Advanced Source Reading Class in Arabic Historiography

Course Description: 

Historical thought in non-European traditions is not only of relevance to scholars of non-European history. However, without the relevant language competence, major works of non-European traditions remain inaccessible. This class engages with the rich tradition of Arab historiography and with primary sources and secondary literature in Arabic language. The emphasis will be on modern historiography, with references to the classical tradition. Understanding these texts fully, one needs more than practical conversation skills and solid knowledge of grammar since historical expression is a compound discourse created from elements derived from a diverse range of vocabulary, including literary, philosophical, legal, civic, scientific and colloquial texts, and exposed to the impact of political and cultural ideologies. In order to introduce students to varied examples of text categories, the class is meant to be broad sample of styles from academic historiography, covering various literary genres, time periods, geographical origins, and political and scholarly jargons.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will get acquainted with some of the major forms and genres of historiographic writing. The class will encourage students to move from the early language formation phase to the phase of independent and content focused usage of reading Arabic texts, as source and scholarship. Pending the class level, we will read in every session between five and ten pages from one or two sources that course participants should prepare beforehand. As different thematic interests and levels of preparation will coexist among the students, longer or shorter text portions will be assigned to the individual participants in the class. Though the most efficient procedure of text study, namely the phrase-by-phrase reading and translating, cannot be easily avoided, we will try to include less rigid approaches, such as collecting and elucidating key terms, giving summaries of texts and focusing on their most interesting linguistic features.


This class is open to all students with medium to advanced Arabic reading skills.

Grading: Grading will be based on active class participation and week by week text preparation (20%), two submissions of text translation and preparation (40%) and one special text assignment at the end of the term (40%).


This class is open to all students with medium to advanced Arabic reading skills.