NEAR E 101 A: Gateway to the Near East

Autumn 2022
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm / KNE 210
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

The Near East is often defined as the “Cradle of Civilization.” The term refers to a region of the world where agriculture, trade, and writing first came into existence. This course offers a broad introduction to the peoples and cultures of the Near East that have had a profound influence on world civilizations.

The Introduction to Near and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures is a Gateway lecture course that describes the development of Near Eastern and Middle Eastern civilization from its ancient origins in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia and Central Asia, until the present day. Co-taught by faculty from the NELC Department, this course invites students into the world's earliest civilizations, the diversity of its peoples, and their contributions to contemporary society.

Each professor teaching the course will examine various cultural communities and momentous historical events in the Near East, but all will focus on common questions and themes. Main questions include:

  • What is the “past”? We will examine archaeological, visual, textual, and material evidence, and how these sources have been used to understand the past.
  • What is the Near East? What is the Middle East? How do we divide history into regions? What is spatial understanding and what are its consequences?
  • Which forms of religious and philosophical expression have distinguished Near Eastern cultures from other zones of culture?
  • What are the linguistic, religious, and cultural factors that contribute to the formation of communities and communal identities?
  • What are the diverse artistic and cultural components of life in the Near East?
  • How have science and technology developed and what has been their expanding impact on thought, social and economic institutions, and everyday life?
  • What has been the role of Near Eastern cultures in world history?

While engaging these questions, we will first introduce students to spatial and temporal thinking and formulations of the Near and Middle East, and introduce them to major language families through ancient and modern literary texts in translation. We also will introduce a broad periodization for Near Eastern history.

GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
May 23, 2024 - 2:34 am