Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module ARAB3101: Identity and Alterity in Classical Arabic Literature

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Arabic)

ARAB3101: Identity and Alterity in Classical Arabic Literature

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Arabic Language 2 (ARAB2002) or an equivalent qualification to the satisfaction of the Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Modern Languages & Cultures, Combined Honours/Liberal Arts and Joint Honours programmes: Arabic Language 4 (ARAB3012). Other: see Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules


  • This module aims to:
  • introduce students to the varieties of social representation present in classical Arabic literature (broadly defined).
  • focus especially on how literary discourse was used to delineate in-group and out-group boundaries.
  • present definitions of identity categories as they emerge through the analysis of discursive identity formation in the texts studied as well as through reference to contemporaneous Classical Arabic identity terminology.
  • rather than documenting instances of representation qua representation, the module seeks to understand how social categories and identity formation produce, and are informed by the world views of writer and audience.


  • This module explores the ways in which pre-modern Arabo-Islamic literary culture represented ethnic, sexual, physical, linguistic, gender, religious, etc. identities. Primary sources for this module are representations of social identity and alterity drawn from prose literature, poetry, historiography, travel narratives, and religious texts composed in Classical Arabic and other historical varieties of Arabic. These primary sources will be complemented by English-language secondary sources.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module:
  • students will understand how classical Arabic literary representations were used to delineate the boundaries of pre-modern Arabo-Islamic societies.
  • students will also know the parameters of specific genres in classical Arabic literature and how these relate to certain cultural formations and periods in Arabo-Islamic history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module:
  • students will understand the possibilities and limitations of writing social history on the basis of classical Arabic literary material.
  • students will enhance their skills in reading classical Arabic and in reading pre-modern texts critically.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module:
  • students are expected to have developed their ability to use primary and secondary resources effectively; undertake independent research; and construct critical arguments using rigorous analysis.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be taught intensively in Term 1 or Term 2 on a 'short-fat' basis
  • The module is taught in the form of weekly two-hour lectures and weekly one-hour seminars, which will allow for in-class presentations and student-led discussion.
  • The module is assessed by means of one summative essay (to focus on independent learning, research skills and effective use of resources) and one written examination (to focus on synthesising knowledge and understanding under time pressure without access to resources).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 2 hour 20
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Research Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Essay 3,000 words 60% No
Annotated Bibliography 500 words 20% No
Commentary 500 words 20% No
Component: Translation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Translation 1,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Formative work will include peer/question-driven discussions during seminars. Oral feedback and comments are provided regularly in the course of the seminar discussion.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University