Harvard's Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

On the nomenclature level, this is on the order of "East Asian Languages and Civilizations." - should expect this to have strong History components.


Analysis of the courses offered:


  Courses Comments
Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations    
Near Eastern Civilizations 6  
The Middle East in Antiquity    
Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies 18  
Armenian Studies 4  
Early Iranian Civilizations 1  
Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies    
Islamic Civilizations 20  
Jewish Studies    
Jewish Studies 13  
Modern Middle Eastern Studies    
The Modern Middle East 12  
Near and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures    
Akkadian 11  
Arabic 25  
Aramaic 4  
Armenian 5  
Egyptian 5  
Hebrew (Classical and Modern)    
Hebrew Language - Classical Hebrew 6  
Hebrew Langauge - Modern Hebrew 6  
Hebrew Literature and History 14  
Iranian 3  
Persian 9  
Semitic Philology 5  
Sumerian 9  
Turkish (Ottoman and Modern) 14  
Yiddish 8  
Total 198  

1. This is somewhat interesting - first thing is that the catalog categories often don't have any courses attached to it - presumably these are broader headings - but not always clear about the levels involved.


2. Compared with the "East Asian Languages and Civilization" Department, this has even more courses. But beyond this, what is also of note is that language courses have a bigger portion here - 12-13 or more languages presented here, depends on how you count things.


3. I was initially surprised by how much Jewish / Hebrew related courses are here - clearly something I do not count so much in my World Canonical Text listings - but given the specific prominence of Jews in the US, maybe it is somewhat understandable.


4. The flip side to this is the relative minor emphasis on Islamic-related courses and languages - not that they are not important (if you count the Islamic Civilization, Modern Middle East, plus Arabic, Persian, Turkish, there are 80 courses altogether) - but still feels the attention is quite diverted towards Jewish studies and ancient near east, tjhe latter attention probably caused by the West's conception of ancient near east as the foundation upon which "classical" greek (and thus roman) civilizations built themselves. The bias is also clear in the utmost neglect (though still listed as a sub-category) of ancient Iranian civilization.


5. Versus the "East Asian" department, the importance of History is less clear from the headings of the courses. Instead, scanning through the course catalog headings, besides history, terms such as religions, Bible, archaeology, Islamic Philosophy / Theology, Politics, Law, Satanic Verses, Literature, etc. comes up. Also, some regions such as Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia also shows up.


6. What are the authors' / works' names that showed up? Besides Bible / Scriptures / Dead Sea Scrolls, etc, I find: Armenian Epic (The Wild Men of Sasun), Josephus, Rumi's Masnavi. This is so much unlike a department such as "English" or "The Classics," again, more like "East Asian Languages and Civilizations" - in that when the courses are about Western tradition, texts tended to be studied microscopically; while it is about non-western traditions, the ground to cover is so broad that it is hard to squeeze in courses to talk about specific texts, unless where there would be wide enough interests to justify.


7. "Fields of Study

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) offers PhD and AM degrees in three distinct fields:

  1. Ancient Near Eastern Studies, whose subfields include:
    1. Akkadian and Sumerian Studies
    2. Archaeology of the Levant
    3. Armenian Studies
    4. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
    5. Egyptology
  2. Jewish History and Culture, whose subfields include:
    1. the Hebrew Bible in its Jewish Interpretive Context
    2. Jewish History and Culture of Antiquity
    3. Medieval Jewish History and Culture
    4. Modern Jewish History and Culture
    5. Modern Jewish Literatures
  3. Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies, whose sub-fields include:
    1. Arabic language and literature
    2. Islamic religion and culture
    3. Islamic intellectual history (especially philosophy and theology)
    4. Islamic institutional history
    5. Islamic law
    6. Modern Arabic literature and culture
    7. Indo-Muslim Culture: The Study of Muslim Societies in South Asia
    8. Islam in Africa


In addition, students may apply for a fourth comparative or diachronic field that will draw on the strengths of the faculty across the boundaries presupposed by the fields outlined above. Examples might include comparative Semitic linguistics; Jewish and Islamic law or scriptural interpretation; the intersection of Jewish and/or Arabic cultures with the Iranian/Zoroastrian world."

In this description, not only languages, literatures and histories and cultures (as is in East Asian department), but also, especially in the Islamic context, religion, intellectual history (philsophy, theology), and law.   


8. Language requirement for PhD in this department is also interesting. Needs two departmental languages (that is, out of the 13 or so above), plus two modern research languages besides English, of which one must be French or German.

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