CLAS to offer new major in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations


The Registrar’s office handles matters related to UConn’s course offerings (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut (UConn) students can study classic Islamic civilizations and the modern Arab world through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ new major in Arabic and Islamic civilizations.

The major will be housed in the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages and students can declare it beginning in May 2019, according to Nicola Carpentieri, a UConn professor who created the major.

“There was a program in Arabic language before me that was run by (professor) Maha Darawsha, and the number of students was increasing and is now very, very high,” Carpentieri said. “She had lots of students, so it came to a point where they said, ‘Okay, now we can create a major and a minor.’ So I was hired last year, and my job has basically been that of creating new courses to offer to the students.”

Carpentieri created 14 classes that cover Arabic literature, culture and language, Carpentieri said.

The language classes teach students formal Arabic, colloquial Arabic and media Arabic, while the literature classes teach modern and medieval Arabic literature, according to Carpentieri.

“We also have culture courses,” Carpentieri said. “For example, we have a course on folk tales, we have a course on cinema, we have a class on Muslim Spain in which we do music.”

Carpentieri said he believes it’s important for UConn to have a major in Arabic and Islamic civilizations because the study of Arabic is a “major academic discipline.”

“I believe no university worthy of this name can do without a major in Arabic studies,” Carpentieri said. “We see the Arab world every day in the news today, with bad press, and it’s important that students are exposed to primary sources in the Arab world—not only to get their information through the media but to be exposed to culture as it is.”

Students interested in a career that relates to the Arab world in any form should consider a major in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations, Carpentieri said.

“I’m talking about diplomacy and the State Department, I’m talking about commerce, business, all these sectors would benefit from having a good knowledge of written and spoken Arabic,” Carpentieri said. “We also geared this major towards students who are interested in the culture and want to do graduate studies in literature and culture.”

Carpentieri said students should not be intimidated by the thought of learning a language like Arabic.

“Mastering Arabic is a very difficult business, it’s a long journey. But to get to a good level is not daunting at all,” Carpentieri said. “So we hope that more and more students will opt to study a different language, something a little more challenging and different from everybody else.”

We also geared this major towards students who are interested in the culture and want to do graduate studies in literature and culture
— UConn professor Nicola Carpentieri

“With Arabic, you have an asset that very few people today have,” Carpentieri said. “It’s a hard language, but it’s a fascinating field of study.”

Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

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