PhD in American & New England Studies

The PhD in American & New England Studies program is dedicated to rigorous interdisciplinary investigation of American culture and society—its arts, literature, history, institutions, and its diverse intellectual traditions. It is attuned to the global and national dimensions of the US experience, as well as to the particularities of the New England region.

The program is known for collaboration across departmental boundaries and for the promotion of research and scholarship within and across traditional disciplinary borders, preparing students for positions as university faculty, public historians, museum curators, and administrators of cultural institutions. It accepts applicants with degrees in related disciplines where the focus has been on aspects of American culture.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate the ability to develop and coherently define one’s own interdisciplinary field of inquiry within American Studies and attain mastery of this subject matter as well as command of the broader theoretical and methodological approaches in the discipline overall.
  • Make an original and significant contribution that advances knowledge in the field while also offering a synthesis of existing scholarship and to do so in a timely fashion.
  • Show a commitment to professional development at the highest levels of academia through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other scholarly activities.
  • Be able to mentor students and to teach the discipline at the undergraduate level.

Course Requirements

Students must complete 64 credits before proceeding to their PhD Qualifying Examinations. Students with prior graduate work may be able to transfer course credits. For details, see the GRS Transfer of Credits policy. Course requirements are as follows:

Eight courses must be taken at the 700 level or higher (all other courses at the 500 level or above), including:

  • GRS AM 735 Studies in American Culture
  • GRS AM 736 The Literature of American Studies

Aside from the above, students devise their own programs of study, choosing courses from a wide variety of other disciplines. Courses should be selected in consultation with the students’ advisor. Students taking more than two Directed Studies in any academic year must have approval from the Program Director.

Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD in American & New England Studies are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in a modern foreign language prior to completion of the degree. Language proficiency can be demonstrated either through a language examination, successful completion of a noncredit 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.

Qualifying Examination

Before attempting the Qualifying Examination, students must submit a polished Major Paper, usually a revised scholarly essay written for a graduate seminar, that employs a range of interdisciplinary methods. The paper must be approved and signed by first and second readers in different disciplines, as well as the Program Director, before scheduling the PhD Qualifying Examination.

By the end of the third year in the program, a student must pass Oral Qualifying Examinations in a major and two minor fields. The major field must be presented in full historical depth and with an awareness of global contexts. At least one of the minor fields must be in a discipline different from the major. Details on the composition of the major and minor fields are available on the program website.

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 valuable contributions to knowledge in their fields and demonstrate a mastery of their fields 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 on the composition of the Dissertation Committee can be found on the program website.

PhD students leaving the program with a terminal master’s degree must complete 8 courses at the 700 level or higher (including AM 736 and AM 735), pass the language exam, and complete a Major Paper.