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.

PhD applicants for the Department of Classical Studies must follow the application procedures as described on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions page. Please pay close attention to the deadlines posted in the Bulletin. Important factors in the department’s ranking of applicants are the breadth and quality of the undergraduate experience –particularly the language components, the quality of the essay and writing sample, the strength of the letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and the suitability of the department’s programs to the particular applicant.

All students accepted into the MA/PhD program are awarded five years of financial support, plus health insurance. For further information and for information about other sources of financial support, please visit our Funding webpage.

To complete the PhD degree, a student must complete a minimum of 16 courses (64 credits) of graduate coursework, 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.

Candidates admitted to the PhD degree program who come with a Master’s 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 for transfer credit is made at the end of the student’s first full year of study. Courses accepted for transfer will typically be counted towards the fulfillment of “courses at or above the 500 level” requirement, so that candidates admitted to the PhD program who come with an MA degree might only need six to ten courses at or above the 500 level. Please see the GRS Bulletin for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ transfer credit policy and procedures for additional information about transfer credits.

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.

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.

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.

For more information about this program, contact Professor James Uden, Director of Graduate Admission (617-353-2427).