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Islamic Worlds - MST00074M

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  • Department: Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Richard McClary
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This team-taught interdisciplinary module aims to introduce students to the notion of multiple Islamic worlds across the medieval period. It will draw on a range of disciplinary and methodological approaches in both textual and material culture in order to examine issues such as power, authority, legitimacy and learning across various geographies belonging to a so-called singular ‘Islamic World’.

This is a core for the Medieval Islamic Cultures pathway within the MA in Medieval Studies and a core module for the Islamic Art and Cultures MA, based in History of Art. It will also be available to MA in Medieval Studies students who are not on the pathway.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module examines issues such as power, authority, legitimacy and learning across various geographies belonging to a so-called singular ‘Islamic World’. The seminars are based around three thematic approaches: ‘Text as Image/Image as Text’; 'Power Projection and Legitimacy'; 'Travel and Learning'. Through these, students will explore the ways in which different pre-modern Islamic societies depicted, described and displayed themselves and others. The first theme looks at how images and texts are used to tell stories in different settings. The second theme concerns the ways in which power and legitimacy were presented by Muslim rulers. The third theme turns to some of the intellectual, scientific and philosophical developments that occurred in the pre-modern Islamic world.

This module therefore aims to develop knowledge of the use of script and texts in medieval Islamic cities and the multiple uses of text as image/image as texts; to explore the nature of conquest, expansion, and the projection of authority; and to consider different courts and dynasties and their role in the development of scientific and philosophical learning. It draws on material and textual cultures to develop a nuanced and critical understanding of the multiplicity of Islamic cultures in the medieval period.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • An understanding of some of the means of projecting power and legitimacy in the Islamic world

  • Familiarity with literary tropes and the intersection of word and image in the Islamic world

  • An understanding of the wide range of interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of medieval Islamic cultures in the medieval period

  • An understanding of the ways to make cross-regional comparisons of the use of power, script and form

Module content

This module will be taught via a briefing and eight 2-hour seminars. Seminar topics will change each year due to staff availability, but may include a number of the following:

  1. Language and the spread of Arabic

  2. Texts and images in Islamic societies

  3. Objects and collecting

  4. Islam in Africa

  5. Empire and authority

  6. The classical heritage - Greek and Persian

  7. Islamic intellectual history

  8. What is the ‘medieval Islamic world’?


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students have the opportunity to submit a formative essay of up to 2,000 words and to receive feedback from a tutor. For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required.

Indicative reading

Irene Bierman. Writing Signs: The Fatimid Public Text, University of California Press, 1998.

Shelia Blair. The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana, Leiden:
Brill, 1992.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Persia ed. Mehdi Amin Razavi.
Richmond: Curzon Press, 1996.

Chase F. Robinson Islamic Historiography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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.