Program Description

Iranian Studies at UCLA encompasses two fields of concentration: Old Iranian and Persian.

The Old Iranian track is mainly directed towards students interested in the languages and cultures of the ancient world, notably, the ancient Near East (including ancient Elam), the Greco-Roman world, as well as Indo-European and Indic studies. It treats the languages, literary traditions, history, and religions of ancient, pre-Islamic Iran.

The Persian track covers the New Persian language and literature. It is primarily embedded in the history and culture of the Islamic world (encompassing Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent), and requires a thorough knowledge of Arabic and Arabic literature.

Undergraduate and graduate concentrators in Iranian Studies, notwithstanding their chosen track, are required to become well acquainted with the core tenets of the Iranian world. An excellent command of Persian and Classical Persian literature is expected to be acquired, along with a solid knowledge of Old and Middle Iranian (for graduate students), as well as a keen understanding of ancient Iranian history and religions.

Although UCLA is one of the few institutions in the Americas to offer a B.A. in Iranian Studies, for which prospective students directly apply to the College’s Undergraduate Admissions, it is primarily a graduate program leading to a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies. For general information regarding graduate admission to the department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, do refer to the UCLA Graduate Division’s website.

The Program of Iranian Studies at UCLA allows for two alternative major fields of concentration (tracks) that permits further specialization in subfields:

Old Iranian (Languages)

While the primary orientation of Old Iranian is philological, the study of other areas of concentration, such as ancient history and the religions of ancient Iran, are strongly encouraged:

  • Old and Middle Iranian languages (Avestan; Old Persian cuneiform; Parthian; Middle Persian; Khotanese; Sogdian; and Bactrian)
  • Ancient Iranian history from the rise of the Elamite civilization to the end of the Sasanian empire
  • Old Iranian religions (Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism)

Persian (Literature)

  • Diachronic and synchronic study of the Persian language
  • Persian literary traditions from early Persian prose and poetics to the end of the Classical period

Requirements are adjusted to the interests of the students, but basic language skills are expected of them all, whether concentrating in languages, religions, or history of ancient Iran.