Skip to main content

Skip page navigation

Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Join the 21st Century! Follow the Director of Graduate Studies on twitter

Please click on link for corresponding information.

The Department of American Studies is undergoing restructuring. Graduate admissions have been suspended during this process.


The Department of American Studies will not be accepting applications for 2018-2019 graduate study.


Most students are admitted with a multi-year funding package that allows them to work as teaching assistants for faculty.


At least 90 credit hours are required for the doctorate. Within these, students must complete:

  • AMST-G603 Introduction to American Studies (4 cr.)
    Representative readings in interdisciplinary scholarship; the origins and the development of American Studies and current trends;
  • AMST-G604 Perspectives in American Studies (4 cr.)
    Survey of perspectives that have been and currently are significant in American Studies;
  • One section of AMST-G620 Colloquium in American Studies (3-4 cr.)
    Reading, reports, and discussions on different aspects of American culture; and
  • At least four courses at the 700 level or higher (including at least one section of G751), which may include cross-listed courses and relevant electives offered through American Studies.

The student must complete at least 32 credits in American Studies coursework.

Note: With the consent of their advisory committee, students can count one class taken outside AMST toward these requirements, though it must be taught by an AMST core or affiliate faculty member. No substitutions are allowed for G603 and G604.



The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is the initial advisor to each cohort of students. By the end of their second year, however, all students will select a specific advisor from among the core faculty, and will constitute a four person Advisory Committee, which may include members of the affiliate faculty.


Together with his/her advisor, the student will complete a thematic plan of study, organizing elective coursework -- taken and planned -- around a chosen focus, and submit it to the DGS at the beginning of every calendar year. The plan of study will be revised each fall, beginning in the second year of coursework, and resubmitted at the start of each year until the student has completed his/her coursework.


Minor Requirement

Students must complete a minor in another department, program, or field. The minor should normally be completed by the end of the student's third year. No courses may be cross-counted towards the minor.


Foreign Language Study

Before taking the qualifying exams, students will demonstrate advanced proficiency in a foreign language related to their field of study by completing at least one 300 level course in their chosen language of study with a grade of B or higher, or passing the Graduate Student Foreign Language Exam (GSFLE) in French, German or Spanish. Students whose dissertation projects demand more in-depth knowledge of a particular language should work with their advisor to determine what higher level of proficiency beyond this requirement will be necessary to ensure success.



NOTE: Students who entered the program prior to fall 2014»
Students admitted to the stand-alone PhD program in AMST prior to fall 2014 may opt in to these qualifying exam requirements simply by emailing amstdgs at and stating their intent. These qualifying exam requirements are only for stand-alone PhDs. Students pursuing combined PhDs are still held to the previous seven hour exam format.

Students entering the program as of fall 2014 (approved October 2013).

A. By the end of the 4th semester (spring of year two), grad students are expected to have:

  • Decided on which two fields of expertise they want to be examined.
  • Compiled a list of five-ten key works for each field.
  • Identified two faculty examiners per field to constitute an exam committee as follows:
      1. at least two AMST core faculty members, one of whom will chair the committee;
      2. one representative for the student's PhD minor (can be a core or affiliate AMST faculty member but does not have to be either); and
      3. a fourth faculty member. Ideally this would be an AMST core or affiliate faculty member, but it may be someone with no AMST affiliation subject to the exam chair's approval.
  • Filed this information with the DGS.
B. Over the summer between 4th and 5th semesters, PhD students should expand the lists for each field, in consultation with their faculty examiners, to cover at least 80 texts per field.

C. All coursework for AMST and the PhD minor must be complete in order for students to take their qualifying exams. If the student is not on-track to meet this deadline by the start of the 5th semester, s/he must schedule a meeting with the DGS to discuss time to degree (see G. below). Lack of timely progress towards degree may jeopardize a student's eligibility to receive funding from the department.

D. Qualifying Exam Procedures: By the start of the 5th semester, students will:
  • Write two 25-page essays (one per field) that result in a critical review of the key texts in the field, working under the direction of the faculty examiners and drawing upon the works on the studentsí expanded lists.
  • Once the examiners for each field approve the respective critical essay, they will inform the DGS of this. NOTE: There is a one-year time limit for approval of both parts of the written essay portion. After one-year deadline has passed, if both parts of the written portion of the qualifying exam have not been approved by the committee, the student will have failed the exam (see retakes).
  • Student will then take a two hour oral examination in which all four examiners are present in person or via Skype.
  • At the end of the oral examination, the examination committee will determine whether the student passed or whether s/he should re-take the exams in whole or in part the following semester. The committee will report this to the DGS.

E. Re-takes: The oral examination may be retaken only once, in whole or in part, at the discretion of the student's exam committee.

F. Upon successful completion of the written and oral components of the qualifying examination, the student will then assemble a dissertation committee and spend semester 6th working on a dissertation prospectus. The Prospectus must be completed and receive the committee's approval one semester after the student has passed the written and oral parts of the qualifying exams.

G. If student has not completed the coursework for AMST and/or met the language requirement according to this projected timeline, the process may be pushed back one semester.

  • We strongly feel it is in our students' best interests to complete their coursework and advance to candidacy in a timely manner in order to make them eligible for external funding opportunities.



Students will work with their advisor to form a dissertation committee of at least four faculty members total, including a representative from their doctoral minor. Upon the constitution of the dissertation committee, the student's advisor will become chair. A member of the core faculty will chair, or co-chair, each dissertation committee. Untenured faculty members in AMST are allowed to chair dissertation committees.


The dissertation proposal shall be defended orally, as shall the dissertation itself. The proposal should be defended in the semester following the successful completion of the qualifying exam. All dissertation defenses are open to the public.

The student must have received acceptance of his or her dissertation and must submit a copy to the University Graduate School within seven years after passing the qualifying examination.