Courses of Interest

FALL 2020

Problems in Ancient History: Ancient Lives 
CLA 547 / HLS 547 / PAW 503 / HIS 557

Questions of how and why individuals mattered, even of what constituted an individual are among the most complicated and challenging asked of Greco-Roman civilization. Our seminar considers the historical development of biography from the pre-Hellenistic Greek world to late Antiquity. Through studying the representation of individual lives and asking what makes them worth narrating and what ancient discourses shape their reception, we aim to develop a better understanding of both the texts within this tradition and the changing conceptions of identity and social agency that inform them.
Andrew M. Feldherr
Brent D. Shaw

Problems in Ancient History: The Monetary Economy from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages 
CLA 548 / HLS 548 / PAW 548 / ART 532

Coin evidence provides a unique view of the transition from the height of the Roman and Sasanian Empires in the first centuries CE through the development of distinctly Latin, Byzantine, and Islamic zones by the end of the eighth century. Attention is given to cases where the numismatic evidence of change and identity varies from that supplied by written, archaeological and visual sources. Each student focuses on a region of western Eurasia, considering questions of minting and circulation and does periodic seminar presentations and a final presentation on the transformation of that region.
Alan M. Stahl

Introduction to Syriac
NES 511

A systematic introduction to Syriac language. Close reading of selected passages of Syriac texts.
George A. Kiraz

Themes in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence
NES 555

Selected topics in Islamic law and jurisprudence. The topics vary from year to year, but the course normally includes reading of fatwas and selected Islamic legal texts in Arabic.
Hossein Modarressi

Studies in Modern Arab History: Readings in Islamic Revivalism, Islamist Politics and Law
NES 561

This course aims to survey a variety of historical and religious texts in Arabic. Students must have mastery of advanced Arabic. Some of the texts that will be studied have been edited and published, others remain in manuscript form.
Bernard A. Haykel

Studies in Greco-Roman Religions: Group Formation, Ritual, and Politics: Who's In? Who's Out?
REL 504

Together we explore basic primary sources (especially Greek, some Latin or Coptic, reading mostly, for our purposes, in translation) of Ancient Mediterranean Religion c.100-400 CE, investigating how the early Jesus movement originated from and interacted with Jewish sources, writers and teachers, as well as classical ones, while spreading throughout the Roman empire, and how, in the fourth century, this unlikely movement morphed into "catholic church" endorsed by Roman imperial authority.
Elaine H. Pagels

Studies in Ancient Judaism: Otherworldly Journeys in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature
REL 513 

This course treats ancient Jewish and Christian texts involving ascent to heaven, tours of hell, and journeys to hidden places on earth, from the Book of the Watchers in the Hellenistic era to the hekhalot texts in the early Islamic era. We consider the contexts in which the texts were composed, their possible relations to each other, and their significance for beliefs about the relationship between humanity and the divine sphere, reward and punishment after death, and cosmology. Among the texts to be studied are Aramaic Levi, the Testament of Levi, Revelation, 2 Enoch, 3 Baruch, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Apocalypse of Paul.
Martha Himmelfarb