Center/Language Laboratory  The language laboratory is used extensively to help students practice and reinforce their speaking and listening skills. The language laboratory is also available for student use outside of class time.

Study Abroad  Students of Arabic may choose to apply for admission to the University of Virginia-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program in Irbid, Jordan. The program provides an opportunity to intensively study Arabic at the intermediate and advanced levels, and to partake of a unique cultural experience. The program periodically receives grants from which it can offer fellowships to participants.

Requirements for Major  The major is open to all qualified students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Admission to the program is determined by the chair and coordinator of the major on the basis of an interview and after review of the applicant's undergraduate record. One year of language instruction in any of the Middle Eastern languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish) is a corequisite for the major. Language courses completed beyond the first-year requirement may be counted toward the major.

A total of 36 credits is required distributed in the following manner:

  1. At least six courses (3 credits or more each) at the 200-level or higher in three of the four core fields of study: language(s) and literature(s), history, politics, religious studies.

  2. Five courses (15 credits) at the 200-level or higher in areas related to the Middle East, but not necessarily in the core areas.

  3. Of the above requirements, at least three courses (9 credits or more) must be at the 300-level or higher.
  4. MEST 496 (Majors Seminar).

Students in the major are expected to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5. Up to 12 credits toward the major are accepted as transfer credit from other accredited institutions. Each individual case is examined and approved by the director of the program in consultation with other faculty members in Middle East studies.

Distinguished Majors Program  The Middle East studies program offers a DMP for qualified majors with the opportunity to pursue in-depth analyzes of issues and topics related to the major. Students seeking admission to the DMP should have major and University GPA of 3.4 or above. Applicants make their application to the DMP in the second semester of the second year, at the same time they are declaring their majors. Notification of acceptance is made in the fall of their third year. Students in the DMP are required to satisfy the general major distribution rules for Middle East studies; take at least 12 credits at the 400- and 500-levels; and write a thesis during the fourth year while enrolled in MEST 498 and 499 (6 credits).

Students who successfully complete the requirements of the DMP are given an evaluation of distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction. Evaluations are based upon quality of the thesis, overall work in major field of study, and overall College record.

Requirements for Minor  The requirements consist of 20 credits pertaining to the Middle East. The courses may include: (1) no more than nine credits pertaining to the Middle East in one discipline; (2) two semesters of Middle Eastern language not exceeding eight credits; and (3) at least three credits in a course at the 300-level or above.

Additional Information For more information, contact William B. Quandt, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, 223 Minor Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (434) 924-3033; Fax: (434) 924-7867; wbq8f@Virginia.edu.

Course Descriptions


Courses Approved for Major

Note  The following list includes courses which have content in Middle East Studies. Other courses may be substituted with the permission of the program director.

Middle East Studies

MEST 496 - (3) (Y)
Majors Seminar

Intended for majors in their final year. Introduces the study of Middle East as an interdisciplinary subject, utilizing methods in history and political science, anthropology and sociology, religion, and literature.

MEST 498, 499 - (1-3) (Y)
Independent Research


AMEL 493, 494 - (1-3) (SI)
Independent Study in Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

AMTR 301 - (3) (IR)
Men and Women of Asia and the Middle East

AMTR 311/511 - (3) (IR)
Women and Middle Eastern Literatures

ARAB 101, 102 - (4) (Y)
Elementary Arabic

ARAB 201, 202 - (4) (Y)
Intermediate Arabic

ARAB 225, 226 - (3) (IR)
Conversational Arabic

ARAB 227 - (3) (Y)
Culture and Society of the Contemporary Arab Middle East

ARAB 301/501, 302/502 - (3) (Y)
Readings in Literary Arabic

ARAB 323/523 - (3) (Y)
Arabic Conversation and Composition (in Arabic)

ARAB 324/524 - (3) (Y)
Advanced Arabic Conversation and Composition (in Arabic)

ARAB 493, 494 - (1-3) (Y)
Independent Study in Arabic

ARAB 528 - (3) (SI)
The History of the Arabic Language

ARAB 583, 584 - (3) (Y)
Topics in Arabic Prose

ARAB 585 - (3) (Y)
Media Arabic (in Arabic)

ARAB 586 - (3) (Y)
Nineteenth Century Arabic Prose

ARAB 701 - (3) (Y)
Modern Arabic Fiction (in Arabic)

ARAB 702 - (3) (Y)
Modern Arabic Drama (in Arabic)

ARAB 703 - (3) (Y)
Modern Arabic Poetry (in Arabic)

ARAB 783 - (3) (Y)
Readings in Arabic/Islamic Texts (in Arabic)

ARAB 801, 802 - (1-3) (IR)
Independent Study in Arabic

ARTR 329/529 - (3) (Y)
Modern Arabic Literature in Translation

ARTR 339 - (3) (Y)
Love, Alienation and Politics in the Contemporary Arabic Novel

HEBR 101, 102 - (4) (Y)
Introduction to Modern Hebrew

HEBR 201, 202 - (4) (Y)
Intermediate Modern Hebrew

PERS 101, 102 - (4) (E)
Introductory Persian

PERS 201, 202 - (4) (E)
Intermediate Persian

PERS 301/501, 302/502 - (3) (IR)
Readings in Modern Persian Poetry- Prose/Fiction

PERS 323 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Classical Persian Literature

PERS 324 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Modern Persian Literature

PERS 493, 494 - (1-3) (Y)
Independent Study in Persian

PERS 801, 802 - (1-3) (Y)
Independent Study in Persian

PETR 321, 521 - (3) (IR)
Classical Persian Literature in Translation

PETR 322, 522 - (3) (IR)
20th Century Persian Literature in Translation

RELJ 111, 112 - (4) (O)
Introduction to Biblical Hebrew

TURK 521, 522 - (3) (IR)
Introduction to Turkish


HIEU 317 - (3) (IR)
Eastern Christianity

HIME 100 - (3) (IR)
Introductory Seminar in Middle East History

HIME 201 - (4) (Y)
History of the Middle East and North Africa, ca. 570-ca. 1500

HIME 202 - (4) (Y)
History of the Middle East and North Africa, ca. 1550-Present

HIME 401 - (4) (Y)
Seminar in Middle East and North Africa History

HIME 402 - (4) (Y)
Colloquium in Middle East History

HIME 403 - (4) (Y)
Topics in Middle Eastern History

Religious Studies

RELC 328 - (3) (Y)
Eastern Christianity

RELI 207 - (3) (Y)
Classical Islam

RELI 208 - (3) (Y)
Islam in the Modern World

RELI 311 - (3) (E)
Muhammad and the Qur'an

RELI 312 - (3) (O)

RELI 367 - (3) (E)
Religion and Politics in Islam

RELI 540 - (3) (Y)
Seminar in Islamic Theology

RELI 540C - (3) (IR)
War and Peace in Islamic Tradition: A Comparative Ethics Approach

RELI 540D - (3) (IR)
Islamic Fundamentalism

RELJ 111, 112 - (4) (O)
Introduction to Biblical Hebrew

RELJ 121 - (3) (Y)
Hebrew Scriptures

RELJ 201, 202 - (3) (Y)
Advanced Readings in Biblical Hebrew

RELJ 203 - (3) (Y)
The Judaic Tradition

RELJ 301 - (3) (SI)
Modern Jewish Thought

RELJ 307 - (3) (E)
Modern Jewish Thought

RELJ 309 - (3) (E)
Israelite Prophecy

RELJ 322 - (3) (Y)
Judaism and Zionism

RELJ 330 - (3) (Y)
The Jewish Mystical Tradition

RELJ 331 - (3) (Y)
Jewish Law

RELJ 335 - (3) (Y)
Jewish Social Ethics

RELJ 336 - (3) (Y)
Judaism and Christianity 

RELJ 337 - (3) (Y)
Modern Movements in Judaism 

RELJ 505 - (3) (SI)
Judaism in Antiquity

RELJ 529 - (3) (SI)
Seminar in Old Testament Studies

Women's Studies

SWAG 405/705 - (3) (IR)
Gendered Body Cross Culturally

SWAG 312 - (3) (Y)
Women and Islam


PLCP 341 - (3) (Y)
Comparative Politics in the Middle East and North Africa

PLCP 541 - (3) (Y)
Islam and Democracy in the Middle East

PLCP 741 - (3) (O)
Readings in Middle East Politics

PLIR 365 - (3) (Y)
International Relations in the Middle East

PLIR 765 - (3) (Y)
Middle East in World Affairs


ANTH 282 - (3) (Y)
Rise of Civilizations

ANTH 384 - (3) (Y)
Near Eastern Archaeology

ANTH 583 - (3) (Y)
Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

History of Art

ARTH 221 - (3) (Y)
Early Christian and Byzantine Art

ARTH 263 - (3) (IR)
Art of the Islamic World

ARTH 491 - (3) (IR)
Antioch and the Roman East

ARTH 522 - (3) (IR)
Byzantine Art

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