Graduate Program Requirements

Years One and Two

During the first two years of study, students fulfill the language requirement, take twelve courses, and read in preparation for the general examination.

During the first two years of study, students fulfill the language requirement, take twelve courses, and read in preparation for the general examination.

Language requirement: One non-English language must be passed with high marks. This requirement is ordinarily fulfilled for European languages, by passing a two-hour translation exam regularly offered in English [] and History []. The American Studies administrator will arrange exams in languages not offered by English or History.

The twelve required courses are taken within the following rubric:

• American Studies 200 (major works, offered in odd-numbered fall terms) and 201 (major themes, offered in even-numbered fall terms).
• Two graduate seminars, taken in two different departments. In graduate seminars, American Studies students demonstrate their capacity to undertake graduate-level research, resulting in a publishable or nearly-publishable essay.
• Two courses focused beyond the borders of the United States.
• Six other courses, chosen with an eye to general examination preparation.

General examination: A two-hour oral examination by four faculty, taken at either the end of the second year or the beginning of the third year. The major field (one hour, two examiners) is divided either chronologically or thematically. The two minor fields (half-hour and one examiner each) must be distinct from the major field.

Advising: The Chair is the adviser of record for all first and second-year students, meets at the start of each term with such students to offer guidance, and is additionally available to all with regular office hours. In the course of these advising conversations students are encouraged to develop additional faculty contacts relevant to their general examination and developing dissertation plans.

Masters degree: While the American Studies program does not offer the A.M., many students easily fulfill requirements for either the English (scroll down to “the non-terminal master of arts degree”) or History (the nine courses indicated here) masters degree en route to their Ph.D. in American Studies.

To see the above program requirements in their official form, please see

Doris Sommer

Years Three and Four

In the third and fourth years of study, students teach, assemble a dissertation committee, articulate their dissertation topic, and move forward in research and writing. The Program provides the following opportunities to accomplish these goals:

Teaching: A teaching fellowship is guaranteed in the third and fourth years.

Fourth-year Research Grant: The Program offers one semester of support (teaching relief) in the fall or spring of the fourth year. The purpose of this grant is to speed students toward completion: sometimes in the fifth year, or often in the sixth year. Our capacities to continue this grant past the medium-term will depend on funding.

Prospectus Conference: All third-year students present their dissertation proposals in May, at a conference of American Studies faculty and students.

Dissertation Colloquium: All students present a chapter at a conference of American Studies faculty and students, regularly scheduled near the end of each term.

Years Five and Beyond

As part of the admission offer, the Graduate School guarantees one year of support (no teaching) to students completing their dissertations. Evidence of two complete chapters is required to invoke such funding. In American Studies, completion funding may be taken in the fifth year (ideal but rare), sixth year (typically), or the seventh year (note that completion funding after the seventh year is not guaranteed). If not taken in the fifth or sixth years, students can continue to support themselves through teaching.

Career planning. Along with offerings by the Office of Career Services [] and the GSAS Fellowships Office [], American Studies offers programming and support for professional development and the job market (academic and non-academic)