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History of Arabic at Bowdoin

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Story posted November 16, 2011

Arabic at BowdoinArabic instruction at Bowdoin began in the fall of 2008 with the arrival of Russell Hopley from Princeton University.   Courses were offered initially at the elementary and intermediate levels.  An offering of third-year Arabic was subsequently added in 2010, and advanced seminar-style courses covering a range of topics were introduced in 2012.  These reading-intensive courses represent the capstone of the Arabic curriculum at Bowdoin, and they aim to provide students the opportunity to examine literary, historical, and legal texts from the Middle East and North Africa, from the medieval and modern periods alike.  Whether it be a 19th-century treatise on jihad from Sokoto, a 7th-century panegyric poem written for the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, an autobiographical narrative from mid-20th century Tangier, a fatwa from 14th-century Granada on the suppression of heresy, or a short story set in war-torn Beirut of the late 1970’s, students of Arabic at Bowdoin now have access to a significant body of literature largely unavailable in translation.  Just as important, students emerge from these courses with the ability to read closely and critically Arabic texts from a variety of genres and time periods, a skill of inestimable value in this global age. 

During my junior year I began studying Arabic under the direction of Professor Russell Hopley. Bowdoin had not previously offered Arabic, so I was fortunate to have the opportunity to begin studying the language. My second-year Arabic class is composed of about 12 dedicated students, which ensures a great classroom environment. Professor Hopley teaches Arabic in a comprehensive manner so that we not only understand grammar and syntax in oral and written situations, but also the cultural nuances of Middle Eastern and North African societies. The class is challenging and fascinating, and I aim to continue studying Arabic after graduation.
— Mike Dooley '10