HUM 247 / NES 247
Near Eastern Humanities I: From Antiquity to Islam
This course focuses on the Near East from antiquity to the early centuries of Islam. It introduces some of the most important works of literature, politics, ethics, aesthetics, religion, and science which emerged from this pivotal period of history.
Often, the cultural contributions of the Near East are viewed through a western lens, that is to say, in terms of the ‘contribution’ made by Near Eastern cultures to those that flourished in other parts of the world, particularly Europe. Those contributions were, indeed, immense and long lasting (just to quote an example: we still divide time into 60 seconds and 60 minutes because of the work that ancient Babylonian astronomers carried out): this course focuses on the original context from which they emanated.
We ask how, why, and to what ends the Near East sustained such a long period of high humanistic achievement, from Pharaonic Egypt to Islamic Iran, which in turn formed the basis of the high culture of the following millennium.
Religious Texts: Enuma Elish, Hebrew Bible, Avesta, New Testament, Babylonian Talmud, Qurʾan
Visual Art and Material Culture: Pharaonic sculpture, Mesopotamian stele, Jewish magic bowls, Arabic rock inscriptions, Umayyad palace at Qusayr `Amra
Literature: Epic of Gilgamesh, Tale of Khusraw and the Page, War Songs of `Antara bin Shaddad, al-Jahiz’s In Praise of Books
Scientific and Philosophical Texts: Babylonian Astronomical Diaries, Enneads of Plotinus, Book of Thousands of Abu Ma`shar
Historical Texts: Behistun inscription of Darius I, Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, Letters of the Umayyad Caliphs, History of the Prophets and Kings of al-Tabari
View this course on the Registrar’s website.
HUM 248 / NES 248
Near Eastern Humanities II: Medieval to Modern Thought and Culture
This course introduces students to Near Eastern societies and cultures over the last one thousand years. Students will gain an understanding of the historical and political changes that took place in a region that stretches from Andalusia to the Indus valley, from a few centuries after the rise of Islam up to the modern age. We will explore the diverse religious, ethnic, linguistic and ultimately national communities that lived and continue to live in this region. Reading translations of works written originally in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew, students will gain an appreciation of the vastness, interconnectedness, and complexity of the humanistic production of the region.
Al-Ghazali, Path to Sufism
Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Battuta
Tayyeb Saleh, Season of Migration to the North
The Book of Dede Korkut
Mustafa Ali, The Ottoman Gentleman of the Sixteenth Century: Mustafa Ali’s Tables of Delicacies Concerning the Rules of Social Gatherings
Ahmet Karamustafa, “Sarı Saltık Becomes a Friend of God,” in Tales of God’s Friends: Islamic Hagiography in Translation
Visit this course on the Registrar’s website.
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