Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations: Cultures and Societies of the Middle East and North Africa, BA

NELC’s Cultures and Societies of the Middle East and North Africa is an interdisciplinary major which allows students to explore broadly the cultures, societies, religions, and literary and visual traditions of the greater Middle East. The geographical scope of this major includes: Arabia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Iran and the Persianate world, Egypt and the Nile Valley, North Africa (including the Maghreb), and Asia Minor (including present-day Turkey). This major encourages students to develop an understanding of deep continuities through time, and close connections among the cultures of the region and adjacent areas. The major also promotes the humanistic study of Middle Eastern societies across ancient, medieval and modern periods –  something that no other majors currently do – while exposing students to the current methodologies and breadth of scholarship in Near Eastern studies at Penn.

Because this concentration does not include language coursework, and does not contribute towards the University’s Language Requirement, the major consists of 12 CU. Students pursuing this major must complete the department's foundational courses: NELC 0001 (Introduction to the Ancient Near East) and NELC 0002 (Introduction to the Middle East). Additionally, students must complete a breadth requirement consisting of one introductory to intermediate course in each of the following areas: the Ancient Middle East; Hebrew and Judaic Studies; Societies and Cultures of the Islamic World; and the Modern Middle East. To gain grounding in methodology two credits must cover literary or visual cultures and methodologies used to study them (such as NELC 0102, Reading Ancient Mesopotamia, or NELC 0700, Iranian Cinema: Gender, Politics, Religion). The remaining electives (3 CU) should consist of intermediate to advanced coursework in the student’s area of primary interest. To develop experience in researching and writing substantial analytical essays, during their senior year, students must complete a concentration paper within a NELC class in consultation with their Major Advisor.

For information about the General Education requirements, please visit the College of Arts & Sciences Curriculum page.


College General Education Requirements and Free Electives
Foundational Approaches + Sectors 1 + Free Electives20
Major Requirements
Core Requirement
NELC 0001Introduction to the Ancient Near East1
NELC 0002Introduction to the Middle East1
Visual and Literary Cultures
Select 2 CU in Visual and Literary Cultures2
1 CU in Ancient Middle East1
1 CU in Hebrew and Judaic Studies1
1 CU in Societies and Cultures of the Islamic World1
1 CU in Modern Middle East1
Advanced Electives
Select 3 CU chosen in consultation with advisor3
Senior Concentration Paper Course
Select 1 CU in consultation with advisor1
Total Course Units32

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.