Jul 19, 2024  
Undergraduate Record 2021-2022 
Undergraduate Record 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures

Return to: College of Arts & Sciences: Departments/Programs  

University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400781
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4781
(434) 243-8076 Fax: (434) 243-1528
Program/Course: Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures  

Overview The Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & 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 a geographical, political, cultural, and historical region. 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 from departments across the university that may count toward MESALC majors.

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 a 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, Biblical Hebrew (cross listed in Religious Studies), and Persian. 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.  However, we also offer many literature-in-translation courses, which are taught in English using translated texts.  Literature-in-translation courses do not require prior knowledge of the language or the region. In addition to courses in language and in literature, students majoring and minoring in MESALC’s interdisciplinary degree programs must take courses on their regions that are offered by other departments and programs – such as, Anthropology, Art History, History, Politics, Religious Studies, Gender Studies, and others.

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 scholars and teachers trained in diverse fields (from anthropology, cultural studies, gender studies, history, linguistics, literary criticism, philology, and translation pedagogy) who are as committed to research and writing on the literatures and cultures of the Middle East and South Asia as they are to the effective teaching of those regions’ languages. Many of our faculty members have national and international reputations for research or pedagogy. Language classes are taught by trained instructors with native or near-native fluency in their languages, and class size is restricted to optimize the language learning experience.

Students Every semester hundreds of students enroll 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 South Asia degree programs go on to graduate or professional schools, find work in governmental agencies, journalism, art, international business, communications, the Peace Corps, or teach in the Middle East or South Asia. The possibilities are great.