a Doctoral Degree in the History of American Civilization
For general GSAS degree requirements, see the GSAS
Handbook, Ch VI, "Degree Requirements"
The First Two Years
- The interdepartmental nature and purposes of the program require that students cut across departments in selecting courses. However, to ensure a coherent program of study, they should plan their schedules in consultation with the program chair. Their program of study must include:
- A minimum of two years of full-time study (sixteen half-courses or equivalent).
- The “Colloquium in American Civilization” during the fall term of their first and second years.
- Two graduate seminars. These seminars should be taken from among the offerings of two different departments. Normally the student will take one seminar in each term of the first year of residence.
- Two courses in a coherent field from outside the United States (e.g., English literature; Latin American history; comparative gender).
- The remainder of the student’s program (lecture courses, reading courses, and, with the approval of the chair, TIME) will consist of work in fields appropriate to the student’s general examination. (See under “Examinations.”) Reading courses and TIME are ordinarily not part of a student’s program until the second term of the second year. If such courses are taken earlier, eleven half-courses (lectures, conference courses, and seminars) must be completed by the end of the fourth term.
- All programs must be approved by the chair.
- All coursework and language requirements must be met before taking the oral examination.
Students may have only one Incomplete when they register for their next term.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences rules must be followed: A graduate student who receives a grade of INC (Incomplete), which is granted only at the discretion of the instructor, must complete the work of the incomplete course before the end of the term following that in which the course was taken, or request an extension of time for the incomplete at the GSAS Dean’s office. (See Chapter V, “Grade and Examination Requirements.”)
All incompletes must be resolved before taking the general examination.
Candidates for the degree must have a reading knowledge of two of the following languages: French, German, or Spanish. Students are furthermore encouraged to develop fluency in one of two required languages and reading knowledge in the other that is adequate for working with primary or secondary works in that language. Other languages relevant to the student’s program may be substituted with the permission of the student’s adviser and the Chair.
No student may take the general examination until the language requirements have been met.
The student must fulfill language requirements by passing two examinations given by the history department or the English department; and in case of a substitution, by passing an equivalent examination in a language department. Fellowships for developing language fluency are available for the summer between the first and the second year. Students are also encouraged to enroll in at least one course for credit in which advanced work with texts in other languages is undertaken.
One language must be passed in the course of the student’s first year of residence. Students who fail to do so may be denied continuance in the program.
Students who have one language requirement unfulfilled at the beginning of their second year of residence must pass a history or English department language examination in September of their second year. If they do not pass the language examination, they must enroll in an approved language course and pass a history or English department language examination in January.
In a small program such as the History of American Civilization Program, the chair, who is also the director of graduate studies, generally advises students in the pre-generals period. However, students are encouraged to form relationships with faculty members, who may eventually serve as an advisor.
Students ordinarily choose their own advisors after generals.
For some students the members of the examination committee also become dissertation advisors. Others choose their dissertation advisors between the general examinations and acceptance of the dissertation prospectus.
During the dissertation stage, each graduate student forms a Dissertation Advisory Committee:
1) The first model involves a committee of three, all of whom advise and sign off on the dissertation, and take roughly equal responsibility in its direction.
2) The second model calls for a principal director who takes primary charge of advising the dissertation, with a second and third reader involved to a greater or lesser degree according to the wishes of the student and the faculty members involved.
3) The third model involves two co-directors, both of whom are involved equally and continually with the project, with a third reader to be brought in at some later stage.
The advising mode chosen will be formally indicated to the department at the time the prospectus is submitted. It will bear the signatures of the advisors and note their status. At least two of the advisors must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in any of the three models.
A faculty member not on the American Civilization committee may serve as a member of a dissertation committee or as a third reader.
The History of American Civilization Committee is responsible for resolving potential issues between the advisors and the students.
Students must maintain a grade average of B+ or better in each year of graduate work. Each student must do work of A or A- level in at least one seminar.
Students must pass a two-hour oral examination conducted by four members of the faculty no later than the end of September in their third year.
One hour of that examination will be devoted to the student’s major field, and one half-hour each to two minor fields.
The major field must cover the full chronological sweep in a single discipline such as history, literature, law, or musicology. Normally, there will be two examiners in the major field. They may divide the field chronologically or thematically as long as there is full coverage of themes central to teaching and scholarship in the discipline.
Minor fields should be chosen from two areas of study distinct from the major field. A minor field may be defined chronologically or thematically as long as it covers a significant range of material, minimally a century. For example, a student whose major field is American literature, and whose primary area of interest is nineteenth-century fiction, might prepare one minor field in nineteenth-century U.S. history and another in nineteenth-century music. Or, a student whose major field is U.S. history, and who plans to write a dissertation on race relations in the 1930s, might prepare a minor field in American protest literature over time and another in African-American Studies.
Field preparation should be seen as laying a broad foundation for future teaching and scholarship rather than as specific preparation for writing a dissertation. Although the program will supply guidelines, students should work closely with individual faculty in selecting courses appropriate to their fields and in designing reading lists for oral examinations. In the term before taking examinations, students should submit their reading lists to the committee for approval.
If a student fails the oral examination, and the examining committee agrees that the student may retake it, the committee will set a date (not earlier than six months after the date of the first examination) by which the second examination must be taken.
After the general examination has been passed, the student will select a dissertation topic and arrange for dissertation advisors. The choice of a topic and advisors must be submitted to the committee for approval. Students must also submit a draft of the dissertation prospectus to their primary advisor no later than April 1 in their third year. The dissertation should be characterized by a familiarity with the historical treatment of two or more fields in the program. Before the end of May of their third year the student will present at a conference at which a discussion of the prospectus will take place before faculty and students in the program. Upon completion of two substantial chapters and upon recommendation of the advisors, students defend the finished part of the work as well as an outline for the completion of the dissertation in front of an audience consisting of faculty and students in the program as well as a broader academic public.
At least one month before the date set by the Graduate School for the deposit of the dissertation for the award of the degree in November, March, or May, the candidate must submit to the dissertation advisors a completed draft of the dissertation for final approval. Ordinarily the course of studies can be completed within six years. Any candidate for the degree who has not submitted a completed dissertation within five years after passing the general examination will be withdrawn unless, prior to the deadline, the candidate presents evidence that the dissertation can be finished within a specified extension and therefore receives an extension from the committee. See The Form of the PhD Dissertation.
The dissertation review committee will consist of the student’s dissertation committee plus one additional member drawn from the American Civilization program, a Harvard department, or from outside the university.
Before setting up the dissertation review, the student should have completed the final draft of the dissertation. With the approval of the dissertation director, the student will ask the chair or administrator of American Civilization to schedule the dissertation review, which will normally occur not later than April 1 for a May degree, not later than September 1 for a November degree, and not later than December 15 for a March degree. The review itself will last 90 minutes.
Once the dissertation has been successfully defended, members of the dissertation committee will sign the dissertation acceptance certificate. The dissertation director will then write a report, ranging from a paragraph to a few pages, which summarizes the strengths of the dissertation and suggests revisions for publishing it as a book (or series of essays).
Upon successful defense of the dissertation, the student must submit one bound and one unbound copy of the dissertation to the FAS Registrar, plus one bound copy to the American Civilization Program office.
This requirement is for all students in the program filing for the PhD degree after June 2009. A student may petition to have the dissertation review waived for reasons of hardship.
Ph.D. Dissertation Titles
Information on application forms is to be found on the GSAS Webpage.