Accessibility statement

Islamic Worlds - MST00074M

« Back to module search

  • Department: Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Module co-ordinator: Information currently unavailable
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This 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’.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • To develop knowledge and understanding of the use of script and texts in medieval Islamic cities and the multiple uses of text as image/image as texts
  • To demonstrate the nature of conquest, expansion, and the projection of authority
  • To explore different courts and dynasties and their role in the development of scientific and philosophical learning

Through three key thematic approaches (‘Text as Image/Image as Text’; Power Projection and Legitimacy;
Travel and Learning), students will explore the ways in which different Islamic societies depicted, described and displayed themselves and others. This module is steeped in the study of material and textual culture and uses literary and historical methodologies in order to develop a nuanced and critical understanding of the multiplicity of Islamic cultures in the medieval period.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the use of script and texts in medieval Islamic
  • cities and the multiple uses of text as image/image as texts
  • Demonstrate the nature of conquest, expansion, and the projection of authority
  • Explore different courts and dynasties and their role in the development of scientific and
  • philosophical learning

Academic and graduate skills

  • An understanding of the primary means of power projection and legitimacy the Islamic
  • world
  • Familiarity with the literary tropes and the intersection of word and image in the Arabic
  • and Persianate worlds
  • 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

Other learning outcomes

  • Interdisciplinary and trans-regional approaches to research

Module content

Text as Image/Image as Text

This section starts by looking at narrative images. The section will look at how material culture can bridge the gap between words and images in the medieval Islamic world. This first part will examine how an image can tell a different story, or tell the same story in a different way, when it is divorced from the text. There is an examination of the use and role of literature and poetics in Islamic societies. This section will also include a detailed study of the use of decorative text on buildings that can be placed in the interstices between word and ornament. The spread of the Arabic language and its use in monumental public contexts allows for a clearer understanding of the ways in which religious authority was projected from the early to the late medieval period.

Power Projection and Legitimacy

The second theme builds on the previous one, and concerns the ways in which power and legitimacy were presented in the public sphere. The public text, and the use of different methods of power projection and legitimization are examined through the prism of objects at the extreme ends of scale and mobility. The concepts of legitimacy, trade, the economy, and the diffusion of ideas concerning caliphal power and authority will also be explored. Subjects including the writing of history and the historiography of political thought will give a wider context to the cases studies and embed them into the broader historical continuum.

Science and Learning

This section builds on the previous two by turning to the intellectual, scientific and philosophical developments that occurred across places such as Abbasid Baghdad, Fatimid Cairo, Samanid Bukhara, and Buyid Iran. Here, we will explore how the so-called ‘Golden Age of Islam’ occurred across multiple regions and courts. In Baghdad, we will examine the role of the so-called Bayt al-Hikma (‘House of Wisdom’) and the Graeco-Arabic translation movement; in Fatimid Cairo, we will consider the al-Azhar as a place of learning and delve into the importance of the Cairo Geniza; and we will turn to Samanid Bukhara as a place that was formative for the polymath Ibn al-Sina, but which rivalled Baghdad as a place of scholarship and aimed to revive Persian as a language of literacy and scholarship. We will explore these places through a combination of material culture, literary, historical and scientific texts.

This will be a primary module for the Medieval Islamic Worlds pathway within the MA in Medieval Studies. It will also be available to MA in Medieval Studies students who are not on the pathway.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

We aim to distribute an agreed mark and written comments on summative assessment to students 20 working
days following submission.

Indicative reading

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

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

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

Robinson, Chase F. 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.