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The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations came into existence on July 1, 1996 as a result of the merger of the formerly separate departments of Near Eastern Studies [NES] and Middle East and Islamic Studies [MEI]. These departments, under various designations, have existed in the University of Toronto for over 150 years. Near East is generally understood to refer to the region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and beyond, from ancient times up to the advent of Islam in the seventh century C.E. Middle East refers to a much broader geographical area whose predominant Islamic culture in mediaeval and modern times has stretched to North Africa and Spain in the west and to Central Asia, India and South Asia in the east.
The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations is concerned with the interdisciplinary study of the civilizations and cultures of the Near and Middle East from neolithic times until the present, including their languages and literatures [Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian), Arabic, Aramaic and its closely related dialect Syriac, ancient Egyptian, (biblical, rabbinic, mediaeval and modern) Hebrew, (Hellenistic) Greek, Persian and Turkish], archaeology, history, art and architecture. The Department's programs are conceived in the broad tradition of the humanities and provide an opportunity to study non-western complex societies and civilizations, an understanding of which will reveal the ultimate roots, and help to appreciate the historical development, of western civilization.
As it happens, three world religions originated in this geographical region. The Department offers courses on the origins and earliest phases of Judaism and, as a contributor to the Jewish Studies Program, on mediaeval and modern Jewish history, culture and thought, even though such pursuits sometimes lead to Europe and other places beyond the Middle East. Although the Department deals with eastern (Syriac) Christianity, the study of Christianity as a religion falls within the purview of the Department for the Study of Religion. The study of Islam as a religion and the development of Islamic thought, and their role in the creation of Islamic civilization, are major concerns of the Department.
NMC 100Y introduces the Department and its various disciplines. It presents students with an historical and thematic survey of the civilizations and cultures of the Near and Middle East and provides background necessary for comprehending the complex issues facing that region today. The student who is interested in the ancient Near East in particular should take NMC 170Y. Those interested in the world and/or religion of Islam should start with NMC 185Y. Anyone primarily attracted to biblical studies should take one or more of NMC 250H, 251H, 252H, 253H. The student with a special interest in Jewish studies should start with RLG 202Y.
Students wishing to follow a Specialist or Major program should choose their courses with the advice of the Undergraduate Coordinator. Those intending to proceed to a graduate degree in a particular area will obviously want to follow an undergraduate program in the same area and would do well to acquire a reading knowledge of German and French as early as possible. Some knowledge of anthropology and a course or two in linguistics would be useful. The Department, however, welcomes students of all academic backgrounds who wish to learn about the Middle East, including those who do not intend to specialize or major. Many courses offered in the Department do not require any knowledge of the languages of the region. Students should consult the Undergraduate Handbook published each year by the Department for more detailed information about courses and programs.
Undergraduate Enquiries: 4 Bancroft Avenue, Room 200, 978-3306
Enrolment in NMC programs is open to anyone who has completed four courses; no minimum GPA required. Students should consult the Department about the following programs.
ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN STUDIES (B.A.)
Specialist program (Hon.B.A.): S12251 (12 full NMC courses or their equivalent, including at least one 400-series course)
NOTE: At least six of the above courses (two Language and Literature, one each of Archaeology and History, and two others) must be in the same cultural and/or linguistic area, e.g., Assyrian, Syro-Palestinian, Egyptian or Hellenistic Greek.
Major program Major program: M12251 (6 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
Minor program Minor program: R12251 (4 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
HEBREW LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE (B.A.)
Specialist program (Hon.B.A.): S05581 (12 full courses or their equivalent, including at least one 400-series course)
Major program Major program: M05581 (6 full courses or their equivalent)
Minor program Minor program: R05581 (4 full courses or their equivalent)
Four Hebrew Language and Literature courses
MIDDLE EASTERN AND ISLAMIC STUDIES (B.A.)
Specialist program (Hon.B.A.): S17501 (10 full NMC courses or their equivalent, including at least one 400-series course)
NOTE: All of the above courses must be in the Middle Eastern and Islamic cultural area. However, students are strongly encouraged to take courses in other NMC cultural areas.
Major program Major program: M17501 (6 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
Minor program Minor program: R17501 (4 full courses or their equivalent)
Four NMC courses, one of which must be at the 300+ level (see Department Handbook for details)
MIDDLE EASTERN AND ISLAMIC HISTORY (B.A.)
Major program Major program: M25711 (6 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
NOTE: This program cannot normally be expanded into a Specialist program owing to the language requirements of the latter.
ISLAMIC RELIGION AND THOUGHT (B.A.)
Major program Major program: M10181 (6 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
ISLAMIC LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES (B.A.)
Major program Major program: M09001 (6 full NMC courses or their equivalent)
For Distribution Requirement purposes, all NMC courses are classified as HUMANITIES 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 breadth requirement course; see First Year Seminars: 199Y.
The World Literature Program also includes courses from this department; see under WLD
Introduction to the civilizations and cultures of the Near and Middle East since ancient times, including their religious, literary and artistic legacies. The first half surveys the history and cultural contributions of the civilizations of the ancient Near East. The second half focuses on Islamic civilization and discusses major themes and continuities within its rich cultural diversity and broad geographical scope.
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
NOTE The Department reserves the right to place students in the NMC language course best suited to their linguistic preparation.
Introduction to Old Babylonian. Grammar and the reading of selected texts. (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.
Study of connected passages of literary Arabic, with emphasis on the modern period. Exercises in grammar and composition; stress on oral comprehension. (Native speakers of Arabic must obtain Departmental permission)
Study of selected passages from advanced literary Arabic of both the classical and modern periods. Exercises in composition and oral comprehension. (Native speakers of Arabic must obtain Departmental permission)
A study of Arabic literature, with emphasis given to the development of a variety of genres, based on readings from original texts. Intended for native speakers of Arabic in any year.
Introduction to Aramaic grammar. Readings from biblical Aramaic.
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)
Grammar and reading of selected hieroglyphic texts.
Middle Egyptian texts.
The primary focus is a systematic and intensive review of Greek grammar, illustrated by readings from the Gospel of Luke.
Readings include a cross-section of the New Testament and, typically, two texts from other Early Christian or Jewish literature. One additional text is read from a manuscript (papyrus) facsimile.
Readings from the so-called fragmentary Jewish authors of the Hellenistic period. Includes a study of Greek word-building, focused on improvement of reading skills. (Offered in alternate years)
Readings are from Jewish Romances composed in Aramaic or Hebrew but (fully) preserved only in Greek translation. Includes a study of Greek word-building, focused on improvement of reading skills. (Offered in alternate years)
Readings are from the books of the Maccabees and Josephus. Includes a study of Greek word-building, focused on improvement of reading skills. (Offered in alternate years)
Readings are from Jewish Romances composed partly or totally in Greek. Includes a study of Greek word-building, focused on improvement of reading skills. (Offered in alternate years)
Introduction to the fundamentals of Hebrew grammar and syntax through classroom and language laboratory practice. Emphasis on the development of oral and writing skills.
An introduction to biblical Hebrew prose. Grammar and selected texts. For students with no previous knowledge of Hebrew.
This course is the equivalent of the fall component of NMC 230Y. This one semester introduction to biblical Hebrew covers basic elements of Hebrew grammar and syntax. Attention is given to use of concordances, commentaries, and other tools for help in preparing sermons, special studies and investigation of theological issues.
This course is the spring component of NMC 230Y.
Intensive study of written and spoken Hebrew conducted in Hebrew.
NOTE All 330-339 courses below are open to students with OAC Hebrew
Study of Hebrew grammar and training in translation providing a continuation of NMC230Y, or the formal grammatical study needed in the modern Hebrew Specialist Program.
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)
Survey of Hebrew literature from post-biblical to contemporary writings. Stylistic analysis of various genres. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
Intensive study of journalistic Hebrew. Continuation of grammar, syntax, vocabulary building and composition. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
Readings from the prophetic literature. (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)
Traditional Jewish concepts as discussed in rabbinic and mediaeval literature of various literary genres. (Offered in alternate years)
The purpose of the course is to deepen and broaden the students' understanding of the Babylonian Talmud. In addition to the traditional mediaeval commentaries, the students are introduced to manuscript use, text criticism and redactional theories of the Babylonian Talmud. (Conducted in Hebrew) (Offered in alternate years)
Selected topics from mediaeval Hebrew texts drawn from exegetical/philosophical/ mystical/polemic/belletristic/historical literature. (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)
Examines the cultural environment for the emergence of the short story in Iran and in world literature and traces the development of the Iranian short story through 20th century examples of this literary genre in Persia. (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. (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
The first books of the Bible in translation. How the teachers of Israel defined and justified Israel's way of living (Torah), using forms of narrative and instructional literature practised throughout the ancient world. (Offered in alternate years)
The method and message of ancient Israelite prophecy, in translation, from its origin in court politics to its demise in apocalyptic writing. (Offered in alternate years)
The Wisdom books of the Bible in translation. How revolutionary thinkers of the Persian and Hellenistic periods came to challenge the optimistic and somewhat simplistic understanding of life passed on by older generations. (Offered in alternate years)
The book of Psalms and other lyric poetry in the Bible in translation. The types of psalms and their uses. (Offered in alternate years)
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 every four years)
Examines the cultural environment for the emergence of the short story in Iran and in world literature and traces the development of the Iranian short story through 20th century examples of this literary genre in English translation of the Persian. (Offered in alternate years)
Examines literature by women from the various cultures of the Middle East. Readings are selected to illustrate the theme of the search for public and personal direction through writing. Course materials are in English translation and include autobiographical as well as literary sources.
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.
A survey of prehistoric culture, concentrating on Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran, Syria-Palestine and Egypt to the end of the Early Bronze Age. The Neolithic and Urban Revolutions as social and economic developments. (Offered in alternate years)
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.
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)
A survey of archaeological investigation of sites in the Middle East from the 7th to the 19th centuries. (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. (Offered in alternate years)
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.
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 every four 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.
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. (Offered in alternate years)
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 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 transformation of ancient Persian civilization by the Islamic conquests, the "New Persian" renaissance of the 10th century and Turkish ascendancy. The Mongol invasions and successor states. Nomads and the empires of Tamerlane and the Safavids. The start of western influence in the 18th century. (Offered in alternate years)
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)
Survey of Achaemenid Persia; effects of Alexander the Great and Greek culture on the Near East. In consultation with the co-ordinator, students choose their own research topic and submit, following a directed reading program, a research paper. (Offered in alternate years)
An issue-oriented seminar organized around readings pertaining to the modern Middle East and North Africa, ca. 1800-present.
A seminar organized around readings in selected topics. The topics are related to the instructor's research interests. (Offered in alternate years)
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
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.
Concern is mainly with the sacred character of the Qur'an (Koran), its preeminence in Islam. Topics include: the idea of the sacred book, the Qur'an and the Bible, the influence of the Qur'an on Islamic spirituality, literature, theology, law, philosophy, and the various approaches taken in interpreting the Qur'an. Knowledge of Arabic is not required.
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 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 Fatimids, the Safavids, contemporary Iran, and the roles of personal sacrifice and messianism.
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 years)
Readings of selected suras from the Qur'an and passages from the Sira (Biography of the Prophet Muhammad) by Ibn Hisham. A survey of the historical and social background of these selections and an analysis of their styles.
The development of mediaeval Islamic theology (kalam) and philosophy (falsafa). The metaphysics of such philosophers as Kindi, Alfarabi and Avicenna, Ghazali's occasionalist critique of the concept of casual necessity, Averroes' Aristotelian defence of philosophy. The relationship of metaphysics to political theory in the writings of Alfarabi and his successors.
Mysticism and spirituality in Islam, the Qur'an, doctrine, prayer, Sufism, Irfan (Shi'i mysticism). Themes include: love, knowledge, authority, being, interpretation.
ART AND MATERIAL CULTURE
The art and architecture of the Islamic world from Spain to India from the Arab conquests of the 7th century to the 18th century C.E. Museum study included. (Offered in alternate 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 centres of creativity from the 7th to the 18th century C.E. Workshop sessions with Royal Ontario Museum objects. (Offered every three years)
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)
Credit course for supervised participation in faculty research project. See Research Opportunity Program 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.
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.
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