New Vision: Religion, Art and Literature of the Middle East


Spring 2015 quarter

Taught by

comparative religion

From the “global war on terror” to the Arab Spring, literary and artistic interventions from the Arab/Muslim world have played a critical role in confronting western Orientalist stereotypes in order to foster a more complex understanding of the region and its peoples. This program will examine contemporary artwork and writings by artists and intellectuals from the Middle East and its diaspora, focusing on the role of literary, scholarly, and artistic production in political and religious movements, as well as the role of imperialism, nationalism, and religious politics in determining what is representable or non-representable, sacred or profane, and who has “permission to narrate” their story.  Through the lenses of art and literary theory, religious studies, and postcolonial theory, we will examine the new visions set forth by these intellectuals and artists, and the role of western gatekeepers in influencing the reception and distribution of their work. We are particularly interested in the complex intersections of imperialism, nationalism, religion, diasporic politics, gender and sexuality in these works, and their implications for societal change.


We will examine a range of modern and contemporary art and read novels, poetry, essays, and memoirs by writers across the Middle East region. We will situate our analysis within the historical and political events that shape artistic and literary production, and examine how artists and writers address identity struggles within their own societies, as they critique dominant narratives of Empire, the state, religious institutions, as well as masculinist narratives that justify violence and exclude women’s voices. Students will write art and literary analysis, and engage in independent projects that may include their own creative writing, photography, or research on an artist, writer, or religious figure of their choice. Through this study, students will consider the impact of political, religious, economic, cultural and military forces on Arab and Muslim’s lives and artistic production, and examine literary, artistic, and film representations as sites of resistance. Students will also gain a greater understanding of postcolonial, Third World, transnational feminist, and Islamic movements. Students will have the opportunity to attend community-based events that promote an understanding of Middle East cultures, politics, and aesthetic productions.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

art history, cultural studies, gender and women's studies, literature, religion, international studies, visual arts, multicultural education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$150 for entrance fees.


Date Revision
February 12th, 2015 Therese Saliba will not be teaching in this program.
April 30th, 2014 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30286
So - Sr (16 credits): 30289

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