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Narratives That Matter: Literature, Film and Television Drama in the Middle East


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the right information bar.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Coordinator of Studies.

In order to broaden the scope of this course, students, interested in other societal and cultural fields, or from other disciplines, are encouraged to participate in the seminar. The wider the range of topics, the richer the course will be.

Students with little or no knowledge on the modern history of the Middle East, should read James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East. A History fourth edition Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, BEFORE the start of the course.


“There is perhaps no better anthropological or aesthetic artefact with which to read social change, to gauge resistance and to trace the scars of history and ideology on local populations than the novel”. Erdağ Göknar sees the novel in Turkey as a “vehicle of modernisation that reveals Ottoman and Turkish experience as human experience” (“The novel in Turkish: narrative tradition to Nobel prize,” The Cambridge History of Turkey, Reşat Kasaba ed, Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 2008, pp. 472-503). What holds true for Turkey might be extrapolated to the Middle East (Turkey, Iran, the Arab world and Israel) at large. Where the novel was a ‘vehicle of modernisation’ during the first half of the 20th century in the Middle East, this role passed on to film during the second half of the twentieth century and to television drama more recently. This course wants to explore precisely this shift in focus toward visual media in the context of Middle Eastern culture and its meaning for contemporary Middle Eastern societies (from 1900 (1850) onwards).

To achieve this, Middle Eastern cultural products will be positioned within their societal context and the way they relate to society will be examined. This means, studying primary source materials such as novels, poetry, films, television series, that matter: those books, films and television series that show us political developments in Middle Eastern societies and/or constitute symbols for societal change. In addition, secondary source material on political, societal and historical developments in the contemporary Middle East will be used. If possible, this depends on the fields of interest of the students participating, a comparison between Middle Eastern societal and narrative culture and other cultures could be incorporated. This seminar will start with a discussion on topical issues related to the Middle East by reading recent texts on socio-political history. This will be followed by introductory lectures about methodology and examples of Middle Eastern cultural production that matters. Subsequently, students will read/view primary and secondary source material, present this to each other and prepare a publishable blog or vlog on it. Finally, all students choose a topic for themselves on which they give a presentation and write their final paper.

Course objectives

The objectives of this course are:

  • To deepen knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern history and culture and establish insight in the transformation of cultural media that represent and change societies throughout the 20th century.

  • To improve writing skills by practicing with different textual media, blogs/vlogs and academic output.

  • To improve presentational skills

  • To improve collaboration skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Assignments related to classes 5%
Presentation on primary and secondary source material 5%
Presentation of own research 5%
Midterm: blog/vlog 30%
Final paper 55%

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Final paper

The deadline for the final paper is Monday, 10 January 2022, 9.00 AM.

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hours late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade, in casu a 1.0 for this partial assessment.


For both an insufficient Midterm blog/vlog or an insufficient final paper, provided that the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower), a resit is offered. In that case the convenor of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation. Missing a presentation or late submissions of the assignments result in a 0 for the respective parts of the assessment. Resits for insufficient presentations nor for assignments are possible.

Exam review

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Information on the primary and secondary sources used in the course will be supplied through Bright Space.
Those with a gap in their knowledge on the modern history of Turkey, should read before the start of the course: James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East. A History, fourth edition Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016,.


Students from MA programmes listed under Part of in the right information bar, will be informed by their Coordinator of Studies on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof, one week prior to the start of the first semester.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof.