Jul 18, 2024  
Undergraduate Record 2009-2010 
Undergraduate Record 2009-2010 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures

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University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400781
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4781
(434) 924-3452 Fax: (434) 924-6977

Overview The Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures (MESALC) offers courses and inter-disciplinary major programs that are designed to provide students with a high level of proficiency in Middle Eastern or South Asian languages, along with a deep understanding of the Middle East or South Asia as geographical, political, cultural, and historical regions. The Department offers two kinds of inter-disciplinary majors: a Studies Major (either Middle Eastern Studies or South Asian Studies) and a Languages and Literatures Major (either Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures or South Asian Languages and Literatures). In addition, MESALC offers a Studies Minor (either Middle Eastern Studies or South Asian Studies). The Department also offers a Distinguished Major Program for exceptional students pursuing any of the majors. 

The Middle Eastern Studies and South Asian Studies interdisciplinary major programs are based on foundational coursework in language and literature, supplemented by additional coursework on the Middle East or South Asia done through other departments. Courses on Islam taken through the Religious Studies Department, for example, may count towards completion of the Middle Eastern or South Asian Studies majors (or minors). The department maintains an updated list of courses across the university that may count toward MESALC majors are maintained on it’s website.

The interdisciplinary Languages and Literatures majors (either Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures or South Asian Languages and Literatures) are designed for students who want to achieve proficiency in a major Middle Eastern or South Asian language and a deeper understanding of its literature and culture. The core of this major is a high level of competency in the language and a more focused set of courses about the region that are taken through other departments.

The Middle Eastern languages taught in MESALC are Arabic, Modern Hebrew (with Biblical Hebrew taught in Religious Studies), Persian, and Turkish. The South Asian languages taught are Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu. The department reserves the right to place any student in the course most appropriate to his or her skill level. Such placement is the responsibility of the coordinator for each language program, and should be made by the fifth class meeting.

Each MESALC language is associated with a culture of global importance and a literature of profound depth and beauty. MESALC offers literature courses in each language program. Many of the literature courses are taught in, and require knowledge of the target language, but we also offer many literature-in-translation courses that are taught in English, with readings done in translation, and which do not require prior knowledge of the language or the region.

In addition to courses in language and in literature, courses offered in many other departments and —programs such as, Anthropology, Art History, History, Politics, and Religious Studies–are required for MESALC’s majors, giving MESALC students a multi-disciplinary training.

In the twenty-first century knowledge and understanding of this part of the world, from Morocco to Bangladesh, will become increasingly important for people in any profession or field of endeavor. Many of our graduates find employment in their region of study; others go on to graduate or professional schools for further study. In all cases, study in MESALC is an intense, intimate and rewarding experience, and MESALC students are well prepared for the future.

Faculty The MESALC faculty includes eighteen scholars and teachers from a range of fields, including anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, literary criticism, philology, translation,—and second language pedagogy, who are fully committed to effective language teaching and to the literatures and cultures of the Middle East and South Asia. Many of our faculty members have national and international reputations for research or pedagogy. Language classes are taught by specially hired and trained Lecturers, who are often native speakers or have near-native fluency, and class size is restricted to optimize the language-learning experience.

Students Every semester hundreds of students study in MESALC’s language, literature, and culture courses. Many of the MESALC courses that are taught in English satisfy core requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences, including the Non-Western Perspectives Requirement, the Literature component of the Humanities Requirement, and/or the Second Writing Requirement. .

Graduates of our Middle East and of South Asia degree programs go on to graduate or professional schools, find work in governmental agencies, journalism, art, international business, communications, or the Peace Corps, or teach in the Middle East or South Asia. The possibilities are almost infinite.

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