Course handbook: Persian

Persian

The course aims:

1. to help you become proficient in reading, writing and speaking Persian;

2. to familiarize you with the character, concerns and development of Persian literature, both modern and pre-modern, and to develop your literary critical skills;

3. to familiarize you with the major themes and questions of Iranian history from medieval to modern times, and to develop your skills in historical analysis and argument;

4. to give you scope to specialize in those areas of Persian and Iranian studies that most interest you and to develop your skills in independent research and extended writing, through optional papers and the dissertation. 

Persian with a subsidiary language

The course aims:

1. to make you proficient in reading, writing and speaking modern Persian;

2. to familiarize you with the character, concerns and development of Persian literature, both modern and pre-modern, and to develop your literary critical skills;

3. to familiarize you with the major themes and questions of Iranian history from medieval to modern times, and to develop your skills in historical analysis and argument;

4. to give you scope to specialize in one area of Persian and Iranian studies that particularly interests you, and to develop your skills in independent research and extended writing through the dissertation;

5. to provide you with a firm grounding in a second language with which Persian is historically and culturally linked, and to introduce you to the literature of that language.

Teaching Staff

Preliminaries (First year)

The first three terms of your course are designed to give you a sound foundation in modern Persian, and to introduce you to Islamic religion and culture and the history of the Islamic Middle East.

Persian Prelims comprise three examination papers of 3 hours each:

Translation from Persian and reading comprehension
Translation into Persian and essay
Islamic history and culture

You will prepare for Papers 1 and 2 by attending language classes for up to 10 hours per week, and working independently on the course material. You will be required to build up a basic vocabulary, and to learn to use all the essential grammatical structures of modern Persian. The teaching method combines systematic presentation of grammatical and thematic topics during language classes with regular assignments in reading, writing and translation. Spoken language classes will develop your speaking and listening comprehension skills. There will be regular written tests taken in class time to monitor your progress and identify areas for development. The set texts for Paper 1 are available from the Faculty Office. These are a selection of modern and classical Persian texts, most of which will have been read and discussed in class.

Paper 3 is taught principally through lectures and tutorials (respectively, 1 hour per week and 1 hour every other week) in Michaelmas Term and Hilary Term and weeks 1-4 of Trinity Term. You will also be required to write a total of 10 essays over the year (4 in each of Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, and 2 in Trinity Term).

In the second and third terms of your first year you will also be preparing for your year abroad. We will support you in applying for the approved course at Tehran University and for your visa. As the year progresses, the spoken classes will become more oriented towards the colloquial language and particular situations that you are likely to encounter in Iran.

Second Year: Your Year Abroad

You will spend Year 2 in Iran, following a course of study approved by the Faculty Board. Currently our students spend the year taking a succession of intensive courses at the International Centre for Persian Studies (ICPS, aka Dehkhoda Institute), Tehran University. The courses will help you develop your language skills and will also cover areas such as media Persian and Persian literature. As the capital of Iran and a city of some 10 million inhabitants, Tehran is the ideal place to learn Persian while experiencing the social and cultural life of contemporary Iran. At times Tehran may seem challenging and difficult, but it will always be stimulating, and the structure of your course, the secure home base of your university hall of residence, relationships with your peers on the course, as well as regular contact with faculty and college tutors will support you.  It is most important for you to use the time in Iran to improve your knowledge and skills in the language, deepen your understanding of those aspects of Persian culture and history in which you wish to specialise, and gain some insight into Iranian society. You should find it an exciting period, one which will test your initiative, stamina, and ability to respond to a quite different society. It will be a time to carry out research for your dissertation and to start thinking about and reading for your optional papers.

Accommodation

Currently all our students live during their year abroad in the halls of residence of Shahid Beheshti University, which are located closer to ICPS than the Tehran University accommodation.

 

Third and Fourth Year

Persian and Persian with a subsidiary language

During Years 3 and 4 you will be pursuing several different kinds of study in parallel. Language work will continue steadily, and will continue to develop your capacity to speak, read and write modern Persian. You will have up to 5 hours of language classes each week, covering reading comprehension, translation into and out of Persian, essay-writing in Persian and speaking and listening comprehension. Classes and tutorials for your literature papers will form another major part of your course work, covering modern and pre-modern literature, both poetry and prose. You will read and analyse the ‘set texts’ and write essays on literary and literary historical questions. You will also attend lectures and have tutorials on Iranian history. Finally, you will write a dissertation (to be worked on in Hilary Term of Year 4) where you have the opportunity to pursue in greater depth a topic that particularly interests you, whether this be in language, literature, history, culture or social studies. Your dissertation supervisor will guide your research and provide feedback on plans and early drafts of your work. Your dissertation topic has to be approved by the Faculty Board at the beginning of your final year. The length of the dissertation can be up to 15,000 words. (See Appendix I for general guidance on the writing of dissertations.)

For students taking Persian you will be able to tailor your course to your own interests through your choice of two optional papers (8 and 9). You may choose to concentrate more on literary or historical study, or to maintain a balance between the two. The teaching for the optional literature and history will usually be similar to that for the core papers described in the previous paragraph. will depend on the Depending on the options you have chosen, you can expect to spend 4-6 hours per week in the first four terms in classes devoted to the close reading and explication of these texts, to which you must come adequately prepared.

For students taking Persian with a subsidiary language your subsidiary language will probably demand at least one-third of your time, especially in Year 3, when you will be attending an intensive elementary language class. The two years of the FHS course offer an excellent opportunity to acquire a solid grounding in a second language, but it does mean that you give up the possibility of shaping your course to your own particular interests, as you lose the two optional papers. The dissertation does, however, allow you to explore a subject that particularly interests in depth.

Graduates will have acquired a range of expertise and skills. Linguistic proficiency in Persian and knowledge of Persian literature and Iranian history, as well as of the general culture and religion of Islam, may lead some towards a variety of jobs connected with Iran and the Middle East, such as diplomacy and international organizations, journalism, broadcasting, publishing, charities and NGOs, and business. Depending on the options you have chosen, you may also be equipped with specialist knowledge in other areas – for example choosing the papers in Islamic art and archaeology might lead you towards work in museums, archaeology or the art market. A significant proportion of our graduates choose to continue their studies at the graduate level with a view to an academic career.

Important Deadlines

Persian

Persian with a subsidiary language

1. Unprepared translation from Persian

2. Translation into Persian and essay in Persian

3. Spoken Persian

4. Persian Literature: 1000 – 1400

5. Persian Literature: 1400 – 1900

6. Persian Literature: 1900 – the present

7. Themes in Iranian history

8. 9. Optional papers

10. A dissertation: topic to be approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies

1. Unprepared translation from Persian

2. Translation into Persian and essay in Persian

3. Spoken Persian

4. and 5. Two papers selected from the following three:

Persian Literature: 1000 – 1400

Persian Literature: 1400 – 1900

Persian Literature: 1900 – the present

6. Themes in Iranian history

7. 8. and 9. A subsidiary language from: Arabic, Armenian, Classics, Hindi/Urdu, Old Iranian, Turkish

10. A dissertation: topic to be approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies

Optional Papers

i) The Transition from Sasanian to Islamic Persia (up to the 10th Century CE)

ii) Safavid History

iii) Qajar History

iv) Iranian History from 1921 to 1979

v) Iranian History from the 1979 Revolution to the Present

vi) Early Islamic Monetary History

vii) Early Islamic Historiography

viii) Islamic Art and Architecture of the Persian-speaking World

ix) The Rise of the Sufi Orders in the Islamic World, 1200-1500

x) Religion and Politics during the Mongol Period

xi) Ottoman State and Society, 1566-1700

xii) History of the Middle East during the late Ottoman Age, 1750-1882

xiii) A short-term Further Subject, as approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies

 NOTE: the examination regulations relating to all Oriental Studies courses are available at https://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/examregs/ . If there is a conflict between information in any of the faculty handbooks and the exam regulations, you should always follow the exam regulations. If you have any concerns please contact academic@administrator.ox.ac.uk. The information in this handbook is accurate as at 1st October 2016, however it may be necessary for changes to be made in certain circumstances, as explained at www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/coursechanges . If such changes are made the department will publish a new version of this handbook together with a list of the changes. Students will also be informed.


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Teaching Staff

The following list gives most of the members of the Faculty who teach Islamic Studies. Messages can also be left in the pigeonholes in the foyer of the Institute.

Professor James Allan, Professor of Eastern Art

Dr Ahmed Al-Shahi, Research Fellow, St Antony's College

Mr Talal al-Azem, Early Career Fellow in Arabic/Islamic History

Dr Walter Armbrust, Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies (St Antony’s)

Professor Julia Bray, Laudian Professor of Arabic (St John’s)

Dr Otared Haidar, Instructor in Arabic

Professor Edmund Herzig Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies (Wadham)

Professor Clive Holes, Khalid Bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World (Magdalen)

Dr Robert Hoyland, Professor of Islamic History (St Cross)

Dr Nadia Jamil, Co-ordinator; Senior Instructor in Classical and Modern Arabic

Professor Jeremy Johns, Professor of Islamic Archaeology and Director of the Khalili Research Centre (Wolfson)

Mr Tajalsir Kandoura, Instructor in Arabic

Dr Homa Katouzian, Iran Heritage Foundation Research Fellow (St Antony’s)

Dr Laurent Mignon, Associate Professor of Turkish

Dr Christopher Melchert, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islam

Mr Ronald Nettler, Faculty Tutor (Mansfield) [retired]

Dr Sima Orsini, Associate Faculty Member

Dr Mohammed-Salah Omri, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Language and Literature (St John’s)

Dr Judith Pfeiffer Associate Professor of Arabic/Islamic History (St Cross)

Dr Philip Robins, Reader in Middle East Politics and Faculty Fellow (St Antony’s)

Dr Eugene Rogan, Associate Professor of the Modern History of the Middle East (St Antony’s)

Dr Luke Treadwell, Samir Shamma Associate Professor of Islamic Numismatics (St Cross)

Dr Elizabeth Tucker Jill Hart Research Fellow in Indo-Iranian Philology (Wolfson)

Dr Michael Willis, University Research Lecturer and H.M. King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies (St Antony’s)

Dr Zeynep Yurekli-Gorkay,  Associate Professor of Islamic  Art and Architecture


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Important Deadlines

Monday Wk 9 of Trinity  Term

Year 1

Provisional start date of the First Public Examinations.

Monday Wk 0 of Hilary Term

Year 4

Deadline for applications for approval for Optional Subjects (Persian only) and dissertation titles (Persian and Persian with Subsidiary Language). 

Forms available here.

 

12 noon, Friday Wk 10 of Hilary Term

 

Year 4

Deadline for submission of dissertation. 

 

Wk 0 of Trinity Term

Year 4

Oral examinations for Persian language.  Timetables available about 5 weeks before the oral exams.

 

Monday Wk 7 of Trinity  Term

Year 4

Provisional start date of the Final Honour School examinations.