Classics PhD Program

Classical painting - roman empireThe discipline of Classics entails a breadth --and depth-- of focus that is nearly unparalleled. In proceeding to the doctoral degree, each student has the opportunity to enrich his or her knowledge of many aspects of Greek and Latin literature, history, and culture, as well as related fields (e.g., Sanskrit, archaeology, epigraphy). The major steps through which one attains this knowledge, however, vary from program to program. The following section will outline the requirements for progressing through the Ph.D. course at Brown University. Much of the information is excerpted from the departmental handbook for graduate study.


A student must acquire a minimum of 16 graduate course credits in Classics or closely related disciplines, including at least 6 graduate seminars with departmental, affiliated, or cooperating faculty. At least two seminars in Latin and two in Greek are required. The content of this course work is determined to some degree (see section B, 'Area Requirements'), but a wide variety of course offerings ensures that latitude is available for tailoring study to personal academic interests. Normally, four courses are taken each semester in the first year, and then declining amounts in later semesters as the student is additionally managing teaching duties, etc.

1. Proseminar in Classics

The Proseminar in Classics is a course designed for and required of incoming graduate students. The purpose is to make them familiar with the standard research methods and tools of the discipline. An introductory phase (weeks 1-3) that is devoted to more general topics is followed by a survey of the most important subdisciplines.

2. Prose Composition in Greek and Latin

Students must demonstrate competence in prose composition in both ancient languages. This may be done in two ways; one is by an examination, which may be a 'take-home project' executed over the course of a semester, with the assistance of lexica and other aids. The requirement is more often fulfilled, however, by successful completion of courses in Prose Composition for each of the languages.

3. Archaeology

This requirement may be satisfied (a) by completing a graduate seminar in the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, an epigraphy course in the Classics Department or an equivalent course approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS); (b) by examination arranged by the JIAAW; or (c) by participation in the summer or regular program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, in the summer program in Italian archaeology at the American Academy in Rome or by work through other institutions with approval of the DGS.

4. Greek and Roman History

This requirement is typically to be fulfilled by passing written examinations of 3 hours each in two of three periods: A. Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greek History; B. Early through Imperial Roman History (through the 4th c. CE); C. Late Antiquity (Greek East and Latin West). The examinations have both an identification component and an essay component. Alternatively, students may choose to fulfill the history requirement by passing a written examination on one of the three periods listed above and by successful completion of two graduate-level courses from the regular ancient history sequence in the other history.

1. Qualifying Translation Exams in Greek and Latin

Translation Exams consist of three hours of Greek and three hours of Latin translation in separate exams. Each examination includes six passages, three of prose, three of poetry. Four of the six passages (two prose, two poetry) will come from the Reading List; two passages (one prose, one poetry) will be at sight (that is, not from the Reading List). The exams are to be taken without the aid of a dictionary. The examinations are given three times yearly, in September, in the last week of January, and in the first weeks of May. A Translation Exam may be taken whenever the student has achieved the necessary preparation in that language, from the beginning of the first year, but students are expected to have passed both of these exams by the end of their fourth semester.

2. Modern Languages

Because of the importance of foreign language scholarship in classical studies, the student should acquire a reading knowledge of German and French or Italian as early as possible. Students must demonstrate competence in reading German and either French or Italian. The requirement will be satisfied by passing exams administered by a faculty member. Exams will be one hour written exams taken with the aid of a dictionary.

It is an integral part of graduate training and professional preparation in Classics to gain teaching experience. Two semesters of teaching are therefore required of all graduate students, one of which must be as a Teaching Fellow (TF). Teaching opportunities within the department vary; typically, assignments progress from TA (teaching assistant) duties of working with a professor, grading and facilitating discussion sections, to TF (teaching fellow; a higher stipend obtains) positions where the graduate student teaches a semester-long language course (usually introductory or second-year level) on their own.

1. Special Authors

This requirement consists of two written examinations (three hours each), one on a Greek author or topic and the other on a Latin author or topic; at least one exam must focus on an author. These exams may be taken only after the Translation Exams have been passed. Preparation for these three-hour exams should not extend for more than a year and is undertaken in regular consultation with a faculty member selected by the student.

2. Oral Examination on the History of Greek and Roman Literature

Students are expected to have read a substantial amount of Greek and Latin literature in the original languages and to be familiar with the history of Greek and Roman literature as it is presented in the standard works on the subject. The oral examination consists of two halves, each of 90 minutes duration, one on Greek and the other on Latin literature. These examinations consist of three segments each – archaic, classical and post-classical Greek literature and Latin literature of the Republic, Augustan period, and Empire. The Greek and Latin Survey courses provide a foundation for the preparation for this exam, although students must also work on their own, expanding their knowledge of the field. Information from general histories of Greek and Latin literature will also serve as a guide to the genres and chronological periods for which students will be responsible. Students should aim at passing this examination ideally by the end of the third year and no later than the end of the eighth semester. The committee of examiners consists of three faculty members: a chair, an examiner in Latin, and an examiner in Greek. These are chosen by the student in consultation with the faculty, their mentor and the DGS. This committee also advises the student in selecting his/her dissertation committee.

Upon passing the oral preliminary examination, the candidate proceeds to dissertation work in consultation with an adviser and two additional readers. The dissertation shall be a substantial and original investigation of some literary, historical, philosophical, linguistic or archaeological topic. A formal defense of the thesis is required by the university, and candidates will (save in unusual circumstances) defend their work before members of the Department of Classics.