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Medieval Arabic & Persian Global Literature - ENG00122I

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Shazia Jagot
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

Medieval Arabic and Persian literature produced some of the most enduring literary narratives known today, from the aesopic animal fables of Kalila wa Dimna, the lovesick Layla wa Majnun to the frame-tale narratives of the 1001 Nights. Together, they represent a global phenomenon of medieval literary history: narratives that were translated, transformed and adapted across the broadly defined Silk Roads only to be later absorbed into pan-European narratives, both medieval and modern. This module explores a selection of the most influential of these Arabic and Persian texts, from fables to epics, frame-tale narratives to romance, mysticism to philosophy.

We will examine some of the earliest conceptions of love and madness, animals discussing morality, the philosophical chitters of birds and stories that have the power to save lives. Along the way we will encounter a young Indian Buddha, the Persian Alexander, Scheherazade and a range of female Arabic poets, culminating with the magnus opus of the renowned Rumi. We will explore the social, cultural and intellectual contexts that fostered this literary production and ask how and why these literatures attracted a broad readership across vast geographies, cultures and religions both within and beyond the East. This means we will examine the nature of inter and cross-cultural exchange on a global scale. In some seminars we will explore connections and comparisons with European writers, including Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Goethe, and explore their position in the theoretical fields of orientalism and contemporary world literature.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to a selection of the most influential literature produced in Arabic and Persian from the classical to the late medieval period (c. 700-1400); to develop their understanding of literary production, both poetry and prose, paying attention to the social, cultural, religious and intellectual diversity of these geographies; to examine the global role of translation, adaptation, and inter and cross-cultural exchange within and beyond the so-called ‘Islamic World’, and to introduce students to beginners’ Arabic.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of medieval Arabic and Persian poetry and prose.
  2. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with these literary narratives in their social, cultural and historical contexts.
  3. Examine key debates and critical approaches, including the concept of global literature, inter and cross-cultural exchange and orientalism in a pre-modern context.
  4. Develop arguments and ideas which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills
  5. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of Arabic, and an understanding of some of the key issues at stake in the act of translation.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word Essay
N/A 70
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Medieval Arabic & Persian Global Literature exam
8 hours 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in week 1 of the summer term. Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work.

This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 3 seminar). Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word Essay
N/A 70
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Medieval Arabic & Persian Global Literature exam
8 hours 30

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

REading will be provided nearer the start of the module but is likely to include: 

1001 Nights, The Adventures of Sayf ben dhi Yazan,

Nizami, Layla wa Majnun,

Ferdowsi, Shahnameh,

Ibn Tufayl, Hayy ibn Yaqzan,

Farid Attar, Conference of the Birds,

Rumi, Masnavi (selected.).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.