Literatures of the Islamic Near and Middle East

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module introduces the different literary traditions of the Ancient Near and Middle East and provides an overview of what constitutes "literature" in the region's various ancient civilizations. Study is made of selected central topics of the literary traditions of the area from ca. 3000 BC to ca 600 AD. Through readings of texts in translation students are also introduced to different topics of literary-critical analysis.





Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


At the end of the module students will have:

  • obtained a clear understanding of the region, its diverse history and literatures during the ancient period.
  • achieved an understanding of the scholarship, methodology and research issues that characterize the various fields of study required to engage with these literatures: philology, Assyriology, cultural theory.
  • acquired a keen sense of the scholarly (areas of investigation and range of subjects) and academic (formation of fields and disciplines and relevant investigative methods) aspects of studying ancient Near Eastern literatures.
  • Through the close examination of selected topics and texts students develop an understanding of a variety of literary traditions within the ancient Near East together with awareness that several of these traditions are frequently very closely connected to each other.



The module is taught two hours per week. Weekly lectures and reading classes are given by the respective specialists of the subjects covered.

Scope and syllabus

Where possible the programme follows a chronological progression. The first part deals with the ancient period and the second with the medieval. For every separate field (Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, etc.) the lectures focus on major and important works and their literary background and/or on trends and pertinent themes of the period. Representative selected works are studied in translation. A vital component of the module will be the illustration of the close relation of these literatures throughout the centuries. Attention is also given to possible continuities or discontinuities in the long history of Near Eastern literature.

Method of assessment


  • One essay (AS1) of 1,000 words worth 40%
  • One essay (AS2) of 1,500 words worth 60%
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page


Suggested reading

Suggested Reading:
  • Alexander, Philip, S., ed., 1990. Textual Sources for the Study of Judaism. Chicago: University of Chicage Press.
  • Arberry, A. J., 1958. Classical Persian Literature. London
  • Badawi, M. M., 1992. Modern Arabic Literature. Cambridge.
  • Burnshaw, T. Carmi and E. Spicehandler, 1989. The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself. Cambridge, MA.
  • Davis, Dick, 1992. The Legend of Seyavash. Translated With an Introduction and Notes by Dick Davis. London: Penguin.
  • The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, 1983-1992. 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • George, Andrew, 1999. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Harmondsworth: Penguin
  • Dalley, Stephanie, 1989. Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford: Oxford
  • UP Foster, Benjamin R. 1993. Before the Muses. An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. Bethesda, Md: CDL Press
  • Foster, Benjamin R. 1995. From Distant Days. Myths, Tales and Poetry from Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Md: CDL Press
  • Meisami, Julie, 1987. Medieval Persian Court Poetry. Princeton.
  • Haddawy, Husain, trns., 1990. The Arabian Nights. Translated by Husain Haddawy. New York: Norton.
  • Halman, Talat, ed. , 1991. Yunus Emre and his Mystical Poetry. Bloomington, Indiana University Turkish Studies.
  • Irwin, Robert , 1994. The Arabian Nights, A Companion. London: Allen Lane.
  • Lewis, Geoffrey, 1974. The Book of Dede Korkut. Translated With an Introduction by Geoffrey Lewis. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Ostle, R. C. ed., 1991. Modern Literature in the Near and Middle East. London: Routledge.
  • Reichl, Karl, 1992. Turkic Oral Epic Poetry. Traditions, Forms, Poetic Structure. New York. Pp. 43-55.
  • Rypka, Jan, 1968. History of Iranian Literature. Dordrecht.
  • Smith, William Cantwel, 1995. What is Scripture? A Comparative Approach. Chapel Hill.
  • Makal, Mahmut, 1954. A Village in Anatolia. Translated by Sir Wyndham Deedes. London: Valentine,
  • Mitchell. Unterman, Alan, 1996. The Jews, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex: Sussex Academic Press.
  • Yascar Kemal, 1961. Memed, My Hawk. Translated by Edouard Roditi. London: Collins & Harvill Press.
  • Yudkin, Leon, 1984. 1948 and After: Aspects of Israeli Fiction. Manchester. S
  • alih, Tayeb, 1976. Season of Migration to the North. Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies. London: Heinemann Educational.
  • Hutchins W. M., trns., 1987. Egyptian Tales and Short Stories. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
  • Milani, Farzaneh, 1992. Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers. London.


Dr Yorgos Dedes


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules