BA in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages & Literatures

The major in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages & Literatures (MESALL) offers students the chance to develop an in-depth critical understanding of one or more Middle Eastern and/or South Asian literary and cultural traditions. Graduates are prepared to function well in cross-cultural contexts, and to contribute meaningfully to addressing today’s global challenges. This flexible 11-course program works well as a second major alongside a major such as Comparative Literature, Asian Studies, Middle East & North Africa Studies, European Studies, Religion, or History of Art & Architecture. MESALL majors design their program of study with the guidance of a faculty advisor.

Like all World Languages & Literatures (WLL) majors, MESALL majors begin studying a relevant language as early as possible and are required to complete at least one language course at or above the fifth-term level. Two required courses taught in English can be taken early in the student’s program: CAS XL 100 Leaving Home: Explorations in World Literature is a team-taught course in which students meet the WLL faculty through guest lectures and are introduced to diverse literary traditions from around the world; and either Introduction to Middle Eastern Literatures (CAS XL 223) or Introduction to South Asian Literatures (CAS XL 225), both of which introduce students to major texts and areas of study. Six additional courses in a relevant language, literature, linguistics, and/or culture provide greater depth. (Students may mix and match MESA languages.) One WLL elective focused on a non–Middle Eastern language, literature, or culture provides students with regional, global, and/or historical comparison. Finally, MESALL majors reconvene with all WLL majors in the senior capstone seminar CAS XL 479, where they share the expertise they have gained and work with a faculty mentor on a final project using original-language materials. The course provides students with structure and research guidance for developing and discussing their projects, while meetings with a faculty language mentor hone students’ advanced language skills as applied to the area of their research. Student presentations build oral communication skills and the ability to describe one’s work to others. Possible final projects could include a research paper on literature, film, or popular culture; an annotated translation or work of subtitling; a video essay; or a digital humanities project. Students producing excellent capstone projects will be encouraged to develop them into senior honors work.

Learning Outcomes

  • Advanced knowledge of major themes and genres in Middle Eastern and/or South Asian literature and culture in their historical contexts, including links to other world literary traditions.
  • Critical and analytical thinking, communication, global literacy, and writing skills within areas of content and cultural knowledge.
  • Proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension in a Middle Eastern or South Asian language at or above a level (ACTFL intermediate-high) where these skills can be used for communication in everyday and academic situations.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages & Literatures will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; and Communication, along with requirements in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major.

Prerequisite: Four terms of language study (intermediate level) or demonstrated equivalent proficiency.

A total of eleven 4-unit courses is required, all completed with a grade of C or higher.

  • CAS L_ 303 or above in a Middle Eastern or South Asian language, such as CAS LH 311 Advanced Modern Hebrew: Voices in Israeli Society; LN 491 or 492 for Hindi and Urdu Language and Literature; LT 303 Advanced Turkish 1; LY 303 Third-Year Modern Arabic 1; or LZ 311 Advanced Persian 1 (replaceable with CAS L_ 491 Directed Study or L_ 492 Directed Study if scheduling is a problem)
  • CAS XL 100 Explorations in World Literature: Leaving Home (or a substitute XL course for students declaring the major as juniors or seniors)
  • Either CAS XL 223 Introduction to Middle Eastern Literatures or CAS XL 225 Introduction to South Asian Literatures
  • CAS XL 479 WLL Senior Seminar. A capstone course with an essay or project that makes use of Middle Eastern and/or South Asian language sources.
  • Any combination of six Middle Eastern and South Asian literature/film/culture courses chosen with approval of the advisor from LH, LN, LT, LY, LZ, and XL, and advanced language courses (above 212) chosen from LH, LN, LT, LY, and LZ. Courses taken at study abroad programs in the Middle East or South Asia can also count.
  • One WLL elective, chosen with approval of the advisor, chosen from all courses in WLL. May also be satisfied by taking both CAS CC 101 and CAS CC 102; CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics or a higher-level linguistics course; or one literature course in Romance Studies, English, or Classical Studies. Students wishing to do more comparative work may count an additional WLL elective in place of one of the six Middle Eastern or South Asian language/literature courses above.

Honors in the Major

To graduate with honors in the major, students will maintain a GPA in the major of at least 3.4 and will take one additional course above the 11 required for the major. This can be any CAS XL or TL course numbered 500 or above, or XL 401 or 402 (continuation of the thesis begun in the capstone seminar).