PhD in Medieval Studies

This is a six-year interdisciplinary research degree designed to allow students to develop as scholars and teachers. There are three phases to the PhD: coursework; examinations and prospectus; and the dissertation itself. The Program currently admits about two students each year to the PhD.

Requirements for the PhD

Years 1 and 2: Coursework and Languages

Students will design their programs of study in consultation with the DGS, and with other faculty who can advise them in developing their research interests.

  • 14 term courses are required.
  • One of these must be in palaeography, codicology, or other methods with original medieval documents.
  • The courses must span at least three different fields or disciplines.
  • To accommodate students who may wish to take methods proseminars in multiple fields, up to 3 of the 14 credits may be taken Sat/Unsat.

Language proficiency is an especially essential part of the Medieval Studies program, and students are encouraged to fulfill their language requirements as early in their studies as possible.

  • Students must demonstrate mastery of one or more of: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, or Chinese, in the forms used during the medieval period. This may be done in two ways:
    • Through completion of advanced coursework, as approved by the DGS; or
    • By examination.
  • Two modern languages relevant to students’ particular field of study are also required. They also may be fulfilled by DGS-approved coursework or examination.

Year 3: Qualification for the dissertation

Before beginning their dissertation research, students must take Qualifying Examinations and complete a Prospectus. Both are undertaken in close consultation with faculty advisers and the DGS.

Qualifying examinations

After completion of all coursework, students must take an oral Qualifying Examination. This will normally take place during the fifth semester.

  • The exam will cover three different fields, encompassing at least two disciplines.
  • Normally, each field will be advised—and examined—by a different faculty member. At least one of these faculty should normally be connected with Medieval Studies.
  • For each field, and in consultation with the DGS and field adviser, the student will prepare a reading list comprising approximately 50 primary and secondary works, depending on the field. The examination will center on this list (but need not be confined to it).
  • The examination will last about 100 minutes, comprising about thirty minutes for each field, along with time for the committee to consult before informing students of the result.
Prospectus and conference

Before beginning the dissertation proper, students will assemble a committee of advisers and, in consultation with them, write a dissertation prospectus. As with the Qualifying Examination, the advisers should represent at least two different disciplines; for guidance on the advising relationship, see the GSAS handbook on the subject. While there is often substantial overlap between the QE and dissertation committees, students are encouraged to discuss their project with all relevant faculty, and to arrive at the prospectus committee configuration that best suits their research and mentorship needs.

The prospectus is a provisional document laying out a plan for the dissertation and a road map for the research leading up to it. It is not a contract or a commitment, and it is expected that, as students research and write, the plan will change in ways both large and small. Its purpose is to ensure that students have a firm foundation on which to build their research, and a grasp of the particular areas in which they hope to make an intervention.

The prospectus conference normally takes place by the end of the sixth term. During that term, students are strongly encouraged to consult regularly with their committee, and to work through drafts of the prospectus, leading up to a document of about 20–30 pages plus bibliography. This finalized document will be circulated to the committee and DGS about ten days before the date of the conference itself.

During the conference, the student and committee (including the DGS) will discuss the prospectus, with the goal of arriving at a set of concrete revisions. The prospectus conference is thus not a defense, but a collaboration to help ensure that the student is in the best possible position for beginning work. Once the prospectus has been revised to the satisfaction of the committee and DGS, it will be approved, and the student (having completed all requirements) will advance to candidacy.


Students will most often begin teaching in their third year. In consultation with the DGS, they will identify the department(s) most relevant to their training and goals, and will coordinate with the registrar of the program in which they hope to teach. First-time instructors will take part in the Teaching @Yale Day, along with any other training required by the program in which they hope to teach. More details on teaching opportunities can be found here.

Years 4–6: The Dissertation

Typically, Medieval Studies students spend three years writing their doctoral dissertation. During two of these years, research is combined with teaching; the third is supported by a dissertation fellowship. In consultation with their committee, students may arrange their teaching and fellowship semesters in whatever way works best for their research plans.

The Ph.D. in Medieval Studies is most appropriate for students who meet two criteria. One is that they already possess considerable expertise in classical or medieval Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Persian, Chinese or Arabic, and in at least one relevant modern language of scholarship in addition to English. The other is that the disciplinary area in which the student intends ultimately to seek employment be one for which chronologically specialized, interdisciplinary training is appropriate.