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PhD Program Areas of Study

Ancient Egypt

The program in Egyptology centers on the study of Middle Egyptian language and scripts, and the history, archaeology, religion, and culture of ancient Egypt. Other phases of the Egyptian language are also covered. Students are also advised to enroll in courses on Mesopotamia, ancient Israel, and the Mediterranean world in order to contextualize the civilization of Ancient Egypt. The program also emphasizes research on the Egyptian collections in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology through participation in exhibitions, object-oriented independent study, and fieldwork. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the resources of the Papyrology Collection of the University Library.

Ancient Israel/Hebrew Bible

In this program the language, literature, history, and culture of Ancient Israel and its neighbors are investigated. In addition to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Ugaritic courses, Mesopotamian languages, Greek, and Arabic can be elected. A rotating series of seminars presents special topics to graduate students. The lifeways and culture of ancient Israel are studied within a broad ancient Middle Eastern context and also with reference to formal anthropological, historical, literary, and religious modes of analysis.



The Arabic program leads to a degree in Arabic literature or Arabic linguistics. It is linked with offerings in Middle East studies and cooperates with other disciplinary units/departments such as Comparative Literature and Linguistics. Professional and research interests of the faculty in Arabic include modern Arabic literature and its role in Arab society; medieval Arabic literature and its role in Islam; Arabic papyrology; literary analysis; translation; Arabic linguistics; Arabic second language acquisition; Arabic dialectology; and Arabic applied linguistics and the teaching of Arabic as a Foreign Language. Every attempt is made to design programs of study to fit the particular needs of individual students, as well as to prepare them for academic, government, business, and other professional employment.

Note: Students also have the opportunity to study Arabic in various Arabic Language Study Programs, many of which are overseas.


All periods of Armenian language, literature, history and culture are taught in this program in the broader Middle East and former Soviet contexts. Courses in Western Armenian, literature, history and culture are taught regularly and Classical and Eastern Armenian in alternate years. Independent study courses are offered to ensure complete coverage when established courses are not taught, and individual courses are tailored to fit the needs and interests of students. Many courses in Armenian Studies are relevant to students specializing in fields such as Anthropology, Classical Studies, Comparative Literatures, History and History of Art, Linguistics and Religious and Social studies. Professional and research interests of the faculty include: Armenian language, literature, history and historiography, intellectual history, nationalism and identity, anthropology, diaspora studies, and translation.

Christianity in Late Antiquity

This program trains students to become teachers and scholars of Christianity in late antiquity (roughly the period from 300 to 700 C.E.). In addition to cultivating their historical knowledge about the period and their ability to analyze multiple kids of sources, students develop skills in the important primary languages for research in the period: Greek and Latin are regularly offered at all levels by the Classical Studies department, while Coptic and Syriac are offered in rotation by Middle East Studies. This program is supported by additional courses in the Armenian Studies Program, Classical Studies, the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, History, the Interdepartmental Program in Greek and Roman History, the Islamic Studies Program, the Program in Ancient Philosophy, and the resources available at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the Papyrology Collection at the Hatcher Graduate Library. Students are also encouraged to make use of the multiple professionalization and teaching workshops and seminars offered by the Rackham Graduate School and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. 


The modern Hebrew program educates students in modern Hebrew language and literature, and also in earlier periods of literature, including Aramaic texts. The program is supported by courses in the programs of Judaic Studies, Linguistics, Comparative Literature, Political Science, and History. Professional and research interests of the faculty in Hebrew include literary history and criticism, linguistics, translation, language and technology, the teaching of Hebrew as a foreign language, and several aspects of culture. The program prepares students for academic, government, and business careers as well as employment in Jewish community activities. A flyer detailing requirements for the program is available in the departmental office. For more information, visit the Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies website.


Iranian Studies

The Department of Middle East Studies (MES) has been active in the field of Iranian studies since its founding in 1948. In the last quarter of a century, we have trained two generations of distinguished Iranists in the fields of history, literature, linguistics and religion who now teach at universities throughout North America and Europe. This program offers a strong philological training that allows students to master the idiomatic nuances and rhetorical strategies of texts and their cultural and social histories. The combination of linguistic competence and analytical skills are twin tools of the craft with which we train our graduate students.

Our expertise lies in the medieval and early-modern Persianate world with a focus on the social, cultural, literary, and political histories of Iran, Iraq, Anatolia, and parts of Central Asia—Persian-speaking regions in which Islam was diversely translated in the processes of conversion. We teach courses on a range of religious movements (Shi’ism and Sufism in particular), the history of the Turco-Mongols and the Safavids, and Persian literature in both its classical and modern manifestations.

Though Iranian Studies is housed in MES, the courses and programming for Persian language and literature draw on resources, faculty and students from across the university, who span the disciplinary boundaries of archaeology (Henry Wright), history of art (Christiane Gruber), history and society (Kathryn Babayan, Juan Cole), literature and culture (Cameron Cross), and language and linguistics (Behrad Aghaei). Few universities in the United States enjoy such a large and distinguished concentration of scholars working on Iran.

Islamic Studies

Islamic studies specialists teach a wide range of courses in medieval and modern Middle Eastern history, pertaining to the rise and development of the Islamic religion, Islamic intellectual history and Muslim civilization. In addition to general survey courses on Islam, offerings are available in areas such as Islamic law, dialectical theology, mysticism, philosophy, Qur'anic exegesis, and pre-Islamic Arab culture. Seminars in Islamic studies make extensive use of original, classical Arabic sources and, hence, develop in the student essential philological skills required for research, such as the ability to understand and work with the technical terminologies of the Islamic religious and intellectual sciences.

Note: Students also have the opportunity to study Arabic for Islamic Studies in various Arabic Language Study Programs, many of which are overseas.

Mesopotamian and Ancient Middle East Studies

The focus of the program is on the languages, literatures, history, culture, and archaeology of Mesopotamia and on neighboring ancient states and cultures. Language courses in Sumerian and Akkadian are regularly scheduled, and offerings in Hittite and Egyptian are also available. The program in Mesopotamian studies emphasizes both the original contexts in which texts and artifacts were produced and the modern means for their interpretation. Students are encouraged to take courses in Anthropology, Classical Studies, Comparative Literatures, Religious Studies, and other units on campus.


The Department of Middle East Studies offers Persian language courses on all levels. At every level of our language program, we teach to enhance the cognitive abilities and intellectual curiosity of our students. Our language courses focus on the development of all four basic language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).  Through Persian language acquisition we aim to provide contexts and local meanings as we challenge students to explore other world-views and learn to think about cultures critically.

Advanced level Persian courses introduce students to Persian poetry and prose from the medieval to the modern era. These advanced level courses aim to provide a deeper and more textured knowledge of Iranian culture, history and society. They are part of a well-developed program on Persian language, literature, and culture designed to develop linguistic, literary, and methodological skills for scholarly research.

Rabbinics; Jewish History of Late Antiquity

The program trains doctoral students in the literature, history, religion, and culture of ancient Judaism in the Roman and Byzantine periods. The curriculum embraces the full spectrum of written sources from the ancient world, archaeology, and art. Special attention is given to developing proficiency in ancient languages and literary analytical skills, as well as to material culture. The program emphasizes (a) the Graeco-Roman context in which ancient Judaism and early Christianity developed (all students are required to gain a certificate in Greek and Roman History as part of their course work); and (b) critical and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the past.


Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins/New Testament

The Program trains graduate students as scholars and teachers in the field of Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins, covering all major literary corpora of the period (Old and New Testament, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Apostolic Fathers, Jewish-Hellenistic Literature) with no distinction between the canonical and the non-canonical, the Jewish and the Christian. Special attention is given to developing proficiency in ancient languages and literary analytical skills in the study of the intellectual context in which ancient Judaism and early Christianity developed.



This program trains students in Ottoman or modern Turkish language and culture. Supplemental instruction is given in related dialects of Azeri and Chagatay. Appropriate courses in the departments of Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Economics, History, History of Art, Linguistics, and Political Science support the program. Students may also choose independent study courses to ensure complete coverage of a particular program when established courses are not offered on a regular basis. Literary history and criticism, translation, and several aspects of cultural study are among the research interests of the faculty. The program prepares students for academic, government, and business employment. For more information, visit the Turkish Studies Web Site.