PhD Program in History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies

The joint program in History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies is designed for students interested in enriching their program of study for the PhD in History of Art and Architecture with firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its artistic traditions. As a student in an interdisciplinary program you are a full member of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture cohort, but also have an intellectual home at CMES and access to CMES faculty, facilities, and resources.

Students in the joint PhD Program in History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies fulfill all the requirements for the PhD in History of Art and Architecture in addition to the language and area studies requirements established by the Committee on Middle Eastern Studies.

Language Requirements

Each student must demonstrate a reading knowledge of English and a European language (French, German, Russian, or Italian). Students must also demonstrate a thorough knowledge of a Middle Eastern language. The expectation is that the student learns the languages necessary to teach and work in his or her chosen field, chosen in consultation with their advisor. Language requirements are fulfilled by a departmental examination that must be passed by the end of the fourth term. The Department of the History of Art and Architecture offers a list of possible fields of study and their required languages.

Program of Study in History of Art and Architecture and MES

In the first two years, students must take a minimum of sixteen half-courses. Required courses in the first year include "HAA 310—Methods and Theory of Art History,” and one seminar in another period of art history. In the second year, students must take “HAA 300—Reading and Research,” and one seminar in another aspect of Middle Eastern Studies.

Students must take one course in at least three fields of art/architectural history other than their own, one of which must be in Western art. Non-field-specific courses may be taken in place of one of the three field requirements. In non-field-specific courses, a topic should be studied which promotes extra diversification methodologically and geographically.

A list of current Middle East–related courses is available on this site at the beginning of each semester; the History of Art and Architecture Department course catalog is available on the Harvard Registrar’s website.

General Examinations and Qualifying Paper

Students take a general examination of four parts: two in Near Eastern art (either different periods or different techniques, the scope being determined by the student’s committee), one in another period of the history of art and in Near Eastern studies, and a language examination in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, or an ancient Near Eastern language consisting of a translation (with dictionary) of one or two passages from a list of sources provided at least a year before the examination, and of a commentary. Detailed information about departmental examinations can be found on the Department of the History of Art and Architecture's website.

Students propose and write a Qualifying Paper in the spring term of their second year. Specific details and deadlines for this requirement are listed on the Department of the History of Art and Architecture’s website.

Dissertation

In the third year doctoral students identify a three-member dissertation committee and topic. The final prospectus should be approved within three months of the general examinations in order for progress toward the degree to be considered satisfactory. Students ordinarily devote three years to research for and writing of the dissertation, and complete it prior to seeking full-time employment. The dissertation will be judged according to the highest standards of scholarship, and should be an original contribution to knowledge and understanding of art. More details on the requirements for the dissertation are available on the Department of the History of Art and Architecture’s website.

Timeline for Student Progress and Degree Completion

  • Coursework: One to three years.
  • Examinations: General exams must be passed by the end of the third year of study, or sixth term in residence.
  • Dissertation Prospectus: Must be approved no later than three months after passing the general examinations.
  • Dissertation Defense and Approval: The candidate’s dissertation committee decides when the dissertation is ready for defense. The doctorate is awarded when the candidate passes a defense of the dissertation.
  • Graduation: The program is ideally completed in six years.

For more details on these guidelines, see the Middle Eastern Studies section of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) Student Handbook and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture’s information for prospective PhD students. Admissions information can be found in the Applying to CMES section of this site and on the GSAS website.