PhD in Classical Studies

The PhD in Classical Studies prepares students to be effective and inspiring teachers and insightful professional scholars of classical antiquity. The program centers on structured study of the classical languages, Greco-Roman culture, and the perspectives and methods of research available for the classical world. As teachers, mentors, and evaluators, the faculty provide careful training and guidance of students, who are encouraged to show independent initiative in pursuing their own interests, goals, and intellectual identities.

The Department of Classical Studies promotes interdisciplinary and comparative literary, historical, and cultural studies embracing a wide range of areas, and has particular strength in Greek drama, Greek and Roman epic, Greek and Roman history, Roman rhetoric, translation and interpretation of classical literature, Indo-European/historical linguistics, and the classical tradition in Europe and America. In addition, Classical Studies maintains a very close working relationship with the Departments of Archaeology, History of Art and Architecture, Philosophy, and Religion. The program is designed to prepare students primarily for college and university careers in classics.

We seek students of outstanding accomplishment, originality, and imagination who wish to communicate their enthusiasm to others, both as teachers and scholars. Typically, successful applicants have a minimum of three years (or the equivalent) of Greek and Latin.

Course Requirements

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements

Students admitted directly to the PhD program without previous graduate study must take a minimum of 16 courses (64 credits), preferably over a period of five or six semesters. Course requirements are as follows:

  • CAS CL 530: Latin Prose Composition
  • CAS CL 563: Greek Prose Composition
  • An additional 14 courses at or above the 500 level offered by the department or, with director of graduate studies (DGS) approval, related departments, including:
    • One course in Greek or Roman art or archaeology
    • One course each (or its equivalence) in Greek or Roman history

The prose composition requirement may also be satisfied by a take-home exam set by two evaluators appointed by the DGS.

The Greek and Roman history requirements can also be fulfilled in the following ways:

  • Serving as a teaching fellow in a history course
  • Taking an undergraduate history course as a graduate directed study (2 credits)
  • Passing an examination in history.

Under special circumstances and with the approval of the DGS, a student may substitute another course in a related field to fulfill one of the two history requirements.

Post-Master’s Requirements

Candidates admitted to the post-master’s PhD degree are required to take eight to twelve courses (32–48 credits), preferably over a period of three to four semesters. The exact number of courses required depends on how closely the student’s prior work parallels the PhD course requirements at Boston University; a decision about how many prior credits the program will accept is made at the end of the student’s first full year of study.

Course requirements are the same as the post-bachelor’s program, except only six courses at or above the 500 level are required (instead of 14).

Language RequirementsModern

All students pursuing a PhD in Classical Studies are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in two modern languages, typically German and French, prior to completion of the degree. Language proficiency can be demonstrated either through a language examination, successful completion of a non-credit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University, or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate study of the language at Boston University. With the consent of the department, another modern foreign language may be substituted for either German or French.

Qualifying Examinations

Candidates must demonstrate, by written examination, proficiency in the following:

  • Translation of passages from Greek authors
  • Translation of passages from Latin authors
  • The history of Greek literature
  • The history of Latin literature
  • A special topic or author in an area of study different from that chosen for the doctoral thesis.

Normally all examinations are written. With the approval of the DGS and the mentor, the History of Literature and Special Topic examinations may be oral.

PhD students are expected to pass their translation examinations no later than the end of their fourth semester (at least one must be attempted no later than the beginning of the third semester) and to pass the History of Literature examinations no later than the end of their sixth semester (at least one must be attempted no later than the beginning of the fifth semester). The PhD Special Topic cannot be approved until all other qualifying exams are passed.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Further details of the preparation of the prospectus and dissertation are contained in the GRS Bulletin Policies page under degree requirements and in the Classical Studies Graduate Handbook, which is available on the department’s website.

Proseminar Requirement

Students are required to attend two proseminars during their first two years of academic study. Students must participate in the proseminar in the fall of their first year and the spring of their second year.