Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

The languages and civilizations of the Near East have been a major part of the University of Chicago's teaching and research commitment since its inception. Currently, the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) continues this tradition through its interdisciplinary scholarship created by philologists, linguists, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, students of religion and law, and others. NELC offers academic opportunities for students to take coursework in: History and Culture, Language and Literature (including Linguistics), Intellectual History, and Art and Archaeology.

While MAPH students can take coursework through NELC, students should determine if MAPH or the MA Program in Middle Eastern Studies offered through the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) may be a better fit. If you have questions, we recommend you contact MAPH and CMES to discuss your options.

Selected Faculty

John Wee

John Z. Wee

Assyriology, History of Medicine, Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient World

Sample Courses

NEHC 30223 - Narratives of Assimilation (Bożena Shallcross)
Engaging the concept of liminality—of a community at the threshold of radical transformation—the course analyzes how East Central European Jewry, facing economic uncertainties and dangers of modern anti-Semitism, seeks another diasporic space in North America. Projected against the historical backdrop of the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, the immigration narratives are viewed through the lens of assimilation, its trials and failures; in particular, we investigate why efforts of social, cultural and economic inclusion cannot be mistaken with imposing on a given minority the values of majority. One of the main points of interests is the creative self ‘s reaction to the challenges of radical otherness, such as the new environment, its cultural codes and language barriers. We discuss the manifold strategies of artistic (self)-representations of the Jewish writers, many of whom came from East Central European shtetls to be confronted again with economic hardship and assimilation to the American metropolitan space and life style. During this course, we inquire how the condition called assimilation and its attendants—integration, secularization, acculturation, cosmopolitanism, etc.—are adapted or resisted according to the generational differences, a given historical moment or inherited strategies of survival and adaptation. The course draws on the writings of Polish-Jewish, Russian-Jewish, and American-Jewish authors in English translation.

NEHC 30914 - History of Turkey and Iran in the 20th century (Holly Shissle)
This course will offer a survey of the main political and social developments in Turkey and Iran since the end of WWI. Some basic knowledge of modern Middle Eastern history suggested.

AKKD 30811- Akkadian Astronomical Texts (John Wee)
This course surveys the wide variety of cuneiform astronomical-astrological texts, including the astronomical diaries, ephemerides, goal-year texts, almanacs, astrolabes, horoscopes, and omen series. Students consider the idea of time, the conception of the sky, implications of the Zodiac and Micro-zodiac, and the relationship between celestial observation and theory.

NEAA 30541 - Islamic Pottery as Historical Evidence (Donald Whitcomb)
This course is intended to present the dominant typologies of Islamic ceramics, most of which have been studied from an art historical approach. Specific archaeological typologies will be assembled from published reports and presented in seminar meetings. Half of the course will consist of analysis of shred collections, observatory analysis of typological criteria, and training in drawing these artifacts. 

A complete listing of offerings is available at the Department’s course page.

Recent NELC Thesis Projects

"Beyond the Analytical Categories of Armenian National Identity"
Daniel Fittante, MAPH '10
Advisor: Hripsime Haroutnian

"The Real Old Kingdom: Stylization, Naturalism and the Issue of Individualism in the Ka-Statue of Hemiunu"
Nicola John, MAPH '13
Advisor: Nadine Moeller

"A Spatial Analysis of Chalcolithic Cemetery and Settlement Locations in the Southern Levant: Application of ArcGIS to Understand the Significance of Space and Belief Systems"
Panagiotis Koutsouris, MAPH '14
Advisor: Yorke Rownan

"Contextualizing the Counsels of Wisdom"
Tyler Roeder, MAPH '16
Advisor: John Z. Wee