Graduate Programs in Classical Studies

Classical studies have long formed the core of a liberal education at Vanderbilt University. While maintaining a tradition of excellence in teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Classics faculty members engage actively in research and in preparing students for the M.A., M.A.T., and Ph.D. degrees. The small but select graduate program at Vanderbilt offers several unusual advantages. Intedisciplinary work in other departments is encouraged; the University has particularly strong programs in philosophy, English, and religion. The Department of Classical Studies is also strongly committed to helping meet the need for Latin teachers and encourages students to consider teaching Latin at the secondary level.

The general requirements for graduate degrees at Vanderbilt University appear in the Graduate School Catalog.. This page contains information particular to the Department of Classical Studies.

M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) Program

For the student who wishes to teach Latin at the secondary level, the M.A.T. in Latin would be the appropriate degree. The program requires 36 to 42 hours of coursework, with 9 to 24 hours in education (depending on previous certification or courses) and at least 18 hours in Latin literature and related topics. No thesis is required.

Recipients of the M.A.T. degree should be able to read Latin at sight, to read it aloud intelligibly, and to understand it when it is read aloud. The demand for Latin teachers at the secondary level is growing dramatically, and our M.A.T. graduates typically receive numerous job offers. Both the Department and the Vanderbilt Career Center assist in locating suitable positions.

M.A. Program

The Master's Program in the Department of Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University is designed to prepare both those students who intend to go directly into teaching and those who wish to pursue the Ph.D. at Vanderbilt or elsewhere. The program, as broadly defined, involves a minimum of 36 hours and a maximum of 48 hours of coursework over a two-year period. During the two years, a student is also required to pass proficiency examinations in Greek and Latin and either proficiency examinations or course requirements in history and art. A minimum score of 550 on the standardized examination in a modern foreign language (usually German or French) is required of every student. Every student is also required to present a Master's Paper during the fourth semester.

On entering, every student takes diagnostic examinations in Greek and Latin prose and poetry. The examinations are not graded and are intended only for the determination of a student's proficiency in the languages at the time of matriculation and for placement in courses. The examinations test familiarity with language and with scansion.

Each semester each student takes at least three and no more than four courses for credit. It is expected that every student will take both seminars regularly offered in Greek and Latin each semester. The proficiency examinations in Greek and Latin are made up of passages taken from the M.A. reading lists. The two examinations test familiarity with language and scansion, and each is scheduled to take two hours. The proficiency examinations are taken at the beginning of the second year of the M.A. program. One re-take of each examination is allowed.

The requirements for history and for art are fulfilled either by taking two courses in each area (history: Classics 208 or 209 and 212 or 213; art: Classics 204 or 205 and 206) or by examination. In order to fulfill the requirement with coursework, a student must earn a B+ or better in each of the two courses in the given areas. If the student chooses to fulfill the requirement with an examination, the examination of two hours' length taken at the very beginning of the fourth semester. One retake of each examination is allowed.

In the fourth semester every student gives to faculty and graduate students an oral presentation based on a Master's Paper, which is defined to be a reworking and expansion of a paper that has been written for a seminar. Before presentation, the written Master's Paper will first be approved by the professor of the seminar in which the paper originated. The final public presentation will include questions from the faculty and will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

Ph.D. Program: General Description

Vanderbilt's Ph.D. program in Classical Studies enrolls a few dedicated students. Applicants are advised that professional opportunities for Classicists with Ph.D.'s are limited, and students should not enroll if they do not regard graduate work as offering some intrinsic rewards. The purpose of the degree, nonetheless, is professional. The program at Vanderbilt is designed to provide its graduates with maximum breadth over the whole of classical antiquity. The program not only covers Greek and Roman literature, history, and archaeology, but also reaches back to the ancient Near East and forward to early Christian Europe. A recipient of the Ph.D. in Classics from Vanderbilt should be able to teach a wide range of courses and to present the specific aspects of the classical world in their proper context and perspective. Every effort will be made to provide all Ph.D. candidates with some teaching experience.

Although theoretically the Ph.D. program in Classics can be completed in three years, it is more realistic to expect that at least four years of concentrated work will be required. The Department strongly advises the student to combine a major field in Classics with a minor field outside the Department. We note, for example, that the Department of Classical Studies has a close working relationship with Vanderbilt's highly ranked Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion. In order to acquire a professional familiarity with classical antiquity and a modest familiarity with a related field, most students will need to spend a considerable length of time in coursework and in independent study. In addition, the Department recommends that every aspirant for the Ph.D. spend some time (from a summer to a year) in the Mediterranean, either at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens or at the American Academy in Rome. Finally, the Ph.D. candidate ought to have some teaching experience, preferably as a Graduate Teaching Scholar, for one or two terms. The enrichment that results from such a program should not be bypassed simply because the student is eager to "finish" a Ph.D. program in three years.

Requirements of the Ph.D. Program

Coursework: The Graduate School requires 72 hours of graduate work for the Ph.D. For the Ph.D. in Classics, the department stipulates that 48 of these 72 hours must be earned in formal coursework within the department (the remainder may be accounted for by dissertation research). For a minor outside the department, another 12 hours of formal coursework will be required. Students who carry 12 hours per semester will be able to finish coursework for both a Classics major and a minor in, e.g., Medieval Studies, in five semesters.

Examinations: In the course of the program, the student will take five sets of examinations, four of which will precede the writing of the dissertation.

1. Upon entrance, graduate students will take a reading examination in Latin and Greek to enable the department to register the student in the appropriate courses in the classical languages.

2. Reading examinations in French and German must also be passed. One of these (preferably the German) should be completed during the student's first year of graduate study, the other during the second. On the Graduate School Foreign Language Test in each of these languages, the student must score at least 550.

3. After completing most or all of the formal coursework, the student should be ready to take comprehensive examinations. The comprehensives will consist of two parts, both written. One part will be composed of translation examinations in both languages. The second set will include Greek literature, Latin literature, ancient history, art, archaeology, and either one classical author commonly taught at the undergraduate level or a special topic conceivably appropriate as a non-language course at the advanced undergraduate level. Both the reading and the literature examinations will be based on, but not limited to, a reading list of Greek and Latin authors prepared by the department. Both sets will ordinary be taken within one month.

4. After a student has passed the comprehensives, the Dean of the Graduate School will appoint a committee to administer the Qualifying Examination for candidacy for the Ph.D. This committee will consist of at least five persons, one of whom will be from outside the department (normally the extra-departmental examiner will be an expert in the student's minor field). The student will be examined orally by this qualifying committee, the purpose of the examination being both to confirm the student's general knowledge of classical antiquity and the minor field and to determine "whether the student possesses those critical and analytic skills needed for a scholarly career" (Graduate School Catalog, 2001/2002, p. 23).

Dissertation: After passing the Qualifying Examination, the student is a candidate for the Ph.D. and, after consultation with one or more professors, submits a written dissertation proposal to the Qualifying Committee. If the Committee judges the proposed research to be feasible and significant, it will formally approve the proposal, and the student will then commence work on the dissertation. The chair of the department will designate one professor from the department as the dissertation adviser and will name two other members of the Committee as second and third readers. It is hoped that the student, consulting regularly with the dissertation adviser, will be able to complete the dissertation in ten or twelve months. If the adviser and the second readers find the dissertation acceptable, the Qualifying Committee recommends that the Graduate Dean schedule the final examination--an oral defense of the dissertation. At this occasion, the candidate will orally defend against the criticisms and questions of the full Committee, all members of which will have read the entire dissertation. After successfully defending the dissertation, the candidate will present two copies signed by a majority of the Committee to the Graduate School fourteen days before the end of the term in which the degree is to be awarded, except for the spring semester, when it is due April 1.

Admission and Financial Aid


All requests for admission and financial aid are evaluated by the department. Applicants should present an undergraduate record demonstrating competence in the classical languages. and some study of either French or German. Applicants must present scores on the Graduate Record Examination, along with letters of recommendation from the teachers best able to evaluate the student's work in classical studies. Although applications for admission will be accepted at any time, all applications for financial aid, together with supporting documents, must be received by 15 January . For application forms and additional information, see the Vanderbilt University Graduate School Web site,

University Fellowships

University fellowships and teaching assistantships are available for all of the above programs, providing stipends of up to $10,500 in addition to tuition. Also available for applicants of exceptional achievement and high promise are Harold Stirling Vanderbilt and Arts and Science Graduate Select Scholarship awards and University Graduate Graduate Fellowships, which provide stipends of $3,000 to $5,000 in addition to the departmental award of $10,500 plus tuition. The Graduate School also awards several four-year Dean's Graduate Fellowships ($14,000 stipend for the academic year, plus tuition and fees) to African American Ph.D. students who intend to teach at the college or university level.

Departmental Fellowships

Thanks to a bequest from the estate of Edwin Moore Rankin, the department offers Rankin Fellowships of up to $12,200 plus tuition to highly qualified candidates.

Study in the Mediterranean

An unusual feature in Vanderbilt's graduate programs in Classical Studies is the expectation that in the summer following the first year in residence the student will study in the Mediterranean. Students in good standing are urged to apply for Rankin Fellowship support to enable them to study in the summer programs offered by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and the American Academy in Rome or to participate in the archaeological excavations that Tel Aviv University is conducting at Megiddo.

For more information:
F. Carter Philips
Department of Classical Studies
VU Station B, #351740
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37235-1740

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