About the Department
The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (NMC) came into existence on July 1, 1996 as a result of the merger of the formerly separate departments of Near Eastern Studies (NES) and Middle East and Islamic Studies (MEI). These departments, under various designations, have existed in the University of Toronto for over 150 years. Near East is generally understood to refer to the region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and beyond, from ancient times up to the advent of Islam in the seventh century CE. Middle East refers to a much broader geographical area whose predominant Islamic culture in mediaeval and modern times has stretched to North Africa and Spain in the west and to Central Asia, India and South Asia in the east.
The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations is concerned with the interdisciplinary study of the civilizations and cultures of the Near and Middle East from neolithic times until present, including their languages and literatures (Akkadian [Assyro-Babylonian], Arabic, Aramaic and its closely-related dialect Syriac, ancient Egyptian, Greek [Hellenistic], Hebrew [biblical, rabbinic, mediaeval and modern], Persian and Turkish), archaeology, history, art and material culture. The Department’s programmes are conceived in the broad tradition of the humanities and provide an opportunity to study non-western complex societies and civilizations. An understanding of these societies will reveal the ultimate roots and historical development of western civilizations.
As it happens, three world religions originated in this geographical region.
As it happens, three world religions originated in this geographical region. The Department offers courses on the origins and earliest phases of Judaism, on mediaeval and modern Jewish history, culture and thought, even though such pursuits sometimes lead to Europe and other places beyond the Middle East. Although the Department deals with eastern (Syriac) Christianity, the study of Christianity as a religion falls within the purview of the Department of the Study of Religion. The study of Islam as a religion and the development of Islamic thought, and their role in the creation of Islamic civilization, are major concerns of the Department.
The Department offers programmes leading to the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in the study of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. The Department also participates in the following collaborative programmes: Jewish Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies. Upon successful completion of the requirements of the collaborative programme, students receive the M.A. or Ph.D. degree in their departmental area with the notation “Completed Collaborative Programme in Jewish/Women & Gender/Sexual Diversity Studies” on their transcripts.
University of Toronto Libraries (UTL): The University of Toronto library system is fully computerized. With over eight million volumes, it is the largest research library in Canada and one of the ten largest in North America, and for the study of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, the libraries’ books, journals, government documents, microfilms, electronic resources and other resources are an extremely rich resource. The main collection is housed in Robarts Library, the University’s centrally-located research library, and in the colleges attached to the University. Study space is provided in many of the libraries, and a limited number of carrels, desks, and book lockers are available.
The Fisher Rare Book Library’s manuscript holdings include a small collection of Graeco-Egyptian papyrus fragments, about 1176 Arabic manuscripts plus a few in Turkish and Persian, and an eighteenth-century Tikkun scroll. The Friedberg Collection of Hebraic books and manuscripts contains the most complete mediaeval manuscript of the Zohar in existence, and the Fisher Library now holds 21 Hebrew incunabula. The Library of the Royal Ontario Museum supplements the holdings of the Central Library in Near Eastern and Islamic archaeology and art history. The libraries of the theological colleges federated with the university are strong in fields related to the development of Christianity such as Septuagint studies and Oriental patristics. Library users also have access to a wide range of dissertations and other less-used material through UTL’s membership in the Center for Research Libraries (their catalogue is available online).
Departmental Resource Centre: The Department houses a small collection of reference works for the field in its Resource Centre on the second floor of Bancroft Hall. Microfilm readers are also available for graduate students and faculty.
Computer Room Facilities: The Department provides computers for student use, including access to the on-line catalogue of the University library, in the Computer Room on the third floor of Bancroft Hall. Students in the Department may also use the computing facilities provided by Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), located on the 1st floor of Robarts Library. It maintains computing laboratories which provide access to various computer applications, including word-processing, the Internet, electronic mail and electronic publishing. CHASS also offers tutorials and hands-on computer training sessions. Most of their services are offered free of charge. For further information, please visit their web site at: www.chass.utoronto.ca.
Life in the Department and in the University
Orientation: Both the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and the Department hold Graduate Student Orientations. In 2009-10 the SGS orientation will be Tuesday, September 8 from 8:45 to 1:30 p.m. The Department and the NMC Graduate Student Association will hold their orientation, followed by a reception, on Thursday, September 10, 2009.
Common Rooms: Graduate student life in the Department, outside of class and library, is focused on the Graduate Student Common Rooms housed in an older house attached to and accessed from Bancroft Hall. The Common Rooms provide study space and other facilities for Graduate Students.
NMC Seminar Room: The departmental Seminar Room (200B), located on the second floor of Bancroft Hall, is used for many departmental seminars, lectures, and other gatherings.
NMCGSA: All graduate students in the Department are members of the Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Student Association (NMCGSA). The Association is run by elected student officers and offers various services and social occasions for students. Please visit the web site: http://nmcgsa.sa.utoronto.ca/. The NMCGSA organizes an Annual Symposium normally held in the spring, which attracts participants from other nearby universities and internationally. The Symposium provides graduate students with an opportunity to present their work in the setting of an academic conference and to engage in discussion with student and faculty colleagues regarding their research interests. The Symposium is one of the highlights of the academic year in the Department and is well attended by all members of the Department. The NMCGSA has to date published the proceedings of the past three symposia.
GSU, Athletic Centre, Hart House, Koffler Student Centre: Students are members of the Graduate Student Union of the University, of the Athletic Centre and Hart House. The University’s Koffler Student Centre offers a wide range of services to students. Graduate students are eligible to participate in intramural sports and some varsity teams.
Graduate House: Situated on the north-east corner of Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue, the residence is a ten-minute walk to any point on the campus. Graduate House is comprised entirely of apartment style suites that accommodate 3 to 4 occupants per suite. The allocation of recruitment spaces to our department is 1 space. This space is allocated at the discretion of the department to Masters and Ph.D. students. Recruitment spaces guarantee the recipients residency for up to twelve months, ending not later than August 30. Further information may be obtained from the Graduate House web site, www.sgs.utoronto.ca/residencegradtwo/.
English Language and Writing Support: The Office of English Language and Writing Support (ELWS) provides professional development to graduate students who wish to improve their oral and written communication skills. Housed in 63 St. George Street as part of the School of Graduate Studies, ELWS offers individual consultations and a range of workshops and non-credit courses for both native and non-native speakers of English. Through a diverse range of courses including (but not limited to) Writing and Grammar for Non-Native Speakers of English, Writing SSHRC Proposals, Becoming a Better Editor of Your Own Work, and Oral Presentation Skills, the programme teaches graduate students to express their ideas precisely, edit their work effectively, and present their research confidently. Students wishing to learn more about ELWS programme should visit the web site at www.sgs.utoronto.ca/english. Individual consultations can be booked by calling (416) 946-7485. For further information, contact Carmela Versace, Administrative Assistant, ELWS, School of Graduate Studies, Room 304, 63 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 2Z9. Tel: (416) 946-7485, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Student Centre: The International Student Centre provides services for international and Canadian students. For further information you may contact the Centre, 33 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 2E3, Tel: (416) 978-2564, E-mail: email@example.com, Web site: www.library.utoronto.ca/isc.
Graduate Programme Administrative Organization
The Chair: The Chair of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations is responsible for the overall operation of the Department and is accountable with regard to its graduate programme to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.
Graduate Coordinator: The Graduate Coordinator of the Department, with the help of the Graduate Administrator, assists the Chair by administering the Department's academic programmes on a day-to-day basis; the Coordinator is responsible for the academic aspects of the programme whereas the Graduate Administrator handles most administrative matters. The Graduate Coordinator chairs the Graduate Affairs Committee of the Department and also sits on the Executive Council of Division I (Humanities and Social Sciences) of the School of Graduate Studies.
Graduate Administrator: The Graduate Administrator is concerned with the daily operation of the Graduate Programme in the Department and is the first contact person for information concerning all aspects of the Graduate Programme.
Graduate Affairs Committee: The Graduate Affairs Committee is concerned with Departmental policies affecting the Graduate Programme, academic issues, admissions to the graduate programme, and student funding recommendations and decisions. Issues of an academic or administrative nature affecting the entire graduate programme are brought to Departmental faculty meetings for discussion and approval. The Committee is composed of six or seven faculty members representing the Department's areas of concern and meets several times a year as needed. Both the Chair and Graduate Coordinator of the Department are members of the Committee ex officio. The members normally serve one-year terms, which may be renewed. Although there are no student representatives on the Committee, students are invited to present their views on issues of concern and to discuss them with members of the Graduate Affairs Committee at scheduled meetings.
Other Departmental Structures: The role of Academic Advisors, Thesis Supervisors and Thesis Advisory Committees is discussed below.
Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) and OCGS Review: The Graduate Programme of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations undergoes a periodic appraisal every 7 years by the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (the OCGS Review). The OCGS Review ensures the maintenance of a high standard of graduate education in this Department.