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Course of Study

In their first year, students characteristically participate in the Proseminar in Classical Studies, which introduces scholars of the ancient world to the range of critical approaches, disciplinary expectations, materials and methods employed by practitioners in the field. Opportunities also exist to participate in the Proseminar in the Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean World (AAMW), the Proseminar in Anthropology and the Proseminar in History. Generally, it is expected that students will take at least one language-intensive class per semester, for these courses serve the double function of preparing students for the language exams that form part of their Qualifying and Preliminary Exams, and providing them with tools of textual criticism that will be essential in their future scholarship and pedagogy.

The bulk of courses take the form of Seminars taught by members of the faculty of the Graduate Group in Ancient History either individually or collaboratively. We believe that seminars are the cornerstone of graduate education. Seminars allow students from different years to communicate both with faculty and with each other, to create a productive working dialogue. Seminars provide students’ first and most important opportunity to practice many of the skills that will prove essential to them in the profession, when they will have to produce conference papers, lectures, academic books and articles, and classroom presentations. Skills practiced in the seminar environment include the ability to communicate in a clear and engaging way with students and colleagues, the ability to present ideas, both through class presentations and through seminar papers, and the ability to respond constructively to challenges and alternative perspectives.

The study of Ancient History covers an exceptionally broad intellectual, methodological, and evidentiary field. The 20 units of a student’s career through coursework are distributed in the following way, with courses and teaching integrated in the second and third years:

Year One

Year Two

Year Three

8 courses (4/semester)

6 courses (3/semester)

6 courses (3/semester)


2 courses taught (1/semester)

2 courses taught (1/semester)

First year students will also audit the undergraduate introductory survey courses in the ancient societies relevant to their research and pedagogical interests, and undertake a course of readings that will be developed in collaboration with the instructor of the relevant course. In subsequent years, course choices are made in consultation with the Graduate Group Chair, However, methodology, historiographical problems, and direct, unmediated engagement with primary texts remain the foundation of a student's course of study. We believe that, together, these courses provide an essential foundation for the practice of Ancient History, both as a scholar and as a pedagogue.

No two students will find themselves pursuing exactly the same course itineraries. Nevertheless, there are some anchors around which those itineraries can be arranged. All course choices are made in consultation with the Graduate Chair. In addition to courses taught by faculty of the Ancient History Graduate Group, students regularly take graduate courses in other fields connected to the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East (e.g., in Classical StudiesNear Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World). We also strongly encourage students to explore courses in other fields and other disciplines, which will extend and enhance their capacity to ask scholarly questions about the ancient world, such as AnthropologyHistory of ArtReligious StudiesHistoryEnvironmental StudiesPhilosophy, or Political Science.

As part of their coursework, students may petition to take an Independent Study, with the approval of the relevant faculty member(s) and the Graduate Group Chair. Independent Studies are a kind of tutorial, involving one or (perhaps) more students and a faculty member, who teaches the course as an overload. Typically, students will take an Independent Study under the supervision of their proposed dissertation supervisor in the Fall and/or Spring of their third year of coursework. This allows them to delve in detail into texts, materials, methods and/or approaches that will be particularly important for their dissertation. Outside these circumstances, Independent Studies generally occur only when both faculty and student agree that the student’s interests will not be addressed by any regularly taught course. Students petitioning to take an Independent Study are expected to have a very clear idea of the proposed topic, including a preliminary bibliography and account of the motivation for the study prior to making the petition. For example, an Independent Study might allow a student to gain a thorough acquaintance with a previously unfamiliar and difficult field of study in which a great deal of guidance is needed.