Fields of Study

Ancient Programs

Ancient Near Eastern History offers an interdisciplinary program combining a broad view of Near Eastern history in pre-Islamic times with specialized knowledge of at least one major sub-region (e.g., Babylonia, Iran, Hatti, Egypt, or Syria-Palestine) or field (e.g., Late Bronze trade, early empires). Knowledge of two ancient languages (major and minor), Near Eastern archaeology, historiography, and historical method is required.

Comparative Semitics students are expected to achieve a Ph.D. level of competence in one of the five major Semitic languages (Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Classical Ethiopic), M.A. level competence in another, and cover the basics of the remaining languages (about a year of coursework each). In addition, students will study the basic principles of Historical Linguistics and other philological or linguistic methodologies of their interest.

Cuneiform Studies offers programs in three subfields: Assyriology, Hittitology, and Sumerology. All three programs require an advanced knowledge of the major language, and the relevant history and archaeology. In addition, Assyriology requires competence in Sumerian; Hittitology requires competence in Akkadian as well as in the smaller Anatolian languages; and Sumerology requires a thorough background in Akkadian.

Egyptology students are expected to demonstrate competence in all stages of the Egyptian language, in Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern History, in Egyptian archaeology, and in a second ancient or related language.

Near Eastern Art and Archaeology offers programs in the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East and in the Archaeology of the Islamic Middle East. Students in the ancient program receive a broad training in Near Eastern archaeology and also specialize in a particular region: Anatolia, Egypt, Iran, Mesopotamia, or the Levant (Syria-Palestine).

Near Eastern Judaica covers a wide range of disciplines, including Modern Hebrew Studies. Hebrew Studies and Near Eastern Judaica deal with various aspects of ancient Israelite, as well as Jewish history and literature. The main branches are: Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic literature and philology, and Jewish history. A good knowledge of the relevant period of Hebrew is required for all programs, Arabic for the Medieval period, and Aramaic for periods where it is pertinent.

Northwest Semitic Philology includes primarily the linguistic philological study of Hebrew, Phoenician-Punic, Ugaritic, and Aramaic (including Syriac); one of these languages is taken as a major concentration, and the others as minor concentrations.

Medieval & Modern Programs

In the modern area there are eight principal fields of concentration, six dealing with the Islamic World and two in Modern Hebrew Studies. Each requires a major language concentration in Arabic, Persian, Turkish or Hebrew, a second-year competence in a second language of importance in the field, and a thorough grounding in Islamic and/or Jewish civilization. Each student in an area will select a major field in that area, and two minor fields relevant to the student's program. At least one of the minors must be in a different discipline (i.e., history, literature, thought, linguistics, art/archaeology) from the major.

Arabic Language and Literature aims at a solid grounding in all aspects of Classical and Modern Arabic language and literature; familiarity with the major periods and genres of Arabic literature; and a second-year competence in another Islamic language, such as Persian, Turkish, or Urdu. Possible major fields of study are: Classical Arabic Poetry, Prose, Literary Criticism - of any of the following broad periods/areas: pre-Islamic, early Islamic, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Mamluk, Andalusian, South Asian.

Islamic Archaeology covers the material culture of the Middle East from the 7th century until the modern period. The program requires a solid grounding in archaeological method and theory, the history and civilization of the Middle East, and regional languages. The field is usually taken in connection with Near Eastern Archaeology or Islamic History.

Islamic History and Civilization requires a major language concentration in the language most relevant to the major field of study. In addition, second-year level competence is required in a second language of importance in Islamic history. Possible major fields of study are: Early Islamic History, Medieval Islamic History, Ottoman History, Modern Middle Eastern History, Iranian History. Islamic Art and Archaeology is a possible minor field.

Islamic Thought requires a major language concentration in Arabic and a second-year competence in a second language with important documents relating to Islamic thought. Possible major fields of study are: Islamic Theology, Sectarianism and Heresiography, Early Islamic Intellectual History, Islamic Political Thought, Qur'anic and Exegetical Studies, Classical Arabic Prose and Islamic Thought, Islamic Civilization in the 4th/10th century.

Modern Hebrew Language and Literature require a thorough knowledge of classical and modern Hebrew language and literature, and a solid grounding in at least one earlier period of Hebrew. Competence in another principal language and in the history and culture of the principal area of concentration must be demonstrated.

Persian Language and Literature aims at a solid grounding in Persian language, and its literature, from the tenth to the twenty-first centuries. The second Middle Eastern language will be Arabic, Armenian, Turkic, or Hebrew.  Possible major fields of study are: Persian Language, Classical Persian Literature, Modern Persian Literature and Cinema, Comparative Literature, Sufism.

Ottoman and Turkish Studies requires thorough training in both Ottoman and Modern Turkish, in addition to the second Islamic language. Possible major fields of study are:  Ottoman and Modern Turkish History, Ottoman Language and Literature, Modern Turkish Language, Turkic Linguistics.

Interdisciplinary Programs

Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East - The function of the program entitled Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East is to allow for a basic Northwest Semitic Philology program with emphasis on the Hebrew Bible to be joined either with another field within NELC (e.g., Egyptology, Assyriology) or with training in biblical criticism and exegesis in the Divinity School.

Joint Program with Linguistics - There exists a formal joint program with the Department of Linguistics in which students complete all the requirements for both degrees. Students initially apply to only one of the departments and must complete the six foundational courses in Linguistics before formally applying for admission into the joint program. Students who originate their studies in NELC do their major language concentration in a NELC language.