Near Eastern Languages and Literatures

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The Near Eastern Languages and Literatures major offers study in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and the ancient Egyptian language. The major introduces students to the peoples, cultures, and histories of the Middle East. Language courses are designed to enhance the student's command of reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension as well as provide students with specialized language skills and expertise that are vital for the global economy. They are often essential preparation for graduate programs too. Students in this major may choose one of the following emphases:

  • An emphasis in a modern language: Arabic, Hebrew, or Persian
  • An emphasis in an ancient language: Egyptology

The department offers modern language instruction at elementary to advanced levels in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish (minor only). Instructors are trained in contemporary teaching methods, using the latest classroom technologies and a range of multi-media tools to provide engaging and exciting classroom instruction. The major is intended to help students prepare for travel abroad or for a career that requires language fluency. A major in the Near Eastern languages allow students to be part of a close-knit group of language enthusiasts and ensures that each student will receive the best training for their future goals. The major prepares students for professions in foreign service, political and international affairs, comparative studies, translation services, teaching and research, and for further study in graduate programs.

For specific information regarding degree requirements for each emphasis, please see the Major Requirements tab on this page. Please note the Egyptology major is currently under review for updates and revisions. For more information about Egyptology major requirements, please contact the undergraduate major advisor. 

Declaring the Major

Students are recommended to declare the major early in their academic careers. Near Eastern Studies 10 is a required lower division course, which may be taken after declaring the major. Students should consult with the undergraduate student advisor regarding major requirements, transfer credits, study abroad plans, and the opportunity to combine two disciplines through a double major study.  

Honors Program

Students in any of the Near Eastern Studies majors, with an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or higher and a GPA of 3.51 or higher in courses completed in the major, may apply for admission to the honors program in their senior year. Students must maintain the required GPA in the major in order to remain eligible for the honors program. 

In addition to the GPA requirement, students must submit an honors thesis of at least 20 double-spaced, typewritten pages in their senior year. Students are required to enroll in an Independent Study course (NES 199) in the fall semester and the honors course (NE STUD H195) in the spring semester of their senior year in order to receive credit for the thesis. The honors thesis must be read and evaluated by a two-member committee consisting of a department faculty thesis supervisor and another member of the faculty. The thesis must be deemed to be of at least B+ quality in order to qualify the candidate for graduation with a degree of honors. Students may also receive distinctions of "high honors" or "highest honors" for outstanding thesis papers. 

Minor Program

The Near Eastern Studies Department also offers programs leading to a minor in modern Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, or Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Civilizations. 

Other Majors and Minors Offered by the Department of Near Eastern Studies

Ancient Egyptian Near Eastern Art and Archaeology (Major)
Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Civilizations (Major)  
Near Eastern Languages and Literatures (Major)
Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Civilizations (Minor)
Arabic (Minor)
Hebrew (Minor)
Persian (Minor)
Turkish (Minor)

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

The Near Eastern Languages and Literatures consist of majors in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Egyptology. The department highly recommends students to begin the study of these languages in their first year and to declare the major as soon as they begin their study. In addition to the lower division language requirements, NE STUD 10 is a required course for the major and must be taken for a letter grade.

Please note the Egyptology major is currently under review for updates and revisions. For more information about the Egyptology major requirements, please contact the undergraduate major advisor. 

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to satisfy major requirements must be taken for a letter grade and be at least 3 units.
  2. Students pursuing a double major may overlap two courses to meet both major requirements. Students can also overlap one course to satisfy a major and minor requirement.  
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required to declare the major and must be maintained in both lower and upper division courses used to satisfy major requirements. 
  4. With the prior consent of the faculty major advisor, students may take courses across various disciplines to satisfy the culture and history course requirements.

Arabic Emphasis

Lower Division Requirements
Introduction to the Near East [4]
Elementary Arabic [5]
Elementary Arabic [5]
Intermediate Arabic [5]
Intermediate Arabic [5]
Students may be able to satisfy the lower division requirements by completing the Arabic 10 course (Elementary Intensive Arabic) and the Arabic 30 course (Intermediate Intensive Arabic) offered during the summer term.
Upper Division Requirements
Arabic Literature Courses
ARABIC 100AAdvanced Arabic3
ARABIC 100BAdvanced Arabic3
Select three of the following:9
Modern Arabic Prose [3]
Classical Arabic Prose [3]
Modern Arabic Poetry [3]
Classical Arabic Poetry [3]
Arabic Historical and Geographical Texts [3]
Islamic Religious and Philosophical Texts in Arabic [3]
Survey of Arabic Literature (in Arabic) [3]
Survey of Arabic Literature (in Arabic) [3]
Colloquial Arabic [4]
Colloquial Arabic [4]
Arabic Culture and History Courses
Select four courses from the following. Students may also select relevant courses from other departments. All courses for the major must be approved by the faculty major adviser. 12
Mesopotamian History [3]
Silk Road Art and Archaeology [3]
Topics in Islamic Art [4]
Topics in Islamic Art [4]
Topics in Islamic Thought and Institutions [3]
Shi'ite Islam [3]
Sufism: The Mysticism of Islam [3]
Islam [4]
The Rise of Islamic Civilization [4]
Arabic Literature in Translation [3]
Arabic Literature in Translation [3]
Cultural Encounters in Modern Arabic Literature [3]
Synagogues, Cathedrals, and Mosques: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain [4]
Wonder and the Fantastic: The Thousand and One Nights in World Literary Imagination [3]
Sociolinguistics of the Greater Middle East [4]
Islamic History and Historiography (600-1050) [3]
The Quran and Its Interpretation [4]
Special Topics in Fields of Near Eastern Studies: Arabic [4] (when relevant)
Total Upper Division Units
Total Units27

Hebrew Emphasis

Lower Division Requirements
Introduction to the Near East [4]
Elementary Hebrew [5]
Elementary Hebrew [5]
Intermediate Hebrew [5]
Intermediate Hebrew [5]
Upper Division Requirements
HEBREW 100AAdvanced Hebrew3
HEBREW 100BAdvanced Hebrew3
Hebrew Literature Courses
Select two of the following:6
Modern Hebrew Literature and Culture [3]
Modern Hebrew Literature and Culture [3]
The Structure of Modern Hebrew [3]
The Structure of Modern Hebrew [3]
Elementary Biblical Hebrew [3]
Elementary Biblical Hebrew [3]
Biblical Hebrew Texts [3]
Biblical Hebrew Texts [3]
Hebrew Culture and History Courses
Select four courses from the following. Students may also select relevant courses from other departments. All courses for the major must be approved by the faculty major adviser. 12-16
Literature and History in the Hebrew Bible [4]
History and Historiography in the Hebrew Bible [3]
Special Topics in Fields of Near Eastern Studies: Jewish Studies [4]
Introduction to Jewish Religion, Culture, and People [4]
Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Jewish Folklore [3]
Topics in Jewish Arts and Culture [4]
Topics in Judaism [3-4]
Israeli Society: Social Structure, Inequality, and Political Cleavages [3]
Total Upper Division Units
Total Units24-28

Persian Emphasis 

Lower Division Requirements
Introduction to the Near East [4] 1
Select either the Elementary or Heritage Speaking Series
Elementary Modern Persian
and Elementary Modern Persian
Reading and Composition for Persian Speaking Students
and Reading and Composition for Persian-Speaking Students
Intermediate Modern Persian [5]
Intermediate Modern Persian [5]
Upper Division Requirements
PERSIAN 100AAdvanced Persian3
PERSIAN 100BAdvanced Persian3
Persian Literature Courses
Select three courses from the following. 9
Readings in Classical Persian Prose [3]
Readings in Classical Persian Prose [3]
Classical Persian Poetry [3]
Classical Persian Poetry [3]
Contemporary Persian Literature [3]
Contemporary Persian Literature [3]
Modern Analytical Prose in Persian [3]
Persian Culture and History Courses
Select three from the following. Student may select relevant courses from other departments. All courses for the major must be approved by the faculty major adviser. 9-12
Silk Road Art and Archaeology [3]
Arts of Iran and Central Asia [4]
Shi'ite Islam [3]
Sufism: The Mysticism of Islam [3]
Islam [4]
The Rise of Islamic Civilization [4]
Synagogues, Cathedrals, and Mosques: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain [4]
Sociolinguistics of the Greater Middle East [4]
Religions of Ancient Iran [3]
Art and Culture of the Persian World [4]
History of Persian Literature [4]
History of Persian Literature [4]
Film and Fiction of Iran [4]
History and Culture of Afghanistan [3]
The Quran and Its Interpretation [4]
Special Topics in Fields of Near Eastern Studies: Iranian/Persian [4]
Total Upper Division Units
Total Units24-27

Egyptology Emphasis

Lower Division Requirements
Please note the Egyptology major is currently under review for updates and revisions. For more information about the Egyptology major requirements, please contact the undergraduate major adviser.
Introduction to the Near East [4]
Introduction to Ancient Egypt [4]
Upper Division Requirements
The major requires 8 upper division courses.
Elementary Egyptian [5]
Elementary Egyptian [5]
Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt [4]
Religion of Ancient Egypt [3]
Digital Humanities and Egyptology [4]
Survey of Ancient Egyptian History [4]
Early Egypt: From Village to Pyramid [4]
Ancient Egypt: Power, Glory and Empire in the Second Millennium [4]
Magic, Religion, and Science: The Ancient and Medieval Worlds [4]
Special Topics in Fields of Near Eastern Studies: Ancient Near Eastern Studies [4]
Special Topics in Fields of Near Eastern Studies: Egyptian Studies [4]

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Proficiency in speaking, listening, and writing in the designated language.
  2. Knowledge of the major literary genres and corpora relevant to the designated language.
  3. Knowledge of the main historical and cultural periods and geographies relevant to the designated language.
  4. Familiarity with the entire area of the Near/Middle East from ancient to modern times.
  5. Awareness of the importance of the Near/Middle East in today’s global society.
  6. The ability to formulate a well-organized argument supported by evidence.
  7. The ability to critically read and analyze scholarship in the field.
  8. The ability to write and to communicate orally.

Courses

Near Eastern Languages and Literatures

Faculty and Instructors

Faculty

Wali Ahmadi, Associate Professor. Persian languages, Persian literature.
Research Profile

Asad Ahmed, Associate Professor. Islam (social and intellectual history).
Research Profile

Daniel Boyarin, Professor. Talmud, rhetoric, Christianity, genealogy of, invention of Judaism.
Research Profile

Ahmad Diab, Assistant Professor. Modern Arabic Literature.

Ronald Hendel, Professor. Textual criticism, Hebrew bible, ancient Near Eastern religion and mythology, Northwest Semitic linguistics.
Research Profile

Chana Kronfeld, Professor. Comparative literature, modernism, Hebrew, Yiddish, modern poetry, minor literatures, politics of literary history, feminist stylistics, intertextuality, translation studies.
Research Profile

Margaret Larkin, Professor. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Rita Lucarelli, Associate Professor. Egyptology.
Research Profile

Sabrina Sonia Maras, Assistant Adjunct Professor.

Maria Mavroudi, Professor. Byzantine studies.
Research Profile

Benjamin Porter, Associate Professor. Archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology, Middle East, Arid Environments, anthropology, Heritage, tourism, and Museum Studies.
Research Profile

Carol A. Redmount, Associate Professor. Egyptology.
Research Profile

Carol Redmount, Associate Professor. Near Eastern Studies.

Francesca Rochberg, Professor. History of science, ancient near east, cuneiform studies.
Research Profile

Niek Veldhuis, Professor. Digital humanities, intellectual history, Sumerian, cuneiform.
Research Profile

Lecturers

Rutie Adler, Lecturer.

Hatem A. Bazian, Lecturer. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Chava Boyarin, Lecturer.

Elsa Elmahdy, Lecturer.

Gholam-Reza Ghahramani, Lecturer.

John L. Hayes, Lecturer.

Lissette M. Jimenez, Lecturer.

Nawal M. Laymoun, Lecturer.

Sanjyot Mehendale, Lecturer. Near Eastern studies, Central Asia, Central Asian studies, archaeology and art history.
Research Profile

Haitham S. Mohamed, Lecturer.

Laurie Pearce, Lecturer.

Barbara Richter, Lecturer.

Jason Christopher Vivrette, Lecturer.

Visiting Faculty

Manuel Duarte De Oliveira, Visiting Professor.

Emeritus Faculty

Ayla Algar, Lecturer Emeritus. Turkish language and literature, language pedagogy.

Hamid Algar, Professor Emeritus.

Robert B. Alter, Professor Emeritus. Comparative literature, Near Eastern studies, 19th-century European and American novel, modernism, literary aspects of the bible, modern and biblical Hebrew literature.
Research Profile

Guitty Azarpay, Professor Emeritus. Art and archaeology of the ancient Near East and Central Asia.
Research Profile

Ariel A. Bloch, Professor Emeritus.

Wolfgang J. Heimpel, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Anne D. Kilmer, Professor Emeritus.

David Larkin, Lecturer Emeritus. Egyptology.

James T. Monroe, Professor Emeritus.

Jaleh Pirnazar, Lecturer Emeritus. Modern Iranian history Persian language and literature, Iranian Cinema.

Martin Schwartz, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

Muhammad Siddiq, Professor Emeritus. Near Eastern studies.
Research Profile

David B. Stronach, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Near Eastern Studies

250 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3757

Fax: 510-643-8430

nes@berkeley.edu

Visit Department Website

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History

Francesca Rochberg, PhD

262 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3757

rochberg@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Faculty Advisor for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Islamic Studies

Wali Ahmadi, PhD

284 Barrows Hall

ahmadi@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Student Advisor

Rania Shah, MA

250 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3758

rania.shah@berkeley.edu

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