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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Art History

University requirements for the Ph.D. are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. An expanded explanation of department requirements is given in the Art History Graduate Student Handbook.


In addition to University requirements, the department requires a research paper of approximately 15-20 pages demonstrating the student's capacity to pursue independent investigation of an art historical problem as part of the application. All applicants must have been awarded a B.A., B.F.A., or B.S. from an accredited university.


To be eligible for the doctoral degree, the student must complete a minimum of three years of full-time graduate work in Art History, at least two years of which must be in residence at Stanford. Doctoral students must complete a minimum of 135 units. Of these 135, the student must complete at least 100 units of graduate course work at the 200 level or above, including all required courses, with a minimum of 62 units in Art History lecture courses and seminars.

  1. Collateral Studies—The student is required to take at least three courses in supporting fields of study (such as anthropology, classics, history, literature, or philosophy), determined in consultation with the department advisers. These courses are intended to strengthen the student's interdisciplinary study of art history.
  2. Graduate Student Teaching—As a required part of their training, graduate students in Art History, regardless of their source of funding, must participate in the department's teaching program. At least one, one-quarter assignment in ARTHIST 1, 2, 3, or FILMSTUD 4 is required (with concurrent registration in ARTHIST 610, Seminar in Teaching Praxis for ARTHIST 1 only). Students receiving financial aid are required to serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of four quarters. Further opportunities for teaching may be available.
  3. Admission to Candidacy—A graduate student's progress is formally reviewed at the end of Spring Quarter of the second year. The applicant for candidacy must put together a candidacy file showing that he/she has completed the requirements governing the M.A. program in the History of Art (see above), and at least an additional 18-24 units by the end of Winter Quarter of the second year. The graduate student does not become a formal candidate for the Ph.D. degree until he/she has fully satisfied these requirements and has been accepted as a candidate by the department.
  4. Area Core Examination (ACE)—All graduate students conceptualize an area core and bibliography in consultation with their primary adviser and two other Stanford faculty members, one of whom is drawn from a field other than Art History, or, if in Art History, has expertise outside of the student's main area of interdisciplinary concentration. Students are required to pass an area core examination, in either written or oral form, at some time in the third year of study. To prepare for the exam, students may enroll in up to three, 5-unit reading courses (ARTHIST 620), no more than one per quarter.
  5. Dissertation and Oral Defense Requirements—
    1. Reading Committee—After passing the Area Core Examination (ACE), each student is responsible for the formation of a dissertation reading committee consisting of a principal adviser and three readers. Normally, at least two of the three readers are drawn from the department and one may come from outside the department.
    2. Dissertation Proposal—By the beginning of the fourth year, students should have defined a dissertation subject and written a proposal in consultation with their principal adviser. To prepare the proposal, students may take one 5-unit independent study course (ARTHIST 640) and apply for a funded Summer Quarter to research and write the proposal. The proposal is submitted to the Art History faculty at the beginning of the fourth year for comments. The student then meets with the adviser to discuss the proposal and faculty comments no later than 30 days after the submission of the proposal, at which time necessary revisions are determined.
    3. Dissertation—A member of the Art History faculty acts as the student's dissertation adviser and as chair of the reading committee. The final draft of the dissertation must be in all the readers' hands at least four weeks before the date of the oral defense. The dissertation must be completed within five years from the date of the student's admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. A candidate taking more than five years must apply for an extension of candidacy.
    4. Oral Defense Examinations—Each student arranges an oral examination with the four members of the reading committee and a chair chosen from outside the department. The oral examination consists mainly of a defense of the dissertation but may range, at the committee's discretion, over a wider field. The student is required to discuss research methods and findings at some length and to answer all questions and criticisms put by members of the examining committee. At the end of the defense, the committee votes to pass or fail the student on the defense. The committee also makes recommendations for changes in the dissertation manuscript before it is submitted to the University as the final requirement for the granting of the Ph.D. degree in the History of Art. After incorporating the changes, the manuscript is given a final review and approval by the student's principal adviser.

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