Ted Thornton
History of the Middle East Database
NMH Senior Seminar in Turkey:
" Where East Meets West"

Fall, 2008
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Golden Horn, Istanbul


This page supports Northfield Mount Hermon School's Senior Seminar program in Turkey.

Program Leaders:  Jim Block, Ted Thornton

Program Description
Newspapers and Periodicals

Travel Notes

Turkish Language





Program Description


This seminar will explore one of the most ancient lands, Turkey, the crossroads of civilization, where East meets West. Since antiquity the land that is now Turkey has hosted merchants and marauders from Homer’s Greeks to Genghis Khan, the crusaders of Europe to the silk and spice traders of China and India.  In our 2 ½ -week sojourn, we’ll explore the wonders of ancient and modern Turkey, from Troy to Ephesus.  We'll walk the paths walked on by St. Paul, Alexander the Great,  Anthony and Cleopatra, and Ataturk. To these add the mosques of the great Sinan, the Aya Sophia of Justinian, the Harem of the Ottomans, the delights of the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Bazaar. All in all, an unbelievable experience!

Academic Program:

The literature used in this course will focus on the Middle East, from Homer’s Iliad to the works of Orhan Pamuk, and will include novels, short stories, and poetry. Writing assignments will include both critical analyses and personal narratives; students will be required to keep both a reading journal and a travel journal.

The Turkey Senior Seminar will be paired with the interdisciplinary Islamic Middle East (REL/HIS 2: ½  credit in religious studies and ½  credit in history). This course is an introduction to the Middle East that includes discussions of history, politics, culture, language, art and architecture, and literature in the context of the area’s chief religion, Islam. Emphasis on the region’s confrontation with the West in the modern period, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islamic revivalism. Emphasis will be on the role of Turkey in the modern period, including its relationship with Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Other major topics include the historic role of Turkey as an ancient crossroads, the role of Islam in contemporary Turkish life, and the role and influence of Ataturk on modern Turkey.

Students and their leaders will also engage in the formal study of the Turkish language using the “Rosetta Stone” language-learning software to prepare themselves for a richer experience in Turkey.


Senior Seminar in Turkey will earn three credits:  one credit in English, one credit for Islamic Middle East (REL/HIS2: ½ history, ½ religious studies), ½ credit for Turkish language study, and ½  credit of the student’s choice from a menu of options. Students may take this seminar instead of or in addition to any senior English course.  



Summer Reading:
For English: Elif Shafat, The Bastard of Istanbul, Penguin, 2007
For Islamic Middle East: Graham Fuller, The New Turkish Republic: Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World, U.S. Institute of Peace, 2007
Alev Lytle Croutier, Harem, The World behind the Veil, Abbeville Press, 1989
Stephen Kinzer, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds, New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2001 (this book will be a text in the Islamic Middle East course - revised edition is due out in September, 2008 and is on order at NMH Bookstore)
Fall Semester English Course Texts:
Homer, The Iliad, 1990, Fagles trans. Viking
Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red, 2001, Vintage International
Orhan Pamuk, Snow, 2004, Vintage International
Fall Semester Islamic Middle East Course Texts (see also course syllabus):
Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Stephen Kinzer, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds (revised 2008 edition)
George Packer, The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq
Online Text: Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Study Guides for IME Course Texts
Fall Semester Turkish Course Texts:
Lewis V. Thomas (author) and Norman Itzkowitz (ed.), Elementary Turkish (Dover, 1986)
Rosetta Stone online course (via site license)

Research Books about Turkey at the History of the Middle East Database bibliography


Newspapers, Periodicals

Turkish Newspapers and sites in English at World-Newspapers.com
Other Middle East News sources
Arts and Letters Daily
Arts Journal
Book Forum



Notes on our travels will appear in this space.


Turkish Language

Your primary learning tool will be the Rosetta Stone online course we have provided.  However, you may also find the materials linked below useful for quick reference:

Pronunciation Guide
Fundamentals of Grammar (and more)
Marmaris Turkey
Online Turkish.com


Turkish Food

Turkish Cook.com
Binnur's Turkish Cookbook
Recipes at Yemek-Tarifi



Turkey section of the Islamic Middle East Blog
History of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey
Orhan Pamuk sitefor My Name is Red
Fethullah Gülen Web site
Weather in Istanbul
Currency Converter
Country Calling Codes and Time Zones


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email: tthornton@nmhschool.org

Last Revised: November 4, 2008