MELC 101 A: Gateway to the Middle East

Autumn 2023
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm / ECE 105
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Complete draft syllabus, including policies and rough course schedule: SYLLABUS MELC 101 Gateway to the Middle East 2023-3.docx


The Middle 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 Middle East that have had a profound influence on world civilizations.

The Gateway to the Middle East lecture course describes the development of Middle Eastern civilization from its ancient origins in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia and Central Asia, until the present day. Co-taught by faculty from the MELC 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 Middle 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 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 Middle 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 Middle 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 Middle Eastern cultures in world history?

While engaging these questions, we will first introduce students to spatial and temporal thinking and formulations of the 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 Middle Eastern history.

Catalog Description:
Provides general introduction to the peoples, cultures, and languages of the Middle East, both past and present. No previous knowledge of the Middle East required.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
May 17, 2024 - 2:36 am