Blood Libel: Norwich to Riyadh

This course examines the Blood-Libel from the thirteenth-century to the present, with special focus upon the Damascus Affair of 1840 and its repercussions in the modern Middle Eastern and European contexts and in polemics today among Muslims, Christians and Jews. We will review cases and especially upon literary and artistic representations of ritual murder and sacrificial consumption alleged to have been carried out by Waldensians, Fraticelli, witches, and Jews, with special attention to the forms of redemptive, demonic, and symbolic logic that developed over the course of the centuries and culminated in the wake of the Damascus Affair. Each participant will be asked to translate and annotate a sample primary text, ideally one that has not yet been translated into English, and to use that work as well in connection with a final paper. Prerequisite: Willingness to work on a text from one of the following languages--Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Arabic, Modern Greek, or Turkish--at whatever level of proficiency one has attained.

Comparative Mystical Literature: Islamic, Jewish and Christian

This course will examine Islamic, Christian, and Jewish mystical literature, with one third of the class devoted to each of the three traditions. Our focus will be upon writings from the late 12th to early 14th centuries CE by Ibn al-'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, Hadewijch, Marguerite Porete, and Moses de Leon (by attribution). We will also look at some selections from other writings, including Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Class format centers upon close readings of specific primary texts. Prerequisite: Willingness to work in one of the languages: Arabic, Latin, Greek, French, German Hebrew, Aramaic or Spanish.

Islamic Love Poetry

The focus is on the pre-modern Islamic love lyric (nasib, ghazal). Since none of us know all the relevant languages, I ask each participant in the course to be a guide for a tradition for which he or she knows the language. We almost always devote sections to Arabic, Persian, Ottoman, and Urdu love lyric, and in the past, depending on the background and skills of the participants, we have read Bengali, Punjabi, Turkish, and Hindi poems. Other languages are possibility as well. Prerequisite: ability to work in one of Islamicate languages, such as those mentioned above or an equivalent.

Arabic Sufi Poetry

The course will focus on the love poetry of three 7th/13th century Sufi poets: Ibn al-'Arabi, Ibn al-Farid, and Abulhasan al-Shushtari. Prerequisite: 2 years of Arabic or the equivalent.

Seminar in the Writing of Ibn al-'Arabi

We will read several lyric poems, selections from Fusus al-Hikam (Bezels of Wisdom), and the treatise al-Ittihad al-Kawni also known as “The Universal Tree and the Four Birds.” Special attention will be given to the role of the Qur’anic Moses in the writing, thought, and expression of Ibn al-'Arabi. Class sessions are devoted to close reading, translation, and discussion of the Arabic text. Prerequisite: two years of Arabic or the equivalent.

Readings in Arabic Religious Texts

Selected texts from the Qur’an, the Arabic Bible, Islamic philosophy, Sufism, and other classical Arabic literature. Prerequisite: Two years of Arabic or the equivalent.

Readings in the Text of the Qur’an

Intensive readings in the Arabic text of the Qur'an. We focus on reading the Qur'anic text closely, with attention to grammar, syntax, recitation protocols, vocabulary, parables, symbols, figures of speech, rhetoric, changes in voice and person, allusions to parallel Qur'anic passages, and theology. Classical and modern commentaries are consulted, but the primary emphasis is on the Qur'anic text itself. The course will focus upon suras attributed to the Meccan period of Muhammad's prophetic career, particularly those such as suras 52, 53, 55, and 56 that take up the theme of the garden. Students may well have different levels of Arabic; the course does not make Arabic proficiency into a matter of evaluation, but encourages each participant to work at his or her level.

Readings in Qur’an, Tafsir, and Sira

The course will focus on selected passages from the Qur’an along with the passages from the commentaries and Ibn Ishaq / Ibn Hisham’s Life of the Prophet that are said to fill in the occasions on which the Qur’anic verses were related or other aspects of historical contact for those verses. Prerequisite: 2 years of Arabic or the equivalent. Students who are uncertain if their Arabic level will fit the class are urged to attend the first session when the issue of Arabic and the class readings will be discussed in detail.