UNDERGRADUATE MAJOR AND MINOR PROGRAMS
The Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) major offers students the opportunity for in-depth study of the languages, literatures, and cultures (art, archaeology, history) of the Middle East from antiquity to modern times. Language and literature courses are offered in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish, as well as in the ancient languages of Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Aramaic, and Iranian. Students can explore the interconnected worlds of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and their neighbors, as well as the diverse cultures of the modern Middle East. The major also offers study in pre-modern and modern Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. During their studies, students can take part in a discovery experience that is innovative, collaborative, transdisciplinary, and features digital research.
Please view the MELC Major Map to see how you can complete the major while also including exciting opportunities to study abroad, participate in apprenticeship programs, undertake research, publish your work, and apply for numerous scholarships to study a language or conduct research.
Rania Shah, Undergraduate Major & Minor Advisor
For questions regarding the undergraduate program, declaring a major or minor, course planning and registration, study abroad, and other academic matters, please meet with the adviser. All advising meetings must be scheduled in advance.
Faculty Major Advisors:
Margaret Larkin, Ph.D. Professor of Arabic Literature
Academic advising for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, & Modern Middle East majors and minors
Advising Hours: By Appointment Only
Benjamin Porter, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology
Academic advising for Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds Major & minor
Advising Hours: By Appointment Only
The department offers an undergraduate major in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) with two specializations in 1) Languages and Literature or 2) Middle Eastern Worlds. Students must choose one concentration and follow the recommended course study as listed in the Berkeley Academic Guide. Students may take courses from outside the department to fulfill a major requirement. All courses taken for the major must be approved by the faculty major advisor.
MIDDLE EASTERN LANGUAGES & CULTURES B.A.
Specialization: Languages & Literature
Specialization: Middle Eastern Worlds
Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds
Modern Middle Eastern Worlds
Lower Division Requirement for the Major
Students pursuing the major are required to take MELC 10 (Ancient Egypt & Mesopotamia), offered every fall semester, and MELC 11 (Modern Middle East), offered every spring semester. The department recommends students enroll in these courses as soon as they begin their studies. Students must take the lower-division courses (MELC 10 & MELC 11) plus seven upper-division courses to complete the major. For the Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian concentrations at least five of these seven courses must be in upper-division text courses taught in the language of study. The language concentrations require students to complete the lower-division prerequisite courses in order to enroll in the upper-division language courses for the major.
For students who are majoring in other subjects, but who have a strong interest in one of the modern languages or in the ancient or modern cultures of the Middle East, the department offers minor programs in the following areas:
Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures (MELC)
The minor requires 5 upper-division courses in one of these areas. Minors in a Middle Eastern language require students to complete prerequisite course requirements before beginning the upper-division courses.
AREAS OF CONCENTRATIONS IN THE DEPARTMENT
Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia are typically the core focus areas of the Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds concentration. Often called the cradle of civilization, the ancient Middle East is where agriculture and writing systems first developed, cities and empires first arose, the wheel was invented, astronomy and mathematics first flourished, and monotheism first appeared among the region’s diverse religious traditions. MELC’s Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds concentration offers students an opportunity to explore the Middle East (and by extension Central Asia) by studying the art and archaeology, history, languages and literatures, and religions of the region from prehistoric times to the survival of ancient cultures in the modern world. Courses also incorporate Berkeley’s cutting-edge use of technology to explore ancient artifacts, and often utilize the rich resources of Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which, inter alia, has the best collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts west of Chicago. The Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds major thus creates an innovative, collaborative, transdisciplinary and computationally engaged research and learning experience for students.
Arabic Language & Literature Program
The Arabic program at Berkeley introduces students to the language, peoples, cultures, and histories of the Arabic-speaking world. The Arabic language and literature program prepare students for advanced research by providing a solid foundation in Modern Standard Arabic (both modern and classical), and familiarity with the major genres in Arabic literature including poetry, prose, and visual culture.
Arabic coursework can also be used toward an interdisciplinary program in Islamic Studies and programs in anthropology, comparative literature, history, linguistics, religion, sociology, global studies, and other fields. Study of the Arabic language through study abroad is particularly recommended for students who want to develop proficiency for research or fieldwork. Interested students are urged to begin studying the language early in their academic careers, so they will have time to develop language proficiency and complete the major or minor requirements.
Hebrew Language & Literature Program
The Hebrew Program at Berkeley offers a rigorous and engaging curriculum. Students achieve elementary to advanced levels of fluency in the Hebrew language. Students can also take courses in the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and Hebrew literature and cultures courses. Learning Hebrew opens windows to the study of Jewish history, literature, religion, and culture, Israeli and diasporic life, archaeology, and linguistics, among other topics.
In addition to working toward proficiency in the Hebrew language, students will develop close reading and critical thinking skills. Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the major, students will be well prepared for the rigor of graduate studies or careers in various fields. Interested students are urged to begin studying the language early in their academic careers, to have time to develop language proficiency and to complete the major or minor requirements.
Persian Language & Literature Program
Berkeley’s Persian and Iranian Language and Literature program studies the diverse geographic and linguistic landscape of both historic and modern Persianate societies. UC Berkeley has long enjoyed particular strength in the fields of Iranian languages and literatures, archaeology and art history, and history, and scholars across campus offer a broad range of interdisciplinary expertise and courses in various aspects of Persianate cultures. The UC Berkeley Initiative for Iranian Studies (BIIS) is a broad and multi-disciplinary initiative which supports research, teaching, and programming in of Iranian Studies.
The MELC department offers major and minor programs in Persian language and literature in both modern and classical Persian, from the most elementary level to the most advanced. Courses in ancient Iranian languages (e.g., Old Persian, Middle Persian) are also offered. The major provides students with a global lens from which to explore Iran and Persianate societies across time and space. Students can take a variety of classes related to Iran in subjects such as history, comparative literature, language, cinema, art, and politics.
Modern Middle Eastern Worlds
The Modern Middle Eastern Worlds major explores the broader modern Middle East through critical analyses of its cultural, literary, artistic, historic, and religious diversity. The Middle East has had profound historical impacts through its languages, literature, and cultures on practically every part of the world. Its influence extends to Central, East, and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and North America. Middle Eastern societies continue to be an important area of academic inquiry on account of their political, economic, and cultural effects on the international arena.
The major offers studies of the pre-modern and modern Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, which provides a broad knowledge of the histories, philosophy, religious thought, and legal institutions of the diverse societies. The major prepares students in the fields of comparative and international studies, foreign service, law, teaching and research, and for further study in graduate programs.
Major Declaration Process
The department recommends that students declare a major as soon as they begin their study at Berkeley. Please see below for steps to declare a major:
1. Review Major Course Requirements for the major in the Berkeley Academic Guide.
2. Meet with the Undergraduate Major Adviser to discuss the major requirements and course options. For more information about the major, students may also meet with a faculty major adviser to discuss their academic plan.
3. Submit an L&S Major Declaration Form and a program plan for approval to the Undergraduate Major Adviser.
Double Major Application
Please review the L&S Double Major requirements. If you are declaring a double major, please submit a Double Major Application Form to both major departments and attend a required meeting with an L&S Adviser. No more than two upper-division courses may be used in common to fulfill requirements for both majors.
Please review the L&S Guidelines for Minors. The L&S Completion of a Minor Form must be submitted for approval to the Undergraduate Major Adviser one semester before graduation. If you are interested in pursuing a minor program, please schedule an advising appointment.
The Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) Department Honors Program provides students with an opportunity to research and write a thesis in the area of their major specialization. The successful completion of a thesis allows students to graduate with the distinction of an honors degree in their major. Students with an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or higher and a GPA of 3.51 or higher in courses completed in the major may apply for admission to the honors program in their senior year. Students must maintain the required GPA in order to remain eligible for the honors program.
In their senior year, students will prepare an honors thesis of at least 20 double-spaced pages. Students are required to enroll in an Independent Study course (MELC 199) in the fall semester and the honors course in (MELC H195) in the spring semester of their senior year in order to receive credit for the thesis. The honors thesis must be read and evaluated by a two-member committee consisting of a department faculty thesis supervisor and another member of the faculty. The thesis must be deemed to be at least B+ quality in order to qualify the candidate for graduation with a degree of honors. Successful theses will receive distinctions of either “honors,” "high honors," or "highest honors.” For more information on the Honors Program, please contact the undergraduate major advisor at email@example.com.RESOURCES FOR UNDERGRADUATES
Apprenticeship at the Hearst Museum
The Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) provides an opportunity for Berkeley undergraduates to work with faculty members on innovative research projects. Students meet regularly with faculty for research mentoring and may earn 1 unit of academic credit for each 3 hours of research work (limited to 4 units per term). The program is designed to stimulate awareness of advanced research and interest in graduate study. Students are not paid for their participation. For more information on the apprenticeship opportunities, please contact the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
Berkeley Archeological Research Facility
Every semester, the Archeological Research Facility hosts a set of archeological lectures and events which are open to the public.
Brown Bag Talks & Lectures
The Near Eastern Studies department holds monthly brown bag talks, which feature faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars, to discuss their research work in the area of Near Eastern Studies. Please visit the events page on the NES website for more information.
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) promotes the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East at the University of California, Berkeley, and beyond, raising public awareness of the region’s diverse peoples and cultures and their connection to wider global contexts. Please visit the CMES website for list of lectures and events each semester.
UC Berkeley Initiative for Iranian Studies (BIIS)
The UC Berkeley Initiative for Iranian Studies is a broad and multi-disciplinary initiative which supports research, teaching, and programming bringing together a multitude of aspects of Iranian Studies.
Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships
The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships (OURS) is UC Berkeley’s hub for undergraduate research and prestigious scholarships.
Berkeley Study Abroad offers opportunity for students to earn university course credit while studying abroad. Courses can be taken in the areas of language, cultural, and historical studies and may apply towards completing major requirements.
Getting Ready for Graduate School
Step by Step: is an undergraduate resource group to enrich the student’s academic experience and to prepare students for graduate school.
Please find below a list of scholarship opportunities to fund study abroad and national academic programs. A full list of scholarships can be found here.
Haas Scholars Program
Each year the Haas Scholars Program selects twenty highly qualified, academically talented undergraduates who have financial need to form a supportive intellectual community during their final year at UC-Berkeley. Haas Scholars receive close mentoring from members of the UC-Berkeley faculty, and attend seminars and workshops to assist them in the research and writing process, and to provide them an opportunity to present their work at a professional conference. Students may receive up to $12,600 each in financial support.
Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Awards
FLAS awards enable students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents to acquire a high level of competence in one or more foreign languages. Fellowships (up to $15,000) for the full academic year or summer programs are awarded to students studying a modern foreign language in the US or abroad, with priority given to students in the humanities, social sciences, and professional fields.
Undergraduate Merit Scholarship
The Institute of International Studies offers scholarships of up to $2,000 each to support undergraduate research in any area of international studies. Scholarship recipients may be eligible for additional prizes upon presentation of their research work.
The Al-Falah Program in Islamic Studies
The Al-Falah Program supports research, teaching, and outreach projects that focus on building academic and cultural bridges between the United States and the Middle East and broader Islamic world.
The Afaf Kanafani Prize
The Afaf Kanafani Prize is awarded to the best paper by a UC Berkeley student dealing with any topic related to the subject of women in the Arab world.
Andrew Mellon Foundation Conference & Research Grant
Andrew Mellon Foundation grants cover the cost of travel for conference presentations, modern Middle Eastern language study, dissertation research, or faculty projects.
Stevens Scholar Program
The Stevens Scholar Program supports research and travel by undergraduate students who demonstrate a high level of distinction in Middle Eastern Studies. Scholarships up to $5,000 are available to assist students with travel expenses and to support student’s research interest on Middle East related topics or overseas study of Middle Eastern languages.
Sultan Program in Arab Studies
Scholarships up to $1,200 are available to undergraduates working on projects and theses related to Arab Studies. Scholarships may be used to support research or conference travel, overseas or domestic summer Arabic language study, and/or internships.
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT LEARNING GOALS
Program Level Goals
For Language Majors:
• Proficiency in speaking, listening, and writing in the designated language.
• Knowledge of the major literary genres and corpora relevant to the designated language.
• Knowledge of the main historical and cultural periods and geographies relevant to the designated language.
For Non-Language Majors:
• the ability to analyze architecture, art, and archaeological sites
• knowledge of the main historical and cultural periods, sites, monuments and geographies relevant to the chosen field
For all majors:
• Familiarity with the entire area of the Middle East from ancient to modern times.
• Awareness of the importance of the Near/Middle East in today’s global society.
• The ability to formulate a well-organized argument, supported by evidence.
• The ability to critically read and analyze scholarship in the field.
• The ability to write and to communicate orally.
Program Goals and Core Curriculum Foundational Courses:
• All majors are required to take MELC 10 Ancient Middle Eastern Worlds, which surveys the Middle East in ancient times and MELC 11 Modern Middle East.
• Language skills are gained in successive stages of language instruction from elementary to intermediate to advanced courses.
• Writing, critical reading, and scholarly argumentation are introduced in L&S Reading and Composition courses in either ancient Middle Eastern texts or modern Middle Eastern texts (R1A and R1B)
Continuing Skills Courses:
• In the Middle Eastern Languages & Literature majors there are a diversity of advanced literature courses offered in the designated language.
• In the Middle Eastern Worlds majors there are comparable advanced upper division courses offered in a range of specialized subjects that include both thematic and area-studies formats.
• Undergraduate seminars offer students the opportunity to work closely with instructors and to examine specialized topics in greater depth.
• Many of our advanced majors take graduate seminars (with the consent of instructors).
• Many of our students study abroad in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and Israel, and participate in language and culture programs, as well as archaeological excavations.