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Selected Courses

Below are short descriptions and links to selected courses:

RELIGION 150/MES 160: INTRODUCTION TO SACRED TEXTS

This course is an introduction to the life of oral and written sacred traditions in Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in various periods. We will explore sacred texts in translation and investigate their origins, their transmission, and the processes by which they became authoritative for their communities. We will study ways the texts were interpreted in the past as well as how they are used and understood today. We will delve into the sights, sounds, feel, and in some cases, the tastes of some of the world's most sacred texts.

MES 200 INTERPRETING THE MIDDLE EAST

This course is primarily intended for majors and any other students who wish to deepen their knowledge of the Middle East and learn ways to analyze historical, literary and ethnographic materials from the region. We will explore such themes as the relationship between literature, religion and the formation of communal identities, the development and relationship between “center” and “periphery” in Middle Eastern thought, the development of the “East-West” dichotomy and discourse, Nationalism, and Modernism. Pre-requisite: MES 100 or the consent of the instructor.

MESAS 210-000 THE ARAB WORLD

The Arab World, is an introduction to the history, culture and society of the Arabs from the earliest recorded periods to the modern age. The rapid rise of Islamic civilization at the end of the ancient world is one of the major events in world religious and political history. It brought Arabs fully into contact with the declining ancient civilizations and helped transform Arabs into leading world actors. Historians have debated the rapid rise of Islam and its successful overtaking of major portions of the empires that formed the ancient world. In a little over a century, Muslims spread their religious and political culture to cover the area from the Pillars of Hercules to the Indian Sub-Continent, and soon well beyond that. In this course, we will explore the theories that have been advanced for this expansion as well as the historical events themselves. We will look at how Arabs developed cultural and political institutions within the context of the Islamicate world and, toward the end of the course, how ideas of modernism and nationalism brought Arabs into the contemporary world. We will look at primary as well as secondary sources to understand this fascinating period in world civilization.

MESAS 316/REL 316 EARLY AND MEDIEVAL ISLAM

Early and Medieval Islam MES 316/REL 316 Early and Medieval Islam is an introduction to the civilization surrounding the religion of Islam from its beginnings to the near modern period. The course will be historical in frame and discuss religious phenomenology within that perspective.

MESAS 570R HOW TO TEACH ISLAM

This course is designed for graduate students who wish to learn about Islamic civilizations in their historical contexts as a basis for further study of Islam, for comparative purposes, and in particular to become prepared to offer undergraduate lectures on Islam or to offer an undergraduate survey course on the history of Islamic civilizations. By the end of the course, each student will be familiar with the origins and development of Islam, its spread worldwide, and the major methodological and historiographic issues involved in studying Islam in a historical and geographic context. For each topic and period, students will receive a general overview of the topic, read primary and secondary texts related to the period, and discuss the issues in a seminar setting. In addition, each student will have an opportunity to present an in-depth analysis of one or more topics during the course of the semester. Each presenter or team of presenters will prepare an oral presentation for the seminar discussion of an assigned topic (for examples of weekly assignments, see attached samples). They will also prepare a final written version of their material in the form of a lesson plan to be distributed to all members of the seminar. All students will also be involved in preparing an annotated bibliography that will be available to each seminar member. At the end of the course, each student will have a file of lesson plans, an annotated bibliography, and will have read relevant primary and secondary texts on the major phases of Islamic civilizations.

RLHT 736: FROM CONSTANTINE TO NAPOLEON

This course is intended for graduate students who wish to learn about the East Mediterranean area from the end of the ancient world to pre-modern times. The focus of the course will be to prepare students to teach undergraduate courses in this area and time-period. Students will read primary historical, religious, and cultural texts in translation, secondary texts, and texts relating to the theories and practices of civilizational studies. Religion as a force for social transformation will be a major area of examination, and the interactive roles of varieties of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the formation of “Western” culture will be explored.

RLAR 738; HIST 585: THE RISE OF ISLAM IN THE NEAR EAST

The period of the rise of Islam is one of the most exciting and misunderstood periods in Western history. Not only do we see the creation over time of a new religious tradition, but we also see the solidification of trends from the ancient Near East that form the bases of the culture we live in today. While this course will not primarily be concerned with present Near Eastern issues, many of the problems that we see in today’s news will be better understood from the perspective of this period. This course is intended for graduate students who wish to explore the relationship of the rise of Islam and its Near Eastern cultural and religious antecedents. Students will read primary historical, religious, and cultural texts in translation, secondary texts, and texts relating to the theories and practices of civilizational studies. Religion as a force for social transformation will be a major area of examination, and the interactive roles of varieties of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the formation of “Western” culture will be explored.