Courses of Study 2018-2019 
    May 18, 2024  
Courses of Study 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Near Eastern Studies

In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  

The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers courses in the history, culture, archaeology, religion, languages and literature of the Near/Middle East, a region that has had an important impact on the development of human history and plays a vital role in today’s world community. Encompassing the Near East from ancient times to the modern period, the department’s course offerings encourage  students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the cultures of this region and emphasize methods of historical and literary analysis.



Z. Fahmy (chair); B. Al-Omar, R. Barakat, R. Brann, Z. Fahmy, I. Gocheleishvili, S. Golestaneh, K. Haines-Eitzen, L. Khatchadourian, C. Monroe, L. Monroe (director of graduate studies), B. Ozer Griffin, D. Powers, A. Rock-Singer, N. Scharf, S. Shoer, D. Starr(director of undergraduate studies) , J. Tenney, P. Vaziri, M. Weatherspoon, M. Younes, J. Zorn. Joint faculty: J. Boyarin (director of Jewish Studies Program), C. Robinson. Emeritus: D.I. Owen

The Major:

A major in Near Eastern Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the languages, literatures, cultures, religions, and history of the Near East/Middle East from antiquity to the modern day. The major is designed both to acquaint students broadly with the region and its cultures as well as to study a particular subfield in depth.


  • The applicant for admission to the major in Near Eastern Studies (NES) must have completed at least two Near Eastern Studies content courses, one of which can be a language course. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in language courses and/or NES 2676  or NES 2754  either before signing into the major or early on in their major.
  • Prospective majors must meet with the director of undergraduate studies before submitting a major application.
  • To qualify as a major, a cumulative grade average of C or better is required.

Major Requirements:

The precise sequence and combination of courses chosen to fulfill the major is selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. All majors must satisfy the following requirements. In addition to the language requirement, eight courses are required to complete the major. All courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade and students must receive a grade of C or better in order for it to count toward the major. No course may be used to satisfy two requirements.

1. Two years of one Near Eastern language or, in exceptional cases, one year of two Near Eastern languages:

3. Seven additional courses, of which:

three must fulfill temporal breadth, defined as: one course whose chronological parameters fall within the period 3000 BCE to 600 CE, one course whose chronological parameters fall within the period 600 CE to 1800 CE, and one course whose chronological parameters fall between 1800 CE and the present. The following are examples:

A maximum of three of these seven courses can be at the 2000-level:

a minimum of four must be at the 3000-level or above.

One of the 3000-level or above courses must be a research seminar (these courses are coded with “RS” found at the end of the course description):

The following are examples:


a maximum of two independent studies can be applied to the major; a maximum of two non-cross-listed courses may be applied to the major; a maximum of two courses may receive credit for more than one major; a maximum of 15 credits of relevant, departmentally approved course work taken overseas or at another university may be applied to the major.

Additional Information:

Honors. The Honors Program is open to NES majors who have done superior work and who wish to devote a substantial part of their senior year to advanced, specialized, independent research and writing of a thesis.

Note well: Successfully completing an honors thesis will require sustained interest, exceptional ability, diligence, and enthusiasm. Students must also take two honors courses (NES 4998  in fall and NES 4999  in spring), in addition to the regular major requirements. While admission to the Honors Program and completion of a thesis do not guarantee that students will be awarded honors in Near Eastern Studies, most students find the experience as intellectually rewarding as it is rigorous.

Requirements. In order to be considered for the Honors Program, candidates must fulfill all of the following requirements:

  • Minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the Near Eastern Studies major;
  • Superior performance overall at Cornell (minimum 3.3 GPA);
  • Completion of at least four semesters or equivalent in a relevant Near Eastern language;
  • Satisfactory completion of an NES research paper (“RS” course);
  • Completion of at least one course in the subfield relevant to the proposed thesis (e.g., early Islamic history, modern Hebrew literature);
  • Prospective honors students are strongly encouraged to take NES 4560  (NES Proseminar) in their junior year.

Study abroad. Students are encouraged to consult with their advisor about options and eligibility to study abroad. With appropriate advance consultation and approval upon return, NES will accept credits earned abroad toward the major. Students are reminded that the College of Arts and Sciences requires that they carry a minimum of 15 credits during a semester abroad.

The Near Eastern Studies Minor:

Undergraduates with an interest in the history, societies, cultures, and religions of the Near East are invited to complete a minor in Near Eastern Studies by taking five courses (minimum of 15 credits), subject to the following conditions:

  • At least three courses should be at the 3000 level or above.
  • Two languages courses at the 2000 or 3000 level may count towards the minor.
  • Three (or more) courses will explore the history, archaeology, literature, or religions of the Near East. Students may choose to focus on one of these disciplines or on the ancient, late antique, medieval, or modern periods across the disciplines.

Please Note: No more than one independent study, one non-NES cross-listed course, and one departmentally approved course taken overseas or at another university may be applied toward the minor.

Students interested in the NES Minor should consult the NES Director of Undergraduate Studies. Minors will remain in conversation regarding their course of study with the DUS or be assigned to a member of the NES faculty who will serve as their minor advisor.

The Arabic Minor:

The undergraduate minor in Arabic is intended for students who wish to gain a broad understanding of the culture, literature, and society of Arabic-speaking countries while refining their language competence. Students can add this to their resume under professional qualifications.

The prerequisite for the minor is fulfilling the College of Arts and Sciences language requirement. This may be fulfilled using one of two options or by proving native speaker proficiency. Please indicate how the prerequisite was fulfilled.

Option 1 is passing (a): a non-introductory Arabic language course of 3 or more credits at Cornell at the 2000-level or above or (b): any other non-introductory course at the 2000-level or above conducted in Arabic at Cornell. Note: Fulfills the A&S language requirement: Option 1.

Option 2 is completing the first three courses of the Arabic language sequence. Note: Fulfills the A&S language requirement: Option 2.

To complete the minor and beyond the pre-requisite, a student must pass five Arabic courses with a minimum grade of C. These five courses include ARAB 2202 - Intermediate Arabic II , ARAB 3201 - Advanced Arabic I , ARAB 3202 - Advanced Arabic II , and two electives, one from Group A and one from Group B.

Group A (taught entirely in Arabic)

Group B (text in Arabic, taught in English)

Please note: Students must receive a minimum grade of C or equivalent in order for the course to count towards the minor.

Students interested in the Arabic minor should contact Munther Younes,

First-Year Writing Seminars:

Consult the John S. Knight Institute website for descriptions, times, and instructors.