From Inkwell to Internet: Text and Transmission in the Muslim World (ResMA)

Vakbeschrijving From Inkwell to Internet: Text and Transmission in the Muslim World (ResMA)
Collegejaar: 2017-2018
Studiegidsnummer: 5474III14
  • Dr. J. Bruning
Voertaal: Engels
Blackboard: Ja
EC: 10
Niveau: 600
Periode: Semester 1, Blok I, II
  • Wel Keuzevak
  • Geen Contractonderwijs
  • Geen Exchange
  • Geen Study Abroad
  • Geen Avondonderwijs
  • Geen A-la-Carte en Aanschuifonderwijs
  • Geen Honours Class

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.

Students without prior knowledge of Islam and Arabic culture are expected to have read before the first class: Karen Armstrong. Islam: A Short History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2000; or later editions)..


This course looks at the production and transmission of knowledge in the Muslim world by examining how medieval Arabic texts are constructed and transmitted from the manuscript era into the internet age through processes of production and consumption. How are texts given shape and what processes and traditions are involved in the construction of texts, their publication, preservation and use? We will examine the technical conditions of Arabic text production such as copying, printing and computer technologies, as well as the role of authors, readers, patrons, teachers, scholars, booksellers, traders, collectors, and librarians in the shaping of the Arabic textual canon that we have at our disposal in the present. We will also look at how texts are (re)produced, altered, and (re)interpreted while being copied, read, recited, taught, or quoted in other texts, and at how changing notions of authority, originality, tradition and modernity have impacted these processes. Material used in this course includes original samples from the rich Leiden manuscript collection as well as other kinds of text production in the Muslim world (recordings, internet publications, etc.).

Particular focuses include: (1) the internal history of texts: manuscripts and the methodology of accounting for variant readings in critical editions; (2) reception: the ways in which older sources are quoted, paraphrased or otherwise incorporated into the works of later authors and the methods of studying such intertextual phenomena; (3) the function of written texts, issues of oral versus written transmission and textual authority; (4) the impact of modernity: the effects of technological innovations, as well as social changes, such as the democratisation of knowledge, and the influence of English.

Course objectives

• to develop the skills and insights that are necessary to evaluate existing research on the topic of the course;
• to navigate central issues involved in the transmission of Arabic texts in the Muslim world;
• to understand how critical editions are composed and to be aware of the different methodologies and theories involved in preparing editions;
• to gain insights into the evolution of Islamic scholarship and changing attitudes towards authorship, textual ownership and criticism;
• to become familiar with the main reference works used in the study of Islamic book culture and knowledge transfer;
• to produce well-formulated and well-organised answers to academic questions on the basis of secondary and primary material;
• to report on research findings orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of humanities scholarship.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar
    Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The conveners 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. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours
* In class instruction: maximum 26 hours.
* Self-study preparing classes and making assignments 248 hours.
* Extra sessions for researchMA students: 6 hours.

Assessment method


Written assignments, discussion and participation.


  • Six written assignments: 70%
  • Discussion and participation: 30%

The grades of the assignments are established on the basis of a review of:
* Demonstration of knowledge and the use of secondary literature;
* Presentation and consistency of arguments;
* Communication: language, lay-out.
Feed-back on assignments will be given in Blackboard.


The final grade for the course is the weighted average of the partial results. (For administration purposes only an “exam” has been created in uSis. Please register in order to receive your grade.)
In order to pass the course, students must have completed all six written assignments to obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. In case of an overall mark of 5.49 or lower, students can redo up to three assignments in consultation with the instructor.

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

Exam review

If a student requests in writing a review of his/her examination answer script within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.



Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMA course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

  • F. Déroche, Islamic Codicology: An Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script (London: Al-Furqan Foundation, 2005).

Optional (see above): Karen Armstrong. Islam: A Short History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2000; or later editions). Additional literature will be provided via Blackboard and a reserve plank in the University Library. For the ResMA students extra literature will be assigned based on the interest of the students.


All students are required to register through uSis before August/January 15. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs



Dr. J. Bruning


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).