Oriental Studies

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Oriental Studies

Director of Studies:
Dr Frances Reynolds

Among subjects in the humanities, Oriental Studies is unique in introducing students to civilisations that are radically different from the Western ones that form the basis of the curriculum in most British schools and colleges. The courses present both the major traditions of the regions studied and, in most cases, their modern developments. All courses include language, literature, history and culture, and there is a wide range of options in such fields as art and archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies.

Oriental Studies at Oxford

Oriental Studies has a long history in Oxford. The Bodleian and other libraries have acquired magnificent collections. The Oriental Institute and Bodleian Indian Institute Libraries offer loan collections in their respective fields. Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. The Sackler Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

International Opportunities

Most courses offer the opportunity to spend time in the region being studied. The Arabic courses include a year in the Middle East, the Persian and Turkish courses a year in Iran or Turkey respectively, and the Hebrew Studies course an optional year in Israel. During the summer vacation students taking Egyptology or Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies can usually join an excavation in the Middle East (this is optional and not part of the course).

Requirements

Students are not expected to have studied any Oriental language before. A language to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students taking the course, although this is not required for admission. Some candidates must also take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) as part of their application.

We are looking for potential for the intended course, strong motivation, and a capacity for hard and well-organised work. Learning languages and scripts, often very different ones, is fundamental but essay work also requires skills of analysis, argument, and description.

Oriental Studies at St Benet’s Hall

St Benet’s Hall admits three students each year for Oriental Studies, including Oriental Studies with Classics. The Oriental Studies subjects at the Hall are: Ancient Near Eastern Studies; Arabic; Egyptology; Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies; Hebrew Studies; Jewish Studies; Persian; Sanskrit; and Turkish. Three places make up about a fifth of any year in the Hall. Relatively few colleges admit students for these subjects and the number of places at St. Benet’s is one of the larger cohorts at Oxford. The joint degrees of Classics and Oriental Studies, and Theology and Oriental Studies have separate information pages.

Oriental Studies at Oxford is a Faculty based subject. Teaching for undergraduates at all colleges and halls is organized centrally by the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Lectures, language classes, seminars, and tutorials usually take place in the Oriental Institute or the Griffith Institute. Both Institutes, together with the Sackler Library and the Ashmolean Museum, are very near St Benet’s Hall. The Hall also has library provision in Oriental Studies and, among college libraries, it has a special focus on undergraduate resources for the relevant subjects.

Oriental Studies undergraduates at all colleges and halls share the same access to teaching staff. At St Benet’s Hall Dr Frances Reynolds is the Senior Research Fellow and Director of Studies in Oriental Studies. She oversees the Oriental Studies courses for all undergraduates at the Hall and liaises across the range of Oriental Studies subjects. She is the Shillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute and an Associate Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion. She teaches Akkadian, a language related to Arabic and Hebrew, and lectures on the culture and history of the ancient Middle East. Her research focuses on Mesopotamia, ancient Iraq, in particular Babylonian and Assyrian religion and scholarship in the first millennium BCE. Dr Nadia Jamil is the College Lecturer in Arabic at the Hall and the Senior Language Instructor in Arabic at the Oriental Institute. Dr Nancy Hawker, a Leverhulme Early-Career Fellow at the Oriental Institute, is a research associate at the Hall working on Arabic and Hebrew.

 

Oriental Studies Course Structure

Arabic and Islamic Studies (T601)
Arabic with subsidiary language (T6T9)
Persian (T613)

Persian with subsidiary language (T6TX)

Turkish (T600)
Turkish with Islamic Art and Archaeology (TQP9)
Turkish with subsidiary language (T6TY)

1st year

2nd year

3rd and 4th years

Courses

Elementary language

Islamic history and culture

Courses

Year abroad: approved course of language instruction

Project

Core work on language and literature

History

Specialisation or subsidiary language

Assessment

First University examinations after term 3:
3 written papers; an oral exam (Arabic only)

Assessment

Qualifying examination at the end of the course

Assessment

Final University examinations
Oral exam and 8 or 9 written papers (one of which may be a thesis)

 

Egyptology (Q400), Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Q402), Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Q401)

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

Courses

Broad survey of civilisations of Egypt and the Ancient Near East.

Language teaching in Egyptian or Akkadian.

 

Courses

Addition of second language, or Archaeology and Anthropology.

Options: Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac, Archaeology and Anthropology, Classical Greek, Coptic, Hebrew (Biblical and Mishnaic), Old Iranian, Sumerian, or Hittite (if available).

Literary and historical topics through study of texts and essay writing.

Intensive class work.

Courses

Essay writing and dissertation work.

Intensive classes in the first and second terms.

Artefact classes.

Field of concentration.

Assessment

First University examinations
4 written papers

 

Assessment

Final University examinations
10 units

The three codes, Q400, Q401, and Q402, give access to all available options within Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.
 

 

Hebrew Studies: (primarily languages, literature, culture and history) (Q480)

1st year

2nd year

3rd and 4th years

Courses

Intensive study in Hebrew language in all periods

Introduction to ancient and modern Jewish history

 

Courses

Handling Hebrew texts and developing knowledge of historical and cultural background

Choice of options from Jewish Studies

3rd year can optionally be spent abroad

Courses:

Texts

Historical and cultural background

Assessment

First University examinations
4 written papers

 

Assessment

Final University examinations
7 written papers; dissertation
4-year course only: oral examination
 

                                   

 

Jewish Studies: (primarily focused on the history, religion and culture of the Jews from biblical to modern times) (QV91)

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

Courses

Intensive study in Hebrew language in all periods

Introduction to ancient and modern Jewish history

 

Courses

Options (3 subjects to be chosen)

1 tutorial a week, with essay

Courses

Options (2 subjects to be chosen)

1 tutorial a week, with essay

Assessment

First University examinations
4 papers

 

Assessment

Final University examinations
6 written papers; dissertation
 

 

 

Sanskrit (Q450)

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

Courses

Intensive language teaching

 

Courses

Preparation for Final University examinations in final year

Study of Sanskrit grammar

Subsidiary language options: Old Iranian, Pali, Prakrit, Tibetan, Hindi, or Bengali (if available)

Courses

Sanskrit literature

Special subject

Assessment

First University examinations

 

Assessment

Final University examinations
9 papers: 7 in Sanskrit and 2 in subsidiary language
 

 

Further information:

http://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/general/undergrad_prospectus.html

    

Student Profile

George Swainston

1st year student in Oriental Studies (Arabic and Islamic Studies)

My experience at Benet's thus far has been very positive. The Hall has a close, friendly atmosphere with respect to its social and academic aspects. It wasn't long before I knew practically the entire body of both students and staff, and the Hall was able to pay close attention to my academic needs, regularly consulting me on books to add to the burgeoning section of the library relating to Oriental Studies.

Rory Farquharson

1st year student in Oriental Studies (Arabic and Islamic Studies)

As the first year of students studying Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Hall there was no precedent as to what my experience might be like. Within a few weeks I already knew practically everyone and was impressed by the support given by the Hall. All the course textbooks are provided for in the Benet's library and the proximity of the Hall to the Oriental Institute is particularly useful. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year at Benet's and look forward to returning after my year abroad in Jordan.

Marcus Lee

3rd year student in Oriental Studies (Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies)

St Benet’s as a Permanent Private Hall offers a unique experience in terms of college life. Its size allows you to know almost all other members of the hall and be part of a supportive community. As there are fewer students, St Benet’s has a better staff to student ratio meaning that students of Benet’s enjoy both a closer working and pastoral relationship with university staff. Location and catering are some of the advantages of St Benets. The hall’s proximity to faculties and libraries is a real benefit for students; and the food including formal meals is excellent by university standards. Although no religious affiliation is required of students, the Benedictine principles on which the hall is founded greatly enhance university life at Oxford. St Benet’s is certainly a place not to be overlooked.

Federico Zangani

3rd year student in Oriental Studies (Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies)

After two years in St Benet’s, my experience of the Hall is that of an academically stimulating place and a cosy environment to live and study. The small size of the community allows each student to be in close contact both with the academic body and with fellow students, and I have personally benefited a lot from this. This character of the Hall is matched by the many opportunities to get involved in the life of the University and its vast spectrum of activities. The duality and complementarity of Hall and University prove to be particularly true as far as courses in Oriental Studies are concerned. Much teaching is based at the Faculty, and students can work in the wider context of the University, while St Benet’s organises regular tuition and looks after the academic development of each student individually, and this is particularly formative and productive. The Hall library provides most of the basic books, and it is updated and regularly supplied with further items.

Ezra Margulies

2nd year student in Oriental Studies (Jewish Studies)

I remember my interview with Fr. Felix, who was Master of the Hall the year I applied. Sitting in the Yellow Room, he explained to me the characteristics of life in St Benet's, the college's values and ethics, and inquired whether I would feel comfortable studying there. I heard myself responding, "I would be delighted", not quite certain of the degree to which that was an honest answer. The prospect was daunting. I did not choose St Benet's, but in a sense, St Benet's chose me, and it's one of the best things that ever happened to me. In terms of living and working conditions, but also on a social level, the size and spirit of the Hall make it a unique place to be part of. A friendly, welcoming environment is always a crucial criterion in one's Oxford experience, and St Benet's Hall is where I found it.