The University of Michigan offers a rich program of courses in Persian language, history, and culture, at both undergrad and graduate levels.

Persian Language

Our Persian language program is taught and maintained by Behrad Aghaei. It consists of two years focused on the modern standard Persian of Iran, followed by advanced coursework tracks that can range from literature (both classical and modern), historical texts, and Persian for professional purposes. We currently teach the first year using Persian in Use (Sedighi), and the second with a combination of Persian of Iran Today (Shahsavari and Atwood) and our own materials (Windfuhr).

  • PERSIAN 101 / 102 – Elementary Persian (Aghaei)
  • PERSIAN 201 / 202 – Intermediate Persian (Aghaei)
  • PERSIAN 404 – Modern Persian Poetry (Cross)
  • PERSIAN 499 – Independent Study in Persian Language
  • PERSIAN 504 – Modern Persian Fiction (Aghaei)
  • PERSIAN 505 – Modern Persian Non-Fiction (Aghaei)
  • NEAREAST 517 – Classical Persian Texts (Cross)
  • NEAREAST 518 – Persianate History Through Texts (Babayan)

Iranian History and Culture

Alongside our Persian language training, we offer many courses on the history, culture, society, and art of Iran and the Persianate world, with special focus on the medieval and modern periods. The list of courses below is by no means exhaustive, but should give an idea of the range and diversity of our program.

  • MIDEAST 324 – Persian Literature in Translation (Cross)
  • MIDEAST 327 – Shahnameh: Iranian Myth, Epic, and History (Cross)
  • MIDEAST 331 – Iranian Cinema: Re/Presenting a Nation (Cross)
  • MIDEAST 387 – Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran (Babayan)
  • MIDEAST 422 – Shi’ism: The History of Messianism and the Pursuit of Justice in Islamdom (Babayan)
  • MIDEAST 427 – Rumi and Great Persian Mystical Poets (Cross)
  • MIDEAST 432 – Gender and Sexuality in Pre-modern Islam (Babayan)
  • MIDEAST 515 – Society and Culture in Early Modern Iran (Babayan)
  • MIDEAST 517 – Classical Persian Texts (Cross)
  • MIDEAST 518 – Persianate History Through Political and Cultural Texts (Babayan)
  • MIDEAST 615 – Persian Historiography from Medieval to Early Modern Times (Babayan)


Although Iranian Studies is housed in the department of Middle East Studies, there are faculty across the University of Michigan who teach courses that engage with this field from various angles, including art history, archaeology, comparative literature, history, political science, and so on. When looking for classes in Iranian studies in a given semester, check the course offerings from the following faculty:

  • Behrad Aghaei (language and linguistics)
  • Kathryn Babayan (social and cultural history, Shi’ism, Sufism, gender and sexuality)
  • Juan Cole (modern political history)
  • Cameron Cross (literature, culture, and cinema)
  • Christiane Gruber (Islamic and Iranian art history)
  • Gottfried Hagen (Ottoman history, early modern societies)
  • Alexander Knysh (Sufism and Islamic studies)
  • Niloofar Sarlati (modern Iran and comparative literature)
  • Henry Wright (ancient Iranian archaeology)