NMC Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Courses
Undergraduate seminar that focuses on specific ideas, questions, phenomena or controversies, taught by a regular Faculty member deeply engaged in the discipline. Open only to newly admitted first year students. It may serve as a distribution requirement course; see page 40.
Introduction to the archaeology, history and literature of the ancient Near East. The contributions made by the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians to the development of civilization.
This course acquaints students with the main features and legacies of the civilization that was formed in the Middle East in the 8th-10th centuries C.E. under the impetus of Islam, and marked by several highpoints before the early modern period. Continuity with the earlier civilizations of the ancient Near East are highlighted, and the diverse cultural traditions that contributed to the formation of Islamic civilization are described.
Language and Literature Courses
(Offered in alternate years)
Introduction to the grammar and basic vocabulary of standard or literary Arabic, the one language written and read, and also spoken by those educated to speak it, throughout the Arab world.
Begins with a review of basic grammar and proceeds with the reading of simple, connected prose passages that typify normal patterns of Arabic syntax. More literary and idiomatic passages are introduced gradually.
After a short introduction to the history of the Arabic language within the framework of Semitic languages, connected passages of Arabic texts drawn from both classical and modern times are studied detail.
Systematic outline of the development, characteristics, and peculiarities of selected genres of classical Arabic literature such as historiography, belles-lettres (adab), philosophy, ethics - Qur’an, exegesis, Literature of Tradition - poetry. Complementary readings, analysis and translation of original text passages are given emphasis.
Insights into the history of ideas in Islam. Original texts by Jurjani (d. 1078, literary criticism), Ghazali (d. 1111, philosophy), Ibn Rushd (d. 1196, law), Shahrastani (d. 1153, heresiography), Ibn Taymiyah (d. 1328, dogmatics), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406, social history). (Offered in alternate years)
An intensive study of various Targumim to the Pentateuch: Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan, Neophyti, Samaritan and Fragment Targumim. Differences among them in vocabulary, syntax and verb usage are discussed, as well as their relationship to the Palestinian midrashim. (Offered in alternate years)
The Talmud of the Land of Israel, also called Talmud Yerushalmi or Palestinian Talmud, is written in a mixture of Jewish Western Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew. It is the principal document of the Land of Israel in Late Antiquity. The course examines the legal argumentation, terminology and language which differ from those of the Babylonian Talmud. (Offered in alternate years)
(Offered in alternate years)
Grammar and reading of selected hieroglyphic texts.
Middle Egyptian texts.
Introduction to the fundamentals of Hebrew grammar and syntax through classroom and language laboratory practice. Emphasis on the development of oral and writing skills. (Offered in alternate years)
An introduction to biblical Hebrew prose. Grammar and selected texts. For students with no previous knowledge of Hebrew.
Intensive study of written and spoken Hebrew. (Offered in alternate years)
Intensive study of written and spoken Hebrew. (Offered in alternate years)
Study of Hebrew grammar, providing a continuation of NMC230Y1. Through extensive reading of Hebrew in the books of Joshua-2 Kings, grammar is reviewed and consolidated, and vocabulary expanded. (Offered in alternate years)
Study of Hebrew grammar, providing a continuation of NMC230Y1. Through extensive reading of Hebrew in the books of Genesis-Deuteronomy, grammar is reviewed and consolidated, and vocabulary expanded. (Offered in alternate years)
Selections from a tractate in Babylonian Talmud in order to gain facility in the understanding of the dialogic structure of the legal discussions. Practice in the use of classical commentaries and critical aids to allow independent study of the text. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
This course familiarizes students with the methodology and terminology of the two midrashic systems: Devei R. Akiba and Devei R. Ishmael. Sections of all the midrashic halakha (Mekhiltot, Sifra and Sifre) are studied and compared to other Tannaitic materials. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
A study of the poetic works of a major modern Hebrew poet. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
A study of an important modern writer of Hebrew fiction. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
The fundamentals of modern standard Persian grammar, with emphasis on attaining fluency in reading and writing simple texts. Also serves as a basis for classical Persian. (Offered in alternate years)
Reading of a variety of modern prose texts on the intermediate level, with an emphasis on grammatical analysis and translation. Introduction to the classical language in the second term, with readings from selected authors. (Offered in alternate years)
Introduction to classical Persian poetry, including the Persian national epic and the mystical tradition, and survey of the development of classical Persian prose, based on readings from selected authors. (Offered in alternate years)
The basic features of modern Turkish grammar. In the second term, Turkish prose and newspapers are studied, with some practice in writing simple Turkish. This course serves as a basis for the study of Ottoman Turkish. (Offered in alternate years)
Modern texts literary, scholarly and journalistic. Turkish grammar and syntax; the nature of Turkish culture. (Offered in alternate years)
Literary texts and composition in modern Turkish. Introduction to Ottoman Turkish.
(Offered in alternate years)
Literature in Translation Courses
Representative Arabic poems of the pre-Islamic period, followed by certain aspects of the Qur’an. Development of lyric poetry in the Islamic period and of prose, with emphasis on narrative prose. (Offered in alternate years)
Selected texts from Syriac literature written between the 3rd and 13th centuries C.E., including versions of the Bible and prominent authors of biblical commentaries, hymns, acts of martyrs, liturgical texts, historiography, grammatical and lexicographical works, as well as translations from Greek. (Offered in alternate years)
A discussion and analysis of the most debated issues in the wisdom literature of ancient Israel, including the problems of defining the corpus; interpretation; literary dependency; and other problems including the origins of wisdom and the existence of schools in ancient Israel. The question of identifying a text as wisdom literature will be specifically
This course examines a) the transformations of Middle Eastern societies in the context of the development of communication technologies and media cultures; and b) Western media constructions of the Middle East and its diasporas in the West. (Offered in alternate years)
An exploration of contemporary Israel through its literary representations of war and catastrophe. The poetry of lamentation from the Bible into modern Hebrew literature. The representation of war and Holocaust is seen through the prism of modern Israeli war literature and inherited Jewish patterns of processing catastrophe.
A general introduction to the archaeology of the ancient Near East including prehistory, Syria-Palestine, and the high civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Organized chronologically to trace the historical development of agriculture, urbanism, and complex state-ordered societies in the region.
Participation for 4 - 7 weeks during the summer in an approved archaeological excavation in the eastern Mediterranean. 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. Registration in the course will take place in the fall following field activity.
From the Paleolithic to the Persian period, with primary emphasis on the Bronze and Iron Ages. The historical development of Palestinian archaeology, current field methods and interpretive strategies, and the relationship of archaeological discoveries to written records, including the Hebrew Bible. (Offered in alternate years)
Architecture, formal arts, and decorative arts to the end of the Pharaonic period. Cultural evolution rather than art history. (Offered in alternate years)
The archaeology, art and architecture of Iraq, North Syria and western Iran from ca. 3000 B.C.E. to the Persian period. The civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria, as well as their relationship to those of the surrounding areas. (Offered in alternate years)
Architectural studies, historical sources and archaeological research are used to examine the physical and social morphology of the pre-industrial Islamic city from Central Asia to North Africa and Spain, from the 7th to the 17th centuries.
Materials and technology help define the cultures and civilizations that use them, especially for archaeologists. Focusing on the Near and Middle East, this course is aimed at promoting understanding of the nature of materials used by the peoples of the region from the earliest prehistory until recent times. This course has a hands-on emphasis. (Offered in alternate years)
The use of polarized-light microscopy in the examination of ceramics, stone, other materials, and microstratigraphy. Lectures in elementary optical mineralogy and case-studies are followed by lab sessions in which typical thin-sections of pottery, rocks, soils and other materials are studied. (Offered in alternate years)
An intense view of the basic corpus of pottery from the Middle East, ca. 700-1800 C.E. The identification of technology, form, and style of the main ceramic groups, enabling identification, dating and attribution of original provenance. (Offered in alternate years)
A survey of methods of classification and analysis (form, fabric and style) involved in the study of archaeological ceramics, and the use of ceramics to infer patterns of production, distribution, and social organization; linking research questions with appropriate analytical techniques.
An introduction to the basic corpus of Near Eastern ceramics, from the invention of pottery production in the Neolithic until the Persian period, utilizing existing collections at the University and in the Royal Ontario Museum.
The archaeology and material culture of ancient Egypt from the Predynastic
through the Ptolemaic Period, with emphasis on the theoretical and methodological
issues inherent in interpreting the archaeological record. Students will
also work directly with artifactual material from the Egyptian collection
of the ROM.
The birth of Christianity in Syria and Mesopotamia and the rise of the Monophysite and Nestorian Churches; their life under the Byzantines, Sassanians, Arabs, Mongols and Ottomans. The role of Syrian Christians in diplomacy, science, missions, and relations with other churches. (Offered in alternate years)
Features of the pre-Islamic Middle East inherited by Islamic civilization, birth of Islam, life and times of Muhammad, formation of Islamic empire and civilization, political disintegration of the caliphate, emergence of autonomous dynasties, the fall of Baghdad to Mongols in 1258 and the rise of the Mamluks.
Eurasian steppe nomads as slave-soldiers, conquerors, world-empire builders throughout pre-modern Islamic Middle East and Central Asia. Topics include pastoral nomadism, steppe politics and warfare, conversion, jihad. Provides basis for understanding past and present issues of lands, such as Iran, Afghanistan, India, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, where Turks and Mongols played decisive historical roles. (Offered in alternate years)
This course examines the transformation of Middle Eastern societies form the perspective of non-state actors, especially the social and political movements of peasants, women, labour, students, and other social groups.
A course offered only at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in conjunction with Woodsworth College. Specific topics each year determined by the instructor.
Historical survey of the principal countries of the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries. Themes include the interplay of imperial and local interests, the emergence of national movements, and the formation of modern states.
The political and cultural history of ancient Israel from the origin of the Hebrews to the exile and restoration in the Persian period. (Offered in alternate years)
The political and cultural history of Egypt from the close of the predynastic period to its conquest by Alexander the Great; the use of both archaeological and literary evidence.
The political and cultural history of the peoples of ancient South-Western Asia (Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites and Persians). (Offered in alternate years)
A survey of the social, cultural, and political transformations of Turkey and Iran in the context of Eurasian and international relations. (Offered in alternate years)
A survey of the history of Egypt under Islamic rule from the Arab to the Ottoman conquest (1517 C.E.), including the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties. Issues treated thematically include conversion and inter-communal relations, relations with Syria, militarization of the political structure, including the military slave (mamluk) institution, religious currents, the impact of the Crusades and Mongol invasions, commercial and diplomatic relations, the emergence of Cairo as the centre of the later mediaeval western Islamic world. (Offered in alternate years)
The pre-Islamic background, particularly the Achaemenid and Sasanian periods. The Islamic conquests of the 7th century CE, and the transformation of Persian culture in the renaissance of the 10th century. Survey of the major dynasties, including the Samanids, Saljuqs, and Timurids, terminating with the Safavids in the 16th century.
Muslim conquest of North Africa and Spain, history of Spain under Muslim rule to 1492. Attention given to institutional and cultural development, Islamic Spain’s relations with the Islamic east and neighbours in Europe. (Offered in alternate years)
History of the emergence of the Ottoman state and its evolution from a border principality in Asia Minor into an empire. Ottoman expansion into Europe, Asia and Africa. The empire at its height under Süleyman the Lawgiver. The development of important administrative and military institutions. First military and diplomatic setbacks.
Political, social and economic history of the Arab lands of North Africa and the Middle East from 1700 to the present. Arabs under Ottoman rule, western colonial rule, emergence of independent states, current problems and prospects. (Offered in alternate years)
An introduction to mathematics, astronomy, alchemy and the medical sciences, as they were known, developed, and applied in practical ways in the mediaeval Islamic world.
This course probes the contemporaneous formation of modern Oriental Studies
in Europe and the emergence of discourses on Europe (Ifranj/Farang) in
the Middle East from the eighteenth century to the
This course examines the formation of nations and nation-states, national and ethnic conflicts, self-determination, conflict resolution, and national and ethnic minority rights.
A seminar organized around readings in selected topics. The topics are related
to the instructor’s research interests. (Offered in alternate years)
The place of Islam in world history, its central beliefs and practices. The Islamic contribution to world civilization; the pluralistic community, learning and the arts. Islam and modernity.
Explores the interaction between Jewish religious and secular movements and feminism. Investigates Jewish law (halakha) and the Jewish legal (halakhic) process in terms of feminist critique. Marriage, divorce, Torah study, bat mitzvah, other ceremonies, female rabbinic ordination and women’s prayer groups are some of the topics considered. (Offered in alternate years)
Religious belief and practice in Mesopotamia and Syria (Ugarit). (Offered in alternate years)
Religious belief and practice in Egypt. (Offered in alternate years)
Jewish attitudes to various personal status issues, such as the foetus, the minor, the pubescent child, and the mentally and physically challenged adult from biblical and rabbinic sources to modern Jewish positions. (Offered in alternate years)
The course examines the 19th and 20th century Arab world through the lenses of its intellectuals, their debates and political activism. It asks how intellectuals reflected and shaped their environment and their times. A major theme is the interconnectedness of (post-) colonial politics and intellectual production in the modern Middle East. (Offered in alternate years)
The history and beliefs of Muslims who have seen themselves as holding to a distinctive vision of Islam anchored in a characteristic attitude towards the ultimate sources of religious authority. Special attention is paid to "political" Shi'ism: the Fatamids, the Safavids, contemporary Iran; the roles of personal sacrifice and messianism.
An introduction to mediaeval Jewish theological and philosophical thought in the Islamic world. During the first semester the system of Jewish and Islamic rationalist theology (kalam) will be discussed from a thematic approach (epistemology, the doctrine of the unity of God, ontology, psychology and the notion of afterlife). The guideline of these lectures will be chapters from The Book of Beliefs and Opinions of Saadya Gaon al-Fayyumi (d. 942, Baghdad), the founder and most prominent figure of Jewish rationalist theology. The second semester will concentrate on the systems of the “philosophers” (thinkers who were influenced by either Aristotelian or Neo-Platonic thought and who attempted to reconcile Scripture with the wisdom of Antiquity). During these lectures the thought of Maimonides and Ibn Gabirol will be analyzed with constant reference to their Muslim “colleagues” and contemporaries (Avicenna, al-Ghazali and Averroes).
Abortion, rape, family violence and similar topics from the perspective of
historical and legal development, scientific theory, socio-ethical attitudes
and anthropological comparison in the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern
sources, through Jewish legal texts to modern responses. (Offered in alternate
The architecture of the Islamic Mediterranean arose out of a dialogue between its classical origins, its Christian neighbours and its allegiance to the Islamic world. Developments (e.g., ribbed dome, arabesque and palace) in Spain, Sicily, North Africa, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. (Offered every three years)
Monumental architecture, whether for secular or religious purposes, played a special role in Muslim societies, particularly in major centres such as Isfahan, Samarkand and Delhi. Beginning with the Taj Mahal (1632) the best-known elements of Islamic architecture the double dome, the pointed arch, glazed tiles are traced retroactively in Iran, Central Asia, and India, and their social context is studied. (Offered every three years)
Islamic culture and society as documented by its art and archaeological remains, examined in their social contexts as well as for their form and style. Area of study from Spain to India, but with emphasis on the shifting of creativity from the 7th to the 13th century C.E. Workshop sessions with Royal Ontario Museum objects. (Offered every three years)
A continuation of NMC393H1, covering the
years from the 13th century C.E. to the modern period. Workshop sessions
with Royal Ontario Museum objects. (Offered every three years)
Credit course for supervised participation in faculty research project. See page 40 for details.
An instructor-supervised group project in an off-campus setting. See page 40 for details.
A scholarly project chosen by the student, approved by the Department and supervised by one of the instructors. See Department Handbook for further information.
Prerequisite: Permission of Department
Prerequisite: Permission of Department
A course of study tailored to the individual needs or interests of advanced undergraduate students. A selection of readings chosen by the student, under the supervision of a faculty member on which the student may be examined serves as background preparation for the writing of a research paper.
Copyright © 2003, University of Toronto