The NELC Major

The requirements for majors in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations include Basic Requirements for all NELC majors and the requirements specific to a student’s chosen concentration. NELC offers concentrations in one of five areas: 

  • Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations (ANE)

  • Arabic & Islamic Studies (Arab/Islam)

  • Arabic & Hebrew Studies - modern or medieval (Arab/Heb)

  • Hebrew & Judaica (Heb/Jud)

  • Persian Language & Literature (PLL)

All courses taken for the major must be taken for grade. They cannot be taken pass/fail.

Language Requirement: 6 c.u. 

Both basic language courses and advanced courses in literature in the original language count toward this requirement.

Breadth Requirement: 2 c.u.

NELC 0001(Ancient Middle Eastern History & Civilization) and NELC 0002 (Introduction to the Middle East) fulfill the major's breadth requirement. This requirement provides majors with an overall understanding of Near Eastern cultures which span more than four millennia, so that they are familiar with other Near East traditions in addition to the one in which they concentrate.

Electives: 6 c.u.

These will normally be content courses within the chosen concentration, but each concentration imposes certain constraints on the electives to be selected. Electives must be selected for appropriateness with the student's major Adviser
Students may count up to four courses from outside the Department (i.e., not cross-listed in NELC) towards the major electives; and up to seven courses, with the special approval of the student's Adviser. In no case may a student count more than half of the total major requirements in non-NELC courses.

Concentration Paper Requirement:

Within his or her chosen concentration, every student must write a substantial term paper in conjunction with an appropriate "upper-level" course. In all cases, these courses must be pre-designated by the student, and the paper topic must be pre-approved by the professor teaching the course. A Concentration Paper Requirement Form (available for download here), with the professor's pre-approval, must be filed with the student's record prior to the writing of the paper. Upon completion and acceptance of the concentration paper, the professor must sign the form again and return it to the Department office. Should there be a term in which no appropriate "upper-level "course is offered in the student's concentration, the Adviser may approve a reading and research course (NELC 4999) with an appropriate instructor. All concentration papers must receive a grade of A or A- in order to fulfill the requirement.

Double-majors who have placed out of elementary language courses may apply to have the major requirement reduced to 12 c.u. For further information, consult the Concentration Adviser.

Ancient Near East (ANE):

This concentration explores the cultures of the broader ancient Near East and the Nile Valley, including civilizations in ancient Mesopotamian, Egypt, Nubia, Syria, Levant, Israel, Anatolia and Persia. Students normally choose a particular culture area within the Ancient Near East but culture and history courses must include course offerings from at least two ancient civilizations. Courses in history and archaeology may include courses such as: NELC 0100 (Archaeology and the Bible); NELC 0200 (Land of the Pharaohs); NELC 0905 (Middle East and Water in History); NELC 1000 (Iraq: Ancient Cities and Empires); NELC 1010 (Early Mesopotamia); NELC 1900 (Digital Exploration of the Past); NELC 2010 (Mesopotamian Artifacts); NELC 0210 (Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt); NELC 0225 (The World of Cleopatra); NELC 1100 (History of Ancient Egypt); and NELC 4110 (Archaeology of Nubia).

Language study must include at least 6 c.u. and will depend on the student’s specialization. Language courses will normally consist of two years of Akkadian (ANEL 4000, 4100, 4250, 4300, 4350); Egyptian (ANEL 4500, 4600, 4700, 4750); Biblical Hebrew (HEBR 0150/0250 and 0350/0450) or other relevant ancient languages such as Sumerian (ANEL 4200, 4400), in combination with upper level language and text courses as determined in consultation with the Adviser. Of the 6 c.u. that count towards the language requirement, 2 c.u. may be fulfilled by appropriate courses in literature in translation such as NELC 0102 (Reading Ancient Mesopotamia) and NELC 0205 (The Literary Legacy of Ancient Egypt). Concentration paper courses should be courses above the introductory level determined in consultation with the student’s major Adviser.

Arabic & Islamic Studies (Arab/Islam):

This concentration explores Arabic culture in the context of Islamic civilization. The Arabic language requirement is 7 c.u. and may only be fulfilled with ARAB 0300 (Intermediate Arabic III) and above. In addition, the 7 c.u. in Arabic language must include three advanced readings courses such as ARAB 4040 (Readings in Qur’an and Tafsir), ARAB 4050 (Arabic Belles-Lettres), ARAB 4060 (Media Arabic), ARAB 4070 (Readings in Arabic Literature), ARAB 4080 (Introduction to Premodern Arabic Texts), or ARAB 4090 (History and Fiction in Arabic) or others chosen in consultation with the student's Advisor. Electives, to be chosen in consultation with the student’s Advisor, may be focused on either the medieval or modern period, but must include a minimum of one course each in history, literature, and religion (in the original language or translation). In general, the history requirement will be satisfied by courses such as NELC 0400 (Getting Crusaded), NELC 0600 (The Middle East through Many Lenses), NELC 0620 (Food in the Islamic Middle East: History, Memory, Identity), NELC 1600 (North Africa: History, Culture Society), NELC 1615 (Migration and the Middle East), NELC 2000 (Aleppo), NELC 2500 (The Age of Sultans: 1100-1500), or NELC 2910 (The University, the Museum, and the Middle East); the religion requirement by NELC 0500 (Introduction to the Qur’an), NELC 0505 (Introduction to Islamic Law), NELC 1605 (Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East: Historical Perspectives), or NELC 4505 (The Islamic Intellectual Tradition); and the literature requirement by NELC 0610 (Modern Middle Eastern Literature in Translation), NELC 0615 (Modern Arabic Literature), or NELC 4500 (Arabic Literature and Literary Theory).

Concentration paper courses should be in courses above the Introductory level but should be arranged with the instructor and in consultation with the student’s Advisor. Students may also fulfill the Arabic and Islamic Studies major with a concentration in Turkish language instead of Arabic. This concentration requires 6 c.u. in Turkish language (courses rostered under TURK). The electives in history, religion, and literature may, in consultation with the student’s Advisor, be chosen from among those listed for Arabic and Islamic Studies or Persian Language and Literature.


Arabic & Hebrew Studies (Arab/Heb):

This concentration explores the inter-relationships between Arabic and Hebrew cultures within the modern and/or medieval periods. The language requirement (6 c.u.) may be split between two years (4 c.u.) of one language (Arabic or Hebrew) and one year (2 c.u.) of the other. Students are encouraged, however, to study the second of the two languages for two years also, by using 2 of the elective courses for that purpose. The electives, to be chosen in conjunction with the major Adviser, as well as the concentration paper should promote the combined study of Arabic and Hebrew cultures. Examples of concentration paper courses include: NELC 0610 (Modern Middle East Literature in Translation, NELC 4500 (Arabic Literature and Literary Theory), NELC 4505 (Methods in Medieval Islamic Studies), HEBR 4300 (Studies in Modern Hebrew Literature),

Hebrew & Judaica (Heb/Jud):

This concentration explores Hebrew and Jewish literature, cultures, histories, and religion from the Hebrew Bible through modern times. It consists of 14 c.u., divided among language (6 c.u.) and elective (8 c.u.) requirements. For the language requirement, at least four of the 6 c.u are to be fulfilled with Hebrew instruction in Modern (HEBR 0100-0400) or Biblical (HEBR 0150-0450) Hebrew. Two of the 6 c.u. may be fulfilled by courses in Modern or Biblical Hebrew, advanced language study (HEBR 1000), or upper-level courses in Hebrew texts. For students placing out of lower-level Hebrew language courses, the corresponding number of c.u. is converted to electives. For all students, 3 c.u. from the electives must be upper-level courses in Hebrew texts in the original, and must be taken from three of the four areas of Hebrew Bible, Ancient (6th BCE-7th CE), Medieval-Early Modern (7th-18th Centuries), and Modern (18th-21st Centuries). It is recommended that a student take more than one text course in the area they will focus on for the concentration paper. A concentration paper must be submitted, to be determined in consultation with a student’s Major Advisor. (NOTE: For students who already have fulfilled the language requirement in Hebrew when they first matriculate at the University, the major requirement is reduced to 12 c.u.).

Persian Language & Literature (PLL):

This concentration explores Persian culture in the context of Islamic civilization. The Persian language requirement is 6 c.u. Normally this includes coursework in the sequence PERS 0100-2100 (Introductory through Advanced Persian). For students already advanced in Persian, the language requirement may be fulfilled by taking 6 c.u. in advanced readings courses, to be chosen in consultation with the student’s Adviser. Electives, to be chosen in consultation with the student’s Adviser, may be focused on either the medieval or modern period, but must include a minimum of one course each in history, literature (in the original language or translation), and religion. In general, the history requirement will be satisfied by courses such as NELC 0400 (Getting Crusaded), NELC 0620 (Food in the Islamic Middle East), NELC 1615 (Migration and the Middle East), NELC 1605 (Muslims, Christians and Jews), and NELC 1610 (Nationalism in the Middle East); the religion requirement by NELC 0500 (Introduction to the Quran), NELC 0505 (Introduction to Islamic Law), or NELC 4505 (Islamic Intellectual Tradition); and the literature requirement by NELC 0700 (Iranian Cinema: Gender, Politics and Religion); NELC 1700 (Introduction to the Persian Poetic Tradition); NELC 1705 (Media and Culture in Contemporary Iran); and NELC 1710 (Modern Iran and the West through Fiction). Concentration paper courses should be in courses above the introductory level and must be arranged with the instructor and in consultation with the student’s Adviser.

Talented students may wish to consider entering NELC’s Honors Program.  Students must consult with the Adviser in their concentration about admission to NELC's Honors Program. A student's overall GPA as well as the student's major GPA will be taken into consideration in awarding Honors. A student admitted into the Department's Honors Program will be required to take an additional 2 c.u. in the student's senior year: one course in guided research (NELC 4995) and one course in independent study (NELC 4999), culminating in the writing of an honors thesis. The thesis must earn a grade of A or A- and will be in lieu of the Concentration Paper requirement.

NELC welcomes and encourages students majoring in other departments to opt for a second major in NELC.  Prospective double-majors should consult the relevant Concentration Adviser for help in arranging their program and for coordinating the two majors. 

Students with language proficiency in Hebrew or Arabic may petition to reduce the second major requirement to a minimum of 12 c.u. Note that theses in other majors may not be substituted for NELC’s concentration paper requirement.

An especially talented undergraduate student may wish to undertake an intensified major program leading to the awarding of both the B.A. and M.A. degrees. Such a program of study must be approved by the undergraduate adviser, the undergraduate chair, and the Dean of the student's undergraduate school. This process is known as “submatriculation”.

Undergraduate majors in NELC who wish to submatriculate into the NELC Graduate Group may apply to the Graduate Group at pre-registration time in the second semester of the junior year. If there is a question about the student's standing, the faculty may choose to wait until the semester's grades are in before making a final decision. Only graduate courses taken in the senior year will count for both graduate and undergraduate credit. The student must fulfill the graduate requirements in a course and receive a grade of A before that course can be considered for double credit. Courses required for fulfillment of the undergraduate major cannot be counted for graduate credit. Undergraduates who wish to sub-matriculate are required to pursue the Honors Program Major (a total of 16 c.u.) in addition to fulfilling all of the graduate program requirements. Students who sub-matriculate can usually complete the M.A. degree in one year after receiving the B.A. degree.