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NEAR E 296 C: Special Studies in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:30pm - 1:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
Mika Ahuvia
Mika Ahuvia

Syllabus Description:

You can download the full syllabus here

Instructor: Prof. Ahuvia (                                                                 Winter 2021

Zoom class times: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30-1:20pm                                           Remote

Office Hours:  Tues. and Thurs. 1:30-2:30 and by appointment

TA: Andy Bunnell (


Class Description:

This course provides an introduction to the world religions that originated in the Middle East, with an emphasis on their history, foundational stories and holidays, their formative leaders and diverse communities. We examine the premodern origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, their sacred texts, their historical development, and build up the frameworks to understand their contemporary communities. Discussion with guest experts and a research literacy project equip students to understand the role of religion in their communities and American society today.


[Pandemic adjusted] Course learning objectives: Over the course of the quarter, students will

  • Learn what it means to be part of an intellectual community at a Research 1 university.
  • Encounter the foundational sacred texts and intertwined history of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
  • Learn key concepts, dates, and ideas relevant to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • Develop the ability to discern accurate and credible knowledge about diverse religious traditions and their adherents.
  • Understand how religions have shaped—and are shaped by—the experiences and histories of individuals, communities, nations, and regions.
  • Acquire research literacy skills, equipping themselves with research skills that will enable them to research and write about any topic while at the university and after graduation.
  • Practice talking about religious and cultural issues with diverse classmates.


Course Materials

  • All reading materials will be posted as pdfs on Canvas.
  • Optional: A NRSV Bible is useful (also available online). If you plan on taking several religious courses, I recommend the Harper Collins Study Bible and The Study Quran: a New Translation and Commentary (available at your favorite bookseller).


Course Requirements

  • Participation: (10%)
  • Research Literacy Project (30%)
  • Quizzes: (30%)
  • Section exams: (3 x 10% = 30%)




With your health and well-being in mind, this course has been adjusted for remote learning. Meeting times have been reduced to stave off zoom fatigue. You can succeed in this course by:

  1. Prepare (read/watch/listen to) the assigned materials before class meetings on Tuesday and Thursday of each week. 
  2. Listening and Reading actively: take notes! Write down what you find insightful, challenging, or confusing.
  3. Participate in the weekly Zoom meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:20pm
  4. Turn your camera on for increased community connection and to enable your instructors to gather verbal cues as to your comprehension of the topic.
  5. Use Monday/Wednesday time to watch lectures, read materials, and prepare questions for your instructors. 
  6. Participate in discussion threads to the best of your ability (10%).


If a personal issue arises that will prevent your participation in the course for a week or so, contact me as soon as possible. We can always find the solution while the course is ongoing, but not after the quarter’s end.


Quizzes and Exams


Weekly online multiple-choice quizzes (30%) are designed to help you review course material. During Tuesday and Thursday zoom sessions, your instructors will review key dates, ideas, and concepts that you will be quizzed on. Quizzes will be posted Thursday afternoon and due Sunday night. Quizzes are not timed. Your lowest quiz grade will be dropped.


There will be three online multiple-choice exams: at the end of our study of Judaism, at the end of our study of Christianity, and at the end of our study of Islam (3 x 10%=30%). Exams will incorporate multiple-choice questions from quizzes and new questions. Exams are limited to two hours.


Research Literacy Project


In this assignment, you will have the opportunity to investigate an issue, question, problem, or controversy in modern life or current affairs related to the religions we studied in this class (30%). Suggested topics are provided for you as well as a series of steps introducing you to online research tools available through UW. The aim is to explore the issue, etc., in depth through continued, critical engagement with research and media sources selected to illuminate different facets or opinions thereof. You will not only analyze content, but also the quality of your sources.


You will submit this project in one continuous word document in four parts. At the end of the quarter, your final submission will gather your entries and include a brief synthesizing conclusion reflecting on the chosen issue. See the Research Literacy Project in assignments for more submission details, deadlines, and rubrics. Due March 15.


Extra credit opportunities


Extra credit opportunities will be available throughout the quarter (see extra-credit section in assignments). These will involve engaging with public zoom lectures and / or events on topics relevant to our course (e.g. religion, culture, politics). Events will be announced in class as they come up (you are also welcome to ask me about some event that you know about and I don’t: ask me in advance, so that I can decide whether what you have in mind would qualify as an intellectually enriching and topic-specific event to count for extra credit). You may earn up to +3 by attending three events; this will be applied to your final percentage grade.

Grades: This course converts percentage grades (on the 100 scale) into 4.0 grades using this conversion guide. Being proactive is the best way to ensure you achieve the grades you desire. See end of syllabus for formal Grade appeal procedures.

Catalog Description: 
Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
December 5, 2020 - 6:35am