2020-2021 Catalog 
    Aug 19, 2022  
2020-2021 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Middle Eastern Studies Major

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The interdisciplinary major in Middle Eastern Studies includes four required courses (in art, comparative literature, religion, and a seminar course); intermediate-level proficiency in a language (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish); and six additional courses selected from a variety of fields. All majors are required to complete a solid, intellectually rigorous research project. We also offer a variety of options for students to experience the region in person by traveling to the region.

Learning Objectives

The student learning objectives of the MES major are as follows:

1. Be able to identify how various forces, such as the economic, political, international, geo-political, intellectual, ideological, cultural, religious, artistic, literary, and the environmental, shape the region and human experiences.

2. Be able to understand how communities, religious and ethnic groups, and individuals are shaped by the pasts of the societies in which they live.

3. Be able to think about how society and the institutions central to it both shape and are shaped by those pasts.

4. Be able to understand how particular geographic areas in the Middle East in certain time periods have been shaped by the historical background and political backdrop of the region.

5. Be conversant with scholarly conventions and debates concerning the Middle East and to be able to critically assess claims made by those in the field, in politics, and in the media.

6. Develop the ability to read, critically evaluate, and interpret a wide range of historical source material, including but not limited to religious texts, historical documents, political sources, art, literature, and film.

7. Be able to frame questions, investigate problems and evaluate conclusions using one or more academic disciplines or approaches (e.g. historical analysis, political science, social scientific analysis, critical theories in the study of religion, and literary theory) through the use of both primary and secondary sources to construct arguments.

8. Develop the ability to express these arguments in effective written work.

9. Understand the general history of the Middle East from the rise of Islam until the contemporary period, with specialized knowledge of their particular area or period of interest.

10. Be able to directly access the language(s), text(s), and culture(s) of the Middle East, in order to obtain a more objective understanding of issues pertaining to the fields of Middle Eastern Studies.

Major Requirements


Courses are divided into two categories: Category 1 courses are core courses that are essential for concentrators in the major and have broad content and regional coverage and Category 2 courses are courses that have a primary focus on subjects in Middle Eastern Studies. Students are required to take all four courses from Category 1 and six courses from Category 2. Courses in Category 2 are divided into two groups: Cultural and Socio-Political; students will be required to take three courses in each division (i.e. three courses designated as “Cultural” and three courses designated as “Socio-Political” in Category 2). Students may not count more than five courses from any one department toward the Middle Eastern Studies major and cannot use more than three courses to count toward both a Middle Eastern Studies major and a major in another department, such as religion or comparative literature (i.e. no more than three courses can be “double counted” for double majors).


Category 1

  • ART 349 – Islamic Art (the stated prerequisite of ART110 or ART111 will be regularly waived for Middle Eastern Studies majors by permission of the instructor)
  • CMLT 300.3 – Cinemas of the Middle East REL 141 Islam: An Introduction
  • MES 4## – Middle Eastern Studies Seminar (prerequisite: successful completion of two classes designated as Category 1 courses in Middle Eastern Studies). This new 400-level seminar course will further students’ knowledge of the interdisciplinary field of Middle Eastern Studies. This advanced, reading-and-writing-intensive seminar will situate the study of the Middle East within the broader context of the history and politics of area studies.

Category 2

Cultural Courses

  • CMLT 100.1 – Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film
  • CMLT 130 – Love and Sexuality in the Literary Arts of the Mediterranean
  • CMLT 190.1 – Literatures of the Silk Road
  • CMLT 200.1 – Space and Place in Literature and Film
  • CMLT 300.4 – The Arabic Novel from the Nineteenth Century to the Digital Age
  • CMLT 300.12 – Literary Encounters in the Medieval Mediterranean
  • CMLT 499a – Myths of the “Oriental Woman”
  • CMLT 499c – Refiguring the Divide: The Arab Jew in Literature and Film
  • ENG 226 – American Images – themed course on America and Israel
  • FREN 300.4 – Contemporary Franco-Arab Cultural Exchanges: Exploring the Literature and Film of French Expression from the Maghreb and Mashreq (please note prerequisite – course is taught in French)
  • REL 300.12 – Islam in the Modern Period
  • REL 300.5 – Islam in America
  • REL 337 – Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Holocaust
  • REL 342 – Women and Gender in Islam

Socio-Political Courses

  • HIST 320 – Middle East
  • PG 113 Democracy, Dictatorship, and Political Change
  • PG 347 Comparative Political Topics: Protest and Violence
  • PG 361 American Foreign Policy
  • REL 300.6 Medieval Islamic Societies REL
  • 300.10 Islamic Political Thought
  • SOAN 294 Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East
  • SOAN 360 Cultural and Social Change

Minor Requirements

Minor Requirement:

Five courses: three courses from Category 1, one of which must be MES 499, “Middle Eastern Studies Seminar,” and two elective courses chosen from Category 2. Courses in Category 2 are divided into two groups: Cultural and Socio-Political; students will be required to take one course in each division (i.e. one course designated as “Cultural” and another course designated as “Socio-Political” in Category 2).


Language Requirement

  • ARAB 110
  • ARAB 111

Thesis Requirement

The major requires a solid, intellectually rigorous research paper, written in any Middle Eastern Studies course in Categories 1 and 2 with the permission of the instructor, or in an independent study course under the supervision of a Middle Eastern Studies faculty member.

In order to receive credit for the thesis, the student will have to defend the thesis in front of a panel committee of three faculty members. The chair of the Middle Eastern Studies program will serve on the panel as well as the instructor of the course in which the paper was written. The student will select the third faculty member in consultation with the chair of the program. If the chair and the instructor are members of the same department, the third faculty member must be selected from another department. In the event that the chair of the program is also the instructor of the course in which the thesis was written, the program chair will select, in consultation with the Middle Eastern Studies faculty advisory board, another member of the advisory board to serve on the panel.

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