Department of Classics

Program in Classical Languages: PhD Requirements


The doctoral program, for which the MA is a prerequisite, is designed to be completed in 6 years (5 years by well-prepared students): 3-4 years to complete the preliminary requirements described below (including the MA), and another 2 years to write a dissertation. The emphasis in the first two years is on examinations and coursework. In the third year the emphasis shifts to seminars and research, to completing the research portfolio, and to developing plans for the dissertation.

MA Program

The MA program is designed to prepare students for doctoral study in Classics; students who enter with the BA must earn the MA before advancing to doctoral study. Students are expected to complete all requirements for the MA within two years. The emphasis is on developing a foundation in Greek and Latin language and literature and Greek and Roman history and on coursework. Qualified persons interested in obtaining Latin Teaching Certification in tandem with the MA in Classics should apply concurrently to the UTeach Liberal Arts Post-Baccalaureate Program. Such applications will be evaluated by the same criteria as all others.

MA Requirements

  • 33 hours, with at least 18 in the “major” and at least 6 in the “minor”
  • Modern Language Exam (German, French or Italian/etc.)
  • Greek or Latin Translation Exam
  • Greek Literature Exam (written) or Latin Literature Exam (written)
  • designation of 1 seminar paper for the Research Portfolio

Course Requirements

Students normally register for three courses (9 credit hours) each semester they are in residence until they advance to doctoral candidacy (see below). Students receiving financial support from the University, whether in the form of a fellowship or a teaching appointment (TA or AI), are required to register for 9 hours.

Note: To be appointed an Assistant Instructor (AI), students must first take a graduate course in teaching methods (LAT 398T), offered every Spring semester. Students normally take this in their fourth semester; students entering with an MA may take it in their second semester if appropriate.

Course Requirements for the MA

All students are required to complete 33 semester hours of coursework for the MA, including the two-semester sequences in both Greek and Latin literature and the course in pedagogy (LAT398T). The program of coursework is planned individually by each student in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.

  • At least 18 hours must be in a Major area: Greek, or Latin, or both.
  • At least 6 hours of supporting work is required in a Minor area: either within Classics or in related fields, such as anthropology, art history, comparative literature, geography, history, linguistics, philosophy, and religious studies.
  • At least 24 hours of this coursework must be at the graduate level (courses numbered 380 or higher).
  • Up to 9 hours of undergraduate coursework may be counted, but only at the upper-division level (courses numbered 320-379).
  • No more than 6 hours of undergraduate coursework may be in the Major or Minor areas.
  • No more than 6 hours of coursework may be taken on the Credit/No Credit option.

Course Distribution Requirements for the PhD

Course Distribution Requirements are intended as minimum requirements. Those in history and material culture are intended to be filled by departmental offerings, but non-departmental offerings may be substituted for one or more of these subject to approval of the graduate adviser.

  • 2 seminars designated “history”
  • 1 seminar designated “material culture”
  • 1 Greek seminar
  • 1 Latin seminar
  • 1 Greek or Latin prose seminar
  • 1 Greek or Latin poetry seminar
  • 1 upper division or graduate course outside the department (e.g. art history, linguistics, comparative literature, art history, theory)


Students must pass a series of eight written examinations before they may advance to candidacy and dissertation research under the supervision of a dissertation committee. Of these exams, all students are required to pass three for the MA: a modern language exam, the translation exam in Greek or Latin, and the written exam in Greek or Latin literature.

These examinations are designed to ensure competence in skills and methods essential for all areas of classical scholarship. The exams are prepared and evaluated by GSC committees appointed jointly by the GSC and Department Chairs. Committees for Translation and Literature exams consist of a chair and two readers; committees for exams in Modern Languages and Ancient History consist of a single member.

Qualifying Examinations in Greek and Latin Translation

The Qualifying Examinations in Greek and Latin Translation each comprise six passages, three prose and three poetry. Passages are drawn from works by the following lists of authors. Examinees have three hours to translate four passages, two prose and two poetry. The exams identify the authors and texts from which the passages are drawn and gloss vocabulary and unusual constructions.

These lists reflect the syllabi of the literature surveys and are perforce selective. The authors comprise a representative sample of core authors, periods, and genres, that is, the sorts of authors students starting graduate study should be reading and able to read. Regard them as a foundation on which to continue building as you proceed with your graduate study.

Schedule: Exams are offered in the 9th week of spring semester, with one retake in each language allowed (1st week of the fall semester). Both trans exams must be passed by the 5th semester. Greek and Latin Translation committees are committees of the GSC, appointed annually by the chair of the department.

GREEK TRANSLATION: Reading List for the PhD Examination

  • Archaic poets: Alcman, Archilochus, Mimnermus, Sappho Solon, Tyrtaeus, Xenophanes (Campbell selections are a good base)
  • Aeschylus
  • Aristophanes
  • Aristotle
  • Callimachus
  • Demosthenes
  • Euripides
  • Herodotus
  • Hesiod
  • Hippocratics
  • Homer
  • Isocrates
  • Longus
  • Lucian
  • Lysias
  • Pindar
  • Plato
  • Plutarch
  • Sophocles
  • Theocritus
  • Thucydides
  • Xenophon

LATIN TRANSLATION: Reading List for the PhD Examination

  • Apuleius
  • Augustus
  • Caesar
  • Catullus
  • Cicero
  • Ennius
  • Horace
  • Juvenal
  • Livy
  • Lucan
  • Lucretius
  • Ovid
  • Plautus
  • Pliny the Elder
  • Propertius
  • Quintilian
  • Sallust
  • Seneca the Younger (NB prose and verse)
  • Statius
  • Tacitus
  • Valerius Maximus
  • Vergil

Literature Exams.
Written Exams. Detailed information on the written portion of the literature exam may be found here.

Schedule: commentaries are on 13th (Latin) and 14th (Greek) weeks of the spring semester, essays are during finals week of the spring semester.

Both written exams must be passed in order to take the oral exam.
Instructors for the two-semester sequence will set and evaluate the exam.

Oral Exam. A brief oral exam, usually lasting no longer than 60 minutes, follows the successful completion of the written examinations in Greek and Latin Literature. Three favorable votes are required to pass the oral exam.

Schedule: 6th week of the fall semester, with one retake allowed (1st week of the fall semester).

The Department Chair as chair of the course committee appoints the oral examination committee comprising four members from the faculty who have taught the survey courses; this committee will appoint one of its members to serve as chair.


Ancient History Exam.
A three-hour written exam, based on the Ancient History Reading List (see below), demonstrating mastery of a basic narrative of ancient history (Greek and Roman) for the period c. 650 BCE-CE 395. The examination comprises 3-4 sets of essay prompts with 2-4 essay prompts in each set. Examinees will write on 3-4 essay prompts, no more than one prompt coming from any one set. The essay prompts may be found here.

There is no required reading list. The following texts are recommended. You are not expected to read beyond the recommended texts, although you are certainly welcome to do so.

Schedule: 1st week of the fall semester, with one retake allowed (1st week of the fall semester).

Ancient History Reading List
  • Osborne, Robin. 1996. Greece in the Making 1200-479 BC, 2nd edition. Routledge.
  • Hornblower, Simon. 2002. The Greek World 479-323 BC, 4th edition. Routledge.
  • Shipley, Graham. 1999. The Greek World after Alexander 323-30 BC. Routledge.
  • Cornell, Tim. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome. Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC). Routledge.
  • Mackay, Christopher S. 2012. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire, 2nd edition. Cambridge UP.
  • Goodman, Martin. 2011. The Roman World 44 BC-AD 180, 2nd edition. Routledge.
  • Potter, David. S. 2013. The Roman Empire at Bay, AD 180-395, 2nd edition. Routledge.

Modern Language Exams.
Reading proficiency in German and one other modern foreign language (usually French or Italian) is required for the PhD. There are two methods for testing proficiency:
1) a 90-minute written translation of a short passage (around three pages) from a scholarly article/book, in which use of a dictionary is permitted;
2) a short oral exam of roughly 20 minutes testing comprehension of an article or book chapter provided to the student 24 hours prior to the exam.

Schedule: available “on demand” in consultation with the modern language examiner. Students are expected to take one exam before the end of their second semester, the other before the end of their fourth semester of graduate work. One retake is permitted in each. Both modern language exams must be passed no later than the students’ 5th semester in the program. Special courses for graduate students, with emphasis on reading skills, are occasionally offered by the Departments of French-Italian and Germanic Languages.

Schedule (all exams to be completed by end of 6th semester)

Year I
  • Greek OR Latin Literature (written), finals week spring semester
  • Greek OR Latin Translation, 9th week of spring semester
  • Modern Language I by end of year
Year 2
  • Ancient History Exam, 1st week of the fall semester
  • Greek OR Latin Literature (written), finals week spring semester
  • Greek OR Latin Translation, 9th week of spring semester
  • Modern Language II by end of year
Year 3
  • final sitting for Ancient History Exam, 1st week of fall semester
  • final sitting for 2nd Trans Exam, 1st week of fall semester
  • Greek and Latin Literature Oral Exam, 6th week of fall semester
  • retake of Greek and Latin Literature Oral Exam, 9th week of spring semester

Research Portfolio

The Research Portfolio facilitates and structures the transition from coursework to dissertation. By collecting papers from multiple stages of a student’s graduate career, by inviting students to reflect on their own progress, and by offering feedback on a broad range of submitted work, the portfolio ties together the various tasks students perform while in the program. It further allows keener oversight on student progress at a crucial juncture of their program, and allows both student and potential supervisor a ‘trial run’ to ensure compatibility of supervisorial style, personality, and interest. We expect this to result not only in a smoother transition to dissertation work and a better fit between student and supervisor, but also in providing a focus point towards which students can direct their efforts in seminars and establishing a rough bar of expectation for the quality of seminar work across the department. Finally, we expect the portfolio to result usually not only in the dissertation topic, but also in identifying work worth working up for publication, increasingly a desideratum on the job market.”

  • Cover Statement
  • 1 seminar paper pre-MA
  • 1 seminar paper post-MA
  • 1 seminar paper pre- or post-MA

In order to achieve some breadth of subject in the portfolio, students will consult with the graduate adviser in designating courses as “portfolio seminars”. Courses outside of the department may be designated as “portfolio seminars”. Students will consult with instructors in determining the suitability of paper design and topic for the research portfolio. In certifying a seminar paper for the research portfolio, the instructor should consider both the nature of the paper assigned and the student’s actual execution. Papers in the portfolio should be substantial projects based on a research-oriented topic. Often this will mean a longer paper, but we recognize that some kinds of projects (for instance, those involving quantification of data) do not necessarily follow this pattern, so we have chosen not to set a page limit. By saying “research-oriented” we mean to exclude set exercises (“compare and contrast these two texts”, “what is the rhetoric of this appeal”) or other forms of more or less pure close reading. The form of the end product could be a continuous scholarly argument or a piece-wise commentary.”

The cover statement is the final step in assembling the Research Portfolio. Its overall goal is for the student to explain how s/he sees herself/himself as a writer and researcher, both in terms of how s/he has developed in the three papers that comprise the portfolio and in her/his plans for the dissertation. As part of that process, students should provide answers to the following questions. Answers should be supported by specific example(s) from the papers in the portfolio. These questions are not intended to be exhaustive-a student may have additional topics s/he wishes to include in the statement-but answers to all of them should appear somewhere in the statement.
  • What is your greatest strength as a writer? Your greatest weakness? Over time, how have you fostered your strengths and attempted to address your weaknesses?
  • How has your approach to constructive editorial feedback-as the recipient, or the provider, or both-changed thus far in your graduate studies? To what do you attribute the change(s)?
  • Which of these papers was the most difficult for you to write? Why? How did you handle those difficulties?
  • What is your top priority as a writer looking ahead to your dissertation? What do you think will be most important for you as a writer in order to enjoy writing your dissertation and to succeed at it?”

When the portfolio is complete, two members of the GSC (usually the student’s probable dissertation adviser and another member of the Classics GSC) will read the portfolio and meet with the student to review it. The portfolio committee can request a re-write of the cover statement.

Schedule: completed no later than the end of the 7th semester.


After completing all other requirements (course distribution requirements, preliminary exams, portfolio), students are ready to advance to doctoral candidacy. This involves two formal steps: holding a dissertation colloquium and filing for candidacy.

Dissertation Prospectus and Colloquium
The colloquium is held during the long semester immediately following completion of all other requirements (typically the seventh semester). Students deliver a preliminary report on their project, to which the full faculty and all graduate students are invited. The basis for this report is a written prospectus (typically 4-6 pages or about 2000 words) outlining the topic, a plan of attack, and essential bibliography. The prospectus must include a provisional title and a list of committee members, and it is made available to the full department prior to the colloquium. Students should work closely with their PhD director and other members of their committee in preparing the prospectus, which must be approved by the director before the colloquium may be scheduled. The purpose of the colloquium is to provide students an opportunity to receive advice and constructive criticism from the full department at an early stage in their research.

Dissertation Committee
The committee, which is formed by the candidate and subject to the approval of the Graduate Adviser, comprises five members (occasionally six), including a director (occasionally two co-directors) who serves as principal supervisor. At least three members of the committee must be on the Classics GSC; at least one member must be from outside the Department, from either another Department or another institution. The committee advises the candidate during the writing of the dissertation, conducts the final oral examination, and determines whether or not to approve the dissertation.

After the Colloquium
Students normally file for candidacy within the same semester and advance to candidacy the subsequent semester. Once admitted to candidacy, students must maintain continuous enrollment whether they receive University funding or not. Candidates normally register only for dissertation hours (399, 699 999). Students who must spend a prolonged period abroad (typically 1-2 long semesters) to conduct their dissertation research can register for Independent Study and Research (ISR), but not in the semester they file their dissertation.
Candidates should continue to work closely with the PhD director and at least one other member of the committee to receive the full benefit of expert advice and criticism. As the dissertation approaches completion, candidates share their work with the full committee and solicit every member’s approval for scheduling an oral defense, which is open to the public.

Dissertation Defense
The defense is an oral examination on the dissertation conducted by the dissertation committee. It is open to the public and the full department is invited to attend. To schedule a defense, the candidate must submit a final draft of the complete dissertation to the full committee at least four weeks before the intended date; a Request for Final Oral (pdf) signed by all committee members must be submitted to the Graduate Dean at least two weeks before the defense. The defense normally lasts about an hour. At its conclusion, the committee decides whether to approve the dissertation, with or without revisions; its decision must be unanimous, and any dissent is referred to the Graduate Dean. Approval entitles the candidate to the PhD.

Further details may be found in the Graduate Catalogue.