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Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies (Taught)

MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies)

Students admitted for the MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies) will have the option to choose from ONE of the following programmes of study:

(OPTION 1) Muslim-Jewish Relations

This course aims to give graduate students an opportunity to develop their analytical, research and writing skills in preparation for further academic research or entry to professions requiring such skills. All prospective MPhil applicants are advised to peruse the staff profiles on our website to familiarize themselves with the research and teaching interests of staff members. Applicants should contact potential supervisors by email and discuss potential MPhil dissertation topics. Each member of our staff has wide academic interests, so you should explore potential topics of interest freely. For the avoidance of confusion, although this course is an MPhil with taught elements the Graduate Admissions website identifies it as predominantly research. This is the correct course for which to apply. 

Applicants for this course will be expected to have a University qualification in either Hebrew or Arabic.

At present, the following modules are offered:

  1. Muslim-Jewish Relations, Foundations
  2. Muslim-Jewish Relations, Special Topics
  3. Cairo Genizah.

Papers for the Muslim Jewish Relations MPhil Pathway include:

1. Muslim-Jewish Relations, Foundations

This module introduces students to the analytical tools required for studying Muslim-Jewish relations, primary sources in translation and original language, bibliographical method, objectivity in the study of interfaith relations and controversial themes. Themes may include the Jewish languages of the Islamic world, key historical documents in the study of Muslim-Jewish Relations; Jewish and Muslim thought; Law and Society; the Ottoman Empire, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

2. Muslim-Jewish Relations, Special Topics

These topics will generally focus on contemporary issues between Muslims and Jews and why these relations are important to understanding the position of religious minorities, faith identity and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Comparisons will be made to Europe and the United States in order to understand how trends in the region are related to politics and social change elsewhere. Topics may include: Religious Identity and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa; Globalization, Faith and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and the United States; Comparative Perspectives on Muslim-Jewish Relations in Middle East and North Africa and Europe; the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Arab Spring.

3. Cairo Genizah

In this module students are given an introduction to the Genizah manuscripts and its importance for the study of Muslim-Jewish relations in the Middle Ages. Most of the teaching will be based on a selection of Genizah texts in Hebrew or Judaeo-Arabic. These will be read in edited form and also from the original manuscripts in the Taylor-Schechter Genizah collection in Cambridge (

OR from:

(OPTION 2) Persian Cultural History

Applicants for this course are expected to have a university qualification in Persian.

This course offers readings in Persian cultural history, identifying persisting trends in Persian literature and cultural production from the medieval period down to modern times. These themes revolve around kingship and the image of the ideal prince, theories of justice and good government, and competing sources of secular and religious authority. Similarly, the motif of love, both earthly and divine, is a common thread running through Persian literature and entails also the extensive use of imagery of the natural world. In the modern world, the course examines a number of issues by studying Iranian cinema and focusing on gender, historical adaptation, nation and approaches to narration and resistance to dominant discourses, reflecting also on how the stories and legends of the classical tradition are adapted for contemporary literature and media.

In discussing these topics, attention is paid to their visual as well as written representation.

At present, the following modules are offered:

  1. Medieval Persian Texts: History and Hagiography
  2. Shaping the Ruler in Medieval Persian Belles-Lettres
  3. Iranian Cinema: Gender, Adaptation, Nation and Narration

Papers for the Persian Cultural History MPhil Pathway include:

1. Medieval Persian Texts: History and Hagiography

This module introduces some key texts of historical and hagiographical literature, exploring their different literary and narrative approaches to addressing essentially the same purpose, namely establishing the legitimacy and idealised image of both the rulers and the saints who form their subject matter. Poetry plays a large part in the delivery and expression of these topics and the module concentrates on readings that explore the relationship between history, sufism and poetry in Persian culture.

2. Shaping the Ruler in Medieval Persian Belles-Lettres

This module focuses on texts written for princes and monarchs, which are meant to shape the knowledge and morality of the people at the top. Texts picturing the pre-Islamic royal history, Mirror for Princes, didactic prose and poetry… all these participate in informing the understanding and political intelligence of young princes. The course also looks at the practical results achieved during the life time of the monarchs: art historical elements of courtly life and historical events are analysed and discussed.

3. Iranian Cinema: Gender, Adaptation, Nation and Narration

The purpose of this module is to introduce the students to different approaches to analyzing cinematic form and studying culture through films. Each session, therefore, includes watching and discussing a film and reading one or two critical texts that examine different aspects of life and film production in Iran. The key cultural concepts are gender relations, resistance against dominant discourses, historical and intercultural adaptation, nation and nationalism, and cinematic narration.



The one-year MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies) will have the following structure for the Muslim-Jewish Relations (OPTION 1) and Persian Cultural History (OPTION 2):

  1. Three modules each assessed by an examination or a 5,000 word course exercise. The cumulative score of these three papers will be worth 50 percent of the final mark.
  2. A 15,000 word dissertation which will constitute the other 50 percent for this course.


The dissertation provides an opportunity to learn the process of carrying out research and will help train students to be a future researcher (in academia or elsewhere). Applicants should consider carefully the formulation of a potential MPhil dissertation topic before applying. They should be in touch with members of staff who would act as supervisors before submitting the final version of their dissertation proposal.

Applicants for this course are expected to have a university qualification in either Hebrew or Arabic (Muslim-Jewish Relations stream) or Persian (Persian Cultural History stream).


Applicants for the PhD will be expected to have scored at least 67% or above (or the equivalent from an overseas University) in their Master's degree which should be related to the PhD programme they wish to pursue. All applicants should submit with their GRADSAF (graduate application) a workable and interesting research proposal and demonstrate that they have the required academic knowledge and skills to carry out their project.

Admission is at the discretion of the Degree Committee, which judges each graduate applicant on his or her own merits and in accordance with its own set rules and regulations.


For further information about this course and how to apply, please refer to the following webpage(s) on the Graduate Admissions website: