PhD Progression

Course Requirements

Students enter the program with training in Classics from their undergraduate and, in most cases, their Master’s programs.  This means that they have some experience with Greek and Latin language and literature, ancient history, and archaeology and material culture.  It is the goal of the course requirements of the doctoral program to deepen that training with a view to advanced research, and to broaden it as preparation for teaching Classics at the university level.  Accordingly, students are required to take a minimum of 5.0 FCE during their program of study, including the Department’s Core Course (Classics 9000). Students may select courses on the basis of their research interests but must normally include a range of courses in Greek, Latin, Ancient History, and Archaeology and Material Culture. In year one of the Ph.D. program, students will normally take 3.0 FCE at the graduate level, followed by 0.5 FCE in the summer between years one and two (to prepare for their Comprehensive Exams in the fall of year two). In year two, students will normally enroll in 1.0 FCE in the first term and 0.5 FCE in the second term. This reduced course enrollment is structured to allow students to prepare for the Special Field Examination at the end of year two.

Classics 9000 is a special survey course for all graduate students in the Department, to be taken in the student's first year of enrollment. This "Core Course" is intended to provide a common focus for graduate students, and to introduce them to the major scholarly approaches and questions of the discipline of Classics as well as to give students a broad perspective on the discipline as a whole, through the examination of a full range of selected texts and evidence from archaeology and material culture. Students are exposed to the standard scholarly literature for and critical approaches to four major areas: Archaeology and Material Culture, Greek Literature, History and Historiography, Latin Literature.

Progression Requirements


Several times a year there will be one-hour proseminars for all students. The workshops are designed to help students develop skills for a career inside or outside academia. Topics will vary from year to year, but often include: writing an abstract; writing a grant proposal; applications to Ph.D. programs; working with research tools (TLL/TLG); textual criticism; introduction to resources in ancillary disciplines; developing research skills.

There will be no examination, but students are required to attend all the proseminars that are applicable to their career path. Students must notify the Graduate Chair if they are ill and unable to attend a proseminar.

Departmental Research Seminars and Guest Lectures

In the intervening weeks, there will also be public lectures given by colleagues from the Department and invited speakers from other institutions. To accommodate the latter, the schedule may occasionally need to be adjusted.

 Modern Language Requirements:

Students must pass written foreign language examinations during the first two years of the program to demonstrate they have a reading knowledge of two modern languages other than English. One of these languages must be German, a language which has traditionally been central to the discipline; the other will normally be either French or Italian. The Modern Language Exams are offered three times a year: September, January and April.  Ph.D. students must attempt to take the first Modern Language exam no later than January of their first year, and each time subsequently until they have passed their first language exam, and must attempt to take their second Modern Language Exam no later than January of their second year, and each time subsequently until they have passed their second language exam. Students must pass both Language exams by April 30 of Year 2. This language requirement is met by passing a translation test, to be written with the aid of a dictionary, set by the Department.

Supervisory Committees:

At the beginning of their program, each student will be assigned a faculty mentor who will orient the student to the program and department and will provide initial advice on selection of courses. The advisor may or may not become part of their supervisory committee. Because students normally enter doctoral programs with some sense of both a subject for the dissertation and a possible supervisor of their project they will be required at the beginning of their second year to settle on a topic and supervisor.  A Supervisory Committee will then be set up normally consisting of three faculty members, who must hold Core Membership in the School of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies.  Members of the Supervisory Committee will bring expertise relevant to the subject area of the dissertation.

Required Examinations: Diagnostic Examinations, Comprehensive Examinations, Special Field Examination

1. Diagnostic Examinations:

Upon entering the Ph.D. program, students will normally write diagnostic examinations in areas appropriate to their intended fields of specialization. These exams are intended to ensure that students are adequately prepared to undertake advanced coursework in Classics and to diagnose any weaknesses in their preparation. The examinations will take place in early September, and will consist of one 2.5 hour exam for each examination topic on successive days.

For Classics Ph.D. students there will be one Greek and one Latin exam each consisting of two parts: 1) one prose passage and one verse passage to be translated without the use of dictionaries or other aids (90 minutes); and 2) one passage of prose or verse (as appropriate) to be translated with the use of a standard dictionary (e.g., OLD, LSJ)

For Archaeology Ph.D. students one exam will be an image-based test in the area of Greek and Roman archaeology, asking students to identify and contextualize major monuments and artistic images. The second exam will be a sight examination (same as above, for Classics students) in either Greek or Latin, depending on the student’s intended area of specialization.

These diagnostic examinations are intended to ensure that students are given guidance for addressing any weaknesses and placed in the appropriate courses to best prepare them for later stages of the degree. The Graduate Chair and/or the examiners will identify areas of strength and weakness and make recommendations for course registration and preparation for the Comprehensive Exams.

 2.Comprehensive Examination:

Students will write the Comprehensive Examinations in September of year two of the student's program on dates fixed by the Department, normally on the Wednesday, Friday and Monday of the last week of September. The exams cover the major areas of emphasis in Classics, including Language and Literature, Philosophy, History and Historiography, and Archaeology and Material Culture. The examination is based on Reading Lists in primary and secondary sources and established by the Department well in advance of the examination. The format of the exams is as follows:

Classics Students:

A.Language Exams: Two four-hour exams, one in Greek subjects and one in Latin, on separate days.

  1. Commentary: Each exam will offer 8 passages (4 poetry, 4 prose), of which the student will select a total of FIVE, with no fewer than 2 in each poetry/prose category. Students will be expected to provide written commentary on each passage, including (for example): identification of the author and work; identification of any significant formal characteristics (e.g., metre, dialect, etc.); situating the passage in the context of the development of its genre and/or literary tradition; relevant information about the scholarly tradition and/or major interpretative questions regarding the passage or the larger work.
  2. Translation: In addition, the students will translate THREE of the passages, at least one in each of the prose/poetry categories. The students may pick ANY three passages from the total of 8 (i.e., the two categories of commentary/translation are not mutually exclusive).

 B.  Archaeology exam: 'visual gobbets' asking for comment on specific examples of painting, sculpture and architecture. One four-hour exam on both Greek AND Roman archaeology.

Archaeology Students:

A. Archaeology Exams: Two four-hour exams in archaeology, one in Greek topics and one in Roman topics, one separate days.

  1. The Greek Archaeology exam is based on specific broad topics/problems/approaches in the major fields of Greek archaeology, including the contextualization of architecture, sculpture and artifacts.
  2. The Roman Archaeology exam is based on specific broad topics/problems/approaches in the major fields of Roman archaeology, including architecture, sculpture and artifacts.

For both the Greek and Roman Archaeology Comprehensive Exams, reading lists will be set in advance and the exam will be based on a set of prescribed readings determined in consultation with the appropriate faculty members. The exams will be essay based with some limited choice in questions and will ask that students have detailed knowledge of broad topics in Greek and Roman archaeology. Thorough answers will include knowledge of the historical context of the archaeological material under discussion.

B.Literature and Language Exam: One four-hour exam on topics in Latin or Greek language and literature in whichever language is most suitable for the student’s intended area of research (the ‘principal’ language). The language exam will be similar to that established for Classics Ph.D. students, but based on a revised reading list (often including epigraphic sources and focused on historical prose authors and poetic works with the most relevance to historical subjects). The exam will include ‘literary gobbets' asking for historical and literary comment on specific passages of prose and poetry. Thorough answers will include knowledge of the historical context in which the literature was created.

The comprehensive exams are designed to ensure that the student has attained the necessary breadth of knowledge in Classics prior to undertaking specialized research. The exams will normally be set and marked by a committee of two members of the GAC (a third member of the GAC may be called upon to express and opinion if there is significant disagreement about a student’s performance). The GAC is committed to communicating the results to students in a timely manner, normally within 10 business days of the completion of the exams. Expectations normally include some or all of the following: a good knowledge of the primary texts, relevant scholarship and current critical issues; evidence of wide and critical reading; evidence of independent thinking, often manifesting itself in the ability to assess the scholarship in the field and ask significant questions about the material; clear writing.

Finalization of the Reading List: Although the PhD Reading List is designed to represent a broad spectrum of the most central texts in Greek and Latin language, students may submit to the GAC, in writing, a proposal for substitutions (e.g., Livy 1 instead of 21), by April 30 of Year 1 (in order to receive GAC approval well in advance of the exams). The GAC will then take any such requests under consideration and decide on a case by case basis. In certain cases on the Reading List students are permitted a choice of works by an author; students must indicate to the GAC, in writing, their choices in these instances by September 15th of the year in which they are to sit the Comprehensive Examination.

3. Special Field Examination and Thesis Prospectus:

Special Field Examination

Assuming normal progression in the first two years of the Ph.D. program, students will write an examination in their area of intended thesis research in April of the second year. During the Fall term of the second year students will meet with the Graduate Affairs Committee to declare their area of interest for the thesis and to select a thesis supervisor and a committee. At this time the subject of the Special Field Examination will be determined. The supervisor in the student's intended area of research, in consultation with the GAC, will decide on the structure and scope of the Special Field Examination.

A preliminary list of primary and secondary readings should be submitted by the student to the GAC, for suggestions and approval, by February 1st of Year 2, assuming normal progression. The Special Field Exam is intended both to prepare students to conduct advanced and original independent research and to develop an area of teaching expertise. Students will have four hours to complete the exam. The format of the Special Field Examination is determined by the supervisor and the student’s area of research, but will normally consist of items for analysis and commentary as follows:

  • Classics students: passages of primary or secondary source material from the previously approved Special Field Reading List for analysis, translation and commentary. Students will be expected to demonstrate their ability to discuss and comment on the significant literary, historical and/or cultural context of the source material and its importance for their proposed research.
  • Archaeology students: essay questions based on the previously approved Special Field reading list, including secondary readings and any primary sources that will have a strong presence in the student’s proposed research (e.g. epigraphic or historical sources). Students will be expected to demonstrate their ability to discuss the archaeological material, the historical context and the methodological and theoretical approaches necessary to undertake the proposed research.

All students will have four hours to complete the exam. The exam will normally be set and marked by a committee consisting of the student’s supervisor and one other GAC member (a third member of the GAC may be called upon to express an opinion if there is significant disagreement about a student’s performance). The GAC is committed to reporting results to students in a timely manner, normally within 10 business days of the completion of the exams.

Thesis Prospectus

Because preparation for the Special Field Examination necessarily includes thorough investigation in the student's area of research, it is recommended that the student undertake work for both the thesis prospectus and the Special Field Exam at the same time. If the student passes the Special Field exam, he/she will be required to submit to the Graduate Committee a detailed prospectus by May 15 of the second year. A date will then be set for the candidate to defend their thesis prospectus orally. This prospectus will normally consist of (1) a tentative title; (2) the name(s) of the supervisor/committee; (3) a statement (ca. 15-20 pages) of the focus of the thesis and proposed methodology. A bibliography must also be provided, organized to indicate which materials will be pertinent to the student's larger research trajectory, and those that are specific to the narrow focus of the thesis. The thesis prospectus must be submitted to the Graduate Chair and the members of the supervisory committee at least three weeks prior to the date of the oral defense. Following the presentation, questions will be posed by the student's supervisory committee. After the defense the student's supervisory committee will make one of three decisions: the prospectus may pass, need minor revisions that could be approved by the supervisory committee without another defense being scheduled, or fail.

A student who fails any part of the Comprehensive Examination, the Special Field Examination or the Thesis Prospectus defense will be allowed one further attempt to pass it. A student who fails any part of these examinations twice, or who fails more than one examination, may be required to withdraw from the program.

4. Research and Writing of the Thesis:

After successful completion of the Special Field Examination and defense of the thesis prospectus, the student will embark on a program of original research in the thesis subject area leading to the completion of a written thesis of publishable quality, normally 200-300 pages in length. When the thesis is thought to meet recognized scholarly standards for the discipline and degree, the Graduate Chair will arrange a Thesis Examination Board (the thesis Supervisor(s), Supervisory committee or the candidate alone may also initiate this process). The thesis and the thesis oral examination will follow the rules and regulations set forth by the School of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies. At the time of the thesis defense the candidate will present a public lecture on some aspect of his/her research. It is expected that this process will normally take two years, but submission of the thesis must occur no later than 5 years after admission to the Ph.D. program.

Schedule for Completion of Degree Requirements:

It is the goal of the program to see the degree requirements completed in four years.  The normal schedule is as follows:

Year 1: Language Sight Examination, Coursework (including the Core Course), meeting the modern foreign language requirement
Year 2: Coursework, Comprehensive Exam, selection and approval of thesis topic, supervisor and  supervisory committee, Special Field Exam and Thesis Prospectus
Year 3: Research and Writing of Thesis

Year 4: Research and Writing of Thesis, Submission and Defense of Ph.D. Thesis

Progression Review:

Each year students complete a progression self-assessment. This report, along with reports from the students’ instructors, is then reviewed by the Graduate Chair.

If a student should fail to meet the Progression Requirements set out in this document, and/or if there is a concern, the Graduate Chair, in consultation with the Graduate Affairs Committee, will draw up a plan of work that the student will be expected to follow in order to make up the deficit within a prescribed period of time.

Funding for Term 3 and all subsequent terms is dependent upon the satisfactory progression of the student towards completion of the degre