The Catholic University of America

The PhD Program

This program as a whole emphasizes the interdisciplinary study of the ancient, late antique, and medieval worlds from the classical (at the MA level) through the Christian (at the PhD level) eras.

This later emphasis at the doctoral level reflects the department's reputation as a center for the study of Christian Greek and Latin, and is exemplified by two series of published dissertations it has sponsored over the years, Patristic Studies and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Latin Language and Literature, and by The Fathers of the Church, a well-known series of English translations published by The Catholic University of America Press and long associated with this department. This unique heritage in the study of late antiquity and the medieval period, which is shared by other departments and programs at the university, has also been responsible for the development of a number of projects undertaken by the university press, notably Studies in Christian Antiquity, Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide (co-edited by Prof. Frank Mantello, a member of the department's faculty), and the Catalogus translationum et commentariorum, a series devoted to the medieval and Renaissance translations of ancient Greek authors and the Latin commentaries on ancient Greek and Latin authors up to the year 1600. The most recent initiative is The Library of Early Christianity, a new series of texts and facing-page translations, whose editorial director, Dr. John Petruccione, is also a faculty member in the department.

The Department of Greek and Latin also participates in the university's Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies and Center for the Study of Early Christianity.

List of requirements for the phd in greek and latin

  • The CUA MA program in Greek and Latin (30 cr)
  • CLAS 572, Mediterranean World of Late Antiquity (3 cr)
  • 3 approved courses in Greek texts (9 cr total)
  • 3 approved courses in Latin texts (9 cr total)
  • 3 other approved courses (9 cr total)
  • Modern language examination in French or German ( + any other relevant languages)
  • Doctoral comprehensive examinations (3 parts) 
  • Doctoral dissertation

TOTAL = 60 cr

Language placement upon entrance

All graduate students in this program take placement exams in both Greek and Latin prior to beginning their coursework. The exam results are used to place students in appropriate classes; it is therefore advisable to arrange with the departmental administrative assistant to take them during the summer prior to entrance, or at least prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Departmental consent is required for registration for all advanced language courses.

Application for conversion from MA to PhD student status

Upon completion of the MA degree requirements, all continuing CUA students wishing to pursue a PhD--even if they are nominally listed as "MA-PhD" students in Cardinal Station--must file the "Application for Current CUA Students to Apply to a Higher Degree."

Modern language examinations

The CUA MA program in Greek and Latin requires the passing of a modern language examination in either French or German. The doctoral modern language examination will therefore be administered in the other of these two languages, as well as in any other modern languages (e.g. Italian, Russian, modern Greek) that are essential for the student's proposed areas of specialization and dissertation research. Any such additional modern languages will be agreed upon by the student and his/her faculty adviser, and must be submitted for approval to the faculty of the department, who may require changes.

The departmental modern language examination is one hour long and consists of a single passage of academic German, French, or other language deemed necessary for research. A dictionary may be used. To pass the examination, students must be able to translate approximately one full page into standard English with a high level of accuracy. Students who have not previously studied a given language at the college level should first take and pass the graduate-level reading courses offered by the Department of Modern Languages (e.g. French 500, German 500) or similar courses, if desired, at other local institutions.

Doctoral comprehensive examinations

A passing grade on comprehensive examinations is B minus (80%). Each part is graded separately and awarded a high pass (90-100), pass (80-89), or failure (below 80). Students who fail any part may take that part a second time. Comprehensive examinations are offered by arrangement with the department's graduate adviser on the days set in the university's academic calendar.

Doctoral comprehensive examinations in the Department of Greek and Latin are comprised of three separate exams. Two of these exams are in an area known as the "major field," whose content is broadly conceived around a topic, theme, or genre (e.g. "Early Christian asceticism," "Late antique and medieval epistolography," etc.). The major field is understood as being within the general area of a student's anticipated dissertation research: the graduate adviser and the student's anticipated dissertation supervisor assist in identifying a student's major field and in the student's preparation of the required reading lists and questions (see below).

The third exam is in an area known as the "minor field." The minor field may focus in greater detail upon some aspect of the major field, or on another area of the student's choice. As with the major field, the graduate adviser and other faculty members assist in the identification, refinement, and list preparation for the minor field.

The three parts of the "doctoral comps" are therefore as follows.

1. MAJOR FIELD TRANSLATION: ONE 4-hour translation examination, based on an ad hoc reading list of Greek and Latin texts from the postclassical period, i.e. patristic/late antique texts exclusively, or some combination of patristic/late antique and medieval Latin texts, reflecting broadly the content of the student's major field. This reading list, developed by the student and his/her anticipated dissertation supervisor, must be submitted for approval to the faculty of the department, who may require changes.

2. MAJOR FIELD ESSAY: ONE 6-hour essay examination in late antique/patristic literature/history and/or medieval Latin, based on an ad hoc reading list of secondary studies that reflects broadly the content of the student's major field, organized around specific questions (one or more required) known in advance. Both the reading list and the questions will be developed by the student and his/her anticipated dissertation supervisor, and must be submitted for approval to the faculty of the department, who may require changes.

3. MINOR FIELD: ONE 3-hour essay examination in a "minor" specific field, i.e., the field of the PhD dissertation or another field of the student's choice, based on an ad hoc reading list of primary texts and secondary studies and organized around specific questions (one or more required) known in advance. Both the reading list and the questions will be developed by the student and a member of the faculty, and must be submitted for approval to the faculty of the department, who may require changes.

Admission to doctoral candidacy

Admission to doctoral candidacy requires a distinct evaluation by the faculty that the student is qualified to do the research necessary for the preparation of a doctoral dissertation. After passing all three parts of the comprehensive examinations, the student should submit a formal application for candidacy, using the form available in the office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Upon the recommendation of the department's faculty, and with the approval of the chair, the student will be admitted to candidacy as of the first day of the following semester and is then permitted to submit a dissertation topic.

Departmental procedures for approval of the doctoral dissertation topic and committee

After admission to doctoral candidacy and in consultation with the graduate adviser, the student approaches the anticipated dissertation supervisor (at CUA, the dissertation supervisor is called the "major professor") for assistance in choosing a dissertation topic and in approaching the second and third potential members of a dissertation committee (the "first and second readers").

When a topic has been tentatively agreed upon by the student and supervisor/major professor, a draft proposal is prepared according to the rules detailed on the university form "Doctoral Dissertation Topic and Committee: Request for Approval."

Once the student has completed the draft proposal, it is presented for review to the graduate adviser and the proposed three members of the dissertation committee (the supervisor/major professor, the first reader, and the second reader). The graduate adviser and committee members offer evaluations of the draft proposal and communicate any required changes to the student.

After any required revisions are made to the draft proposal, and when the committee agrees that the proposal is ready to be considered by the department, a departmental colloquium is scheduled. Present at this event, at which the department chair presides, are the doctoral candidate, the three dissertation committee members, and all remaining departmental faculty members. At this colloquium, the proposal is discussed and evaluated, and further revisions may be required.

Once the department chair and supervisor/major professor are satisfied that the proposal has reached its final form, the supervisor/major professor endorses the dissertation topic, the dissertation proposal, and the membership of the dissertation committee, and submits this information to the offices of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and of the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. After formal approval has been granted by these offices, the student begins full investigation of the dissertation topic.

Under ordinary circumstances, the process of approving a doctoral dissertation topic and committee should be completed within six months of a student's admission to candidacy. Registration for doctoral dissertation guidance during this process is mandatory.

Procedures for completion and oral defense of the dissertation

Progress on the dissertation--which must under ordinary circumstances be completed, defended, and deposited no later than five years after the date of the doctoral candidate's formal admission to candidacy--is closely monitored by the graduate adviser and by the student's supervisor/major professor.

A dissertation is considered to be ready for oral defense when the supervisor/major professor informs the graduate adviser and the department chair that all the members of the dissertation committee agree that the candidate has completed all required revisions and has satisfied the relevant criteria of the university for acceptability of the dissertation. The committee members must therefore all be willing to state that the dissertation has reached its definitive, "defensible" form.

The graduate adviser supervises the procedures that lead to the formal oral examination and defense of the dissertation. The oral examination and defense is graded "Pass with Distinction," "Pass," or "Not Passing"; further information on the procedures involved is available in the departmental Graduate and Certificate Handbook.

Practical information on formatting, presentation, and deposit procedures for dissertations is available in the CUA Doctoral Dissertation Handbook.