Curriculum Requirements

Course Requirements

The Ph.D. Program in Classics requires 60 credits of approved graduate work. Students concentrate in either Classical Philology or Ancient History, and must declare which option they intend to pursue by the time they have completed 21 credits of course work.

Remaining credits for the degree are completed via electives. The student will plan a program of study, with the approval of an adviser, from among the listed author and special topics courses. Students are encouraged to balance as evenly as possible courses in ancient Greek and Latin

All students in the Ph.D. Program in Classics are required to complete the three-course core sequence within their first 30 credits. These courses award 9 credits of the required 60 for graduation.

  • Greek Rhetoric and Stylistics (3 credits)
  • Latin Rhetoric and Stylistics (3 credits)
  • Proseminar in Classics (3 credits)

Students concentrating in Classical Philology will take one course from each of the following categories:

  • Greek poetry, 8-6th cen. BCE
  • Greek poetry, 5th cen. BCE
  • Greek prose, any period
  • Latin poetry, Republican
  • Latin poetry, Augustan
  • Latin prose, any period
  • Greek or Roman history or archaeology

Students concentrating in Ancient History will choose one course from each of the following categories:

  • Greek history, 2 courses
  • Roman history, 2 courses
  • Greek poetry, any period
  • Latin poetry, any period
  • Greek prose, any period, preferably a historical author
  • Latin prose, any period, preferably a historical author

Modern Language Requirements

All students will be required to demonstrate by written examination a knowledge of German and one other relevant language, as approved by the Executive Officer adequate to read scholarly works in both languages.

Examination Requirements

This is a written examination in two parts that are taken separately before the completion of 45 credits. For students concentrating in Classical Philology, the areas are (1) Greek translation and (2) Latin translation. For students concentrating in Ancient History, the areas are (1) Greek or Latin translation and (2) Greek and Roman history.

Examinations are composed by two examiners and graded pass/fail by two other examiners. Students who fail either examination on the first try may take it again. A student who fails the same examination a second time must petition the Program’s Executive Committee for the right to take it a third time. These exams demonstrate that a student has achieved the first Program goal: "mastery of the languages of the Greco-Roman world."

The second exam demonstrates that the student has achieved parts two and three of the Progam’s goals: “mastery of the literature and civilization of the Greco-Roman world.” It is given in three parts which are taken separately when the student has completed, or is close to completing, 60 credits and all other requirements for the Ph.D. with the exception of the dissertation.

Students concentrating in Classical Philology will take the following examinations: (1) a written examination in ancient history; (2) an oral examination in the history of Greek literature; (3) an oral examination in the history of Latin literature. The parts may be taken in any order. The ancient history examination, composed by two examiners and graded by two others, is given twice a year; the oral examinations are each administered by a panel of three faculty members, and are offered at mutually convenient times during the academic year. For each of the oral exams, the student will choose in advance a special topic and work on that topic with a faculty advisor who is also one of the examiners. A portion of the exam addresses the special topic, while the remainder is grounded in general knowledge. Students will prepare for the general knowledge portion of the oral examinations using a reading list posted on the Program’s website that is more expansive than the list used for the first examination.

Students concentrating in Ancient History will take the following examinations: (1) a written translation examination in the classical language not taken as part of the first exam; (2) a written examination in Greek and Roman literature; (3) an oral examination in Greek and Roman history.

Students who fail any part of the Second Examination may take it again, but if it is failed a second time, they must petition the Program’s Executive Committee for the right to take it a third time.

The following PDF guides provide detailed policies and procedures for taking the first and second examination based on the chosen track:

Ancient History track

Classical Philology track

Dissertation Requirement

The dissertation demonstrates that students have achieved the final Program goal - “to conduct original, documented research in the field" - and is expected to constitute a new contribution to knowledge. It tests the student’s ability to engage with both primary and secondary sources, and to apply the skills learned in the writing of seminar papers to a larger project. It also enables committee members to assess the student’s capacity to read Greek and/or Latin texts with precision and nuance. It is the final measure of the student’s readiness to enter the academic profession

The candidate is required to write a dissertation on a subject approved by a committee of the doctoral faculty. As part of this approval process the student will write a dissertation proposal and meet with the committee to answer questions on the proposal and the general area(s) of the dissertation. After the dissertation has been completed and approved by this committee, the candidate will defend the dissertation at a final oral examination.

The dissertation is evaluated by a committee of three members of the CUNY Graduate Faculty chosen by the student and the Executive Officer in consultation with one another. Outside experts may also be added to the committee at the student’s request.

The dissertation process is outlined below. Download printable version

While students are encouraged to think about possible dissertation topics early in their graduate careers, the dissertation process starts only after a student has completed all other requirements for the Ph.D. degree and formally advances to candidacy. At this point students should begin to talk with faculty members and the executive officer about the advisability of writing on a variety of topics and about choosing an Advisor. Any Graduate Center faculty member may advise a student writing a dissertation.

A dissertation committee consists of three Graduate Center faculty members, one of whom is the Advisor. All of the GC members need not be from the Classics Program, though generally they are. A fourth member or even a fifth can be added from outside CUNY at the discretion of the student and the Advisor. The Advisor will help the student populate the committee with other members. When the committee is fully formed and a working title for the dissertation has been agreed on, the Advisor should inform the EO who will in turn inform the Registrar. Titles can be changed later as the research goes forward.

With the committee now in place, the student should begin reading in the chosen area in order to prepare a formal, written proposal. The proposal, usually about 20-30 double-spaced pages with bibliography, should have the following elements:

  1. Description of the project or prospectus. What issues will be addressed or questions answered? If the study were complete, this would be the abstract.
  2. History of the question. An efficient review of the literature. Where does this project fit in? What is innovative about it?
  3. Methodology. How will the inquiry be conducted? Include discussion of materials to be consulted, the methods of treating the relevant materials, and the order in which the research will proceed.
  4. Outline of chapters. Include both chapter titles and contents as they are currently envisioned.
  5. Bibliography

When the student and advisor are satisfied with the proposal, it is circulated to the rest of the committee and a date is set for a formal review. During this meeting the student will defend the proposal and demonstrate knowledge of the area in which the research will take place. Committee members will ask questions, but in practice, most of the time is spent in making recommendations to the student about how to proceed with the research. The committee members will then agree that the project should go forward, or alternatively, may ask for a revised proposal.

When the proposal has been approved by the committee, the student fills out a form required by the Graduate Center certifying that the research does not involve living, human subjects, and then may proceed with their research under the guidance of the Advisor. The student will show the Advisor drafts of the chapters, as they are completed, and on the Advisor’s judgment, the drafts will be shared with other committee members

The adviser will assign a grade of SP (Satisfactory Progress) or NRP (No Record of Progress). The adviser can assign the NRP (No Record of Progress) grade to a dissertation advisee if the student has done little or no acceptable work on his or her dissertation over the course of the semester. 

If a student receives two consecutive reports of No Record of Progress from their dissertation adviser, that faculty member has the right to refuse to continue as adviser. 

When the student, the Advisor and the rest of the committee all agree that the dissertation is ready, a date is set for the formal defense, and communicated to the Office of the Provost. Visitors may be admitted to the defense at the discretion of the student, and if it clear in advance that there will be a number of visitors the Assistant Program Officer should be advised so that a suitability sized room can be reserved. Committee members who cannot attend in person can participate via electronic media. Committee members must receive copies of the entire dissertation at least four weeks before the defense to allow time to evaluate it.

The defense begins with the student’s summarizing the contents and findings of the dissertation, and then each member of the committee has a set time for asking questions. At the conclusion, the student steps out of the room and the committee chooses one of four possible outcomes: accept as is, accept with minor changes (to be vetted only by the advisor), accept with major changes (to be vetted by the whole committee), reject. In practice the first possibility is rare, and the last is highly unlikely because an unacceptable dissertation should not be allowed to proceed to a defense. At the conclusion, members of the committee will sign a form stipulating the outcome, which will be forwarded to the office of the Provost. 

The student is responsible for making certain that the format of the dissertation conforms to the Graduate Center’s requirements and that it is correctly deposited. As work on the dissertation goes forward, students should consult with the Dissertation Librarian at the Mina Rees Library about formatting and deposit procedures. The cover page must have signatures of the Executive Officer and the Advisor. If one or both of them are unavailable to sign in person, signed copies may be scanned and returned by email or faxed to the Program office.

Specific deadlines for depositing dissertations for degrees granted in October, February and May are posted in the official Graduate Center Academic Calendar. A student must be registered in order to deposit a thesis and receive a degree.