SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

MA Arabic Literature (no longer running from 2019/20) (2018 entry)

Please note that this degree will no longer be running from 2019/20

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
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Please note that this degree will no longer be running from 2019/20. Applicants interested in Arabic literature should consider applying for the MA Comparative Literature or MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies programmes instead. 

This taught-Masters degree offers a deep insight into the Arab world through its literatures. It is an advanced programme designed for students with a good first degree in Arabic or with a good university degree who also know Arabic. The fundamental objective is to make Arabic culture and literature accessible to a wider body of postgraduate students and to provide them with training in the study of literature. Students develop an advanced understanding of Arabic literature and gain detailed knowledge of its past and present. The syllabus combines the literary approaches of comparative literature with in-depth study of Arabic literature. Students have the opportunity to become familiar with, among other things, literary theory, translation techniques, the sociology of literature, the social and political dimensions of modern Arabic literature, and different genres and themes of classical, medieval and modern Arabic literature.

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • First or upper second-class honours degree or overseas equivalent in Arabic or another relevant subject with good knowledge of Arabic
  • Interview Policy: Interviews by arrangement

Featured events

One calendar year (full-time), or two or three years (part-time, daytime only)



Students take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. Of the taught modules, students must choose 90 credits from the list below; the remaining 30 credits can be taken from the approved open options list.
Dissertation in the Languages & Cultures of the Near & Middle East

Students must take the Dissertation.

Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East 15PNMC999 60 Full Year
Compulsory Modules

Students must select 90 credits' worth of modules from the list below.

Module Code Credits Term
Modern Palestinian Literature (PG) 15PNMC379 15 Term 2
Open Option

Students should select the remaining 30 credits from the open options list (see above for a link to find out more)


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

One-year Masters programmes consist of 180 credits. 120 credits are taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks); the dissertation makes up the remaining 60 units. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework and revising for examinations. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary. 

More information is on the page for each module.

Learning Outcomes

  • How to assess data and evidence critically from texts, manuscripts and digital sources, solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations, locate materials, use research sources (particularly research library catalogues) and other relevant traditional sources.
  • How to obtain solid knowledge of the Arabic literature and literary field and their interaction with and reflection of aspects of social and the political life of the Arab world.
  • How to relate the development of Arabic literature to a wider European and world context.
  • How to deal critically with literary texts and probe their various layers of meanings, relate them to the context and the culture from which they emerged, place them within the development of the genre, movement, trend or school to which they belong.
  • How to read, translate and critically assess Arabic literary texts in the original language and how to conduct a critical appraisal of the text.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  • Students become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.
  • Students question interpretations, however authoritative, and reassess evidence for themselves.
  • Student  learn  how  to  reason  critically  and  apply  linguistic,  literary  and historical concepts.
  • Students broaden their intellectual perspective on Arabic literature and acquire the ability to read and analyse literary texts critically.
  • Students acquire the ability to conduct their own research, question prevalent ideas and form their critical judgment in a rational, logical and enlightened manner.
Subject-based practical skills

The programme aims to help students with the following practical skills:

  • Communicate effectively in writing
  • Master the Arabic language at its high literary level.
  • Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources.
  • Plan, undertake and report on a bibliographically-based piece of research.
  • Present seminar papers, and discuss ideas introduced during seminars.
  • Apply key methods and concepts of literary, social, and historical analysis.
  • Practice research techniques in a variety of specialized research libraries and institutes.
 Transferrable skills

The programme will encourage students to:

  • Write good essays and dissertations.
  • Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing.
  • Understand unconventional ideas, and develop the ability to challenge them if necessary.
  • Participate effectively, constructively and intelligently in groups, and assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others.
  • Manage time and work to deadlines
  • Work independently and form reasoned judgments.
  • Present (non-assessed) material orally.


A postgraduate degree in MA Arabic Literature from SOAS provides students with competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, history, cinema, politics, economics or law. Graduates of this programme will develop their ability to engage with and explore relationships between indigenous aesthetics of the region and contemporary literary theories. Some graduates leave SOAS to pursue careers directly related to their study area, while others have made use of the intellectual training for involvement in analysing and solving many of the problems that contemporary societies now face.  

Postgraduate students gain linguistic and cultural expertise enabling them to continue in the field of research or to seek professional and management careers in the business, public and charity sectors. They leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including written and oral communication skills; attention to detail; analytical and problem solving skills; and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources. Graduates can use their skills in Arabic and literary study in a variety of occupations, particularly those in which deep knowledge of Arabic intellectual culture and a trained mind are an advantage.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

It’s a global experience and, thankfully, everyone is included, no matter what their colour, religion, or ‘class’.

Mysa Kafil-Hussain

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    Please note this programme isn't running for the 2019/20 session.