The MA program in the Department of Art History and Archaeology has two primary goals: to provide graduate students with a strong background in the history of art, from antiquity to the present; and to introduce them to the methods and theories of material and visual analysis, as well as the practices of critical writing and reading. Students who pursue the thesis option have the opportunity to specialize at that stage.


Course requirements

The successful completion of the MA requires at least thirty hours of coursework that must include:

  • 8110: Introduction to Graduate Study
  • Three distribution requirements that cover three chronological periods: Ancient, Medieval-Baroque, and Modern.
    • Distribution requirements can be taken at either the 7000 or 8000 levels. To determine what courses fulfill the distribution requirements, consult the Course Distribution Areas link in the left column
    • The Ancient requirement is fulfilled only by courses in Greek and Roman art and archaeology.
    • Students focusing on art history with little background in antiquity, or students concentrating on archaeology with little background in art history, can enroll in a 3000-level course as a readings course (7960) to fulfill distribution requirements in appropriate periods. This requires approval of the course instructor as well as the Director of Graduate Studies.

Keep in mind the following departmental and Office of Graduate Studies requirements:

  • At least 15 of the 30 credit hours must be taken at the 8000-level. (Graduate students will take 8000-level seminars whenever possible.)
  • No more than 40% (12 of 30) can be Problems, Special Readings, or Research Hours (7960/8070/8080/8090)
  • Courses for an interdisciplinary minor may not be counted toward the 30 hours required for the MA

Language requirements

The purpose of the language requirement is to enable students to participate in graduate seminars and pursue individual research. Consequently, students should fulfill the language requirements as quickly as possible.

All students must demonstrate reading knowledge of one foreign language, usually German or a Romance language. In addition to the modern language, students in Classical Archaeology also must have reading knowledge of either ancient Greek or Latin.

Language requirements may be satisfied by achieving a grade of B or better in a course approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Departmental language exams normally are offered in the fall semester of each year.

Master’s Essay

To complete the degree, students must complete a scholarly essay under the guidance of a faculty advisor. It will most likely be a revision of a research paper from a graduate course taken in the Department of Art History and Archaeology.

Master’s Essay Oral Examination

In consultation with the faculty advisor, students will select an additional member of the department faculty and a third member from outside the department to read the essay. Students will discuss their essays in a meeting chaired by their advisor.

Thesis Option

Graduate students who intend to pursue doctoral work should complete the thesis option. This decision is made during the student’s second or third semester in residence in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and three faculty members in the student’s area of interest.

Course Requirements

At least 30 hours of coursework as outlined above.

  • 8080: Master’s Readings and 8090: Master’s Research.
  • No more than six hours can be directed toward the thesis (8080 and 8090)

Language Requirements

All students who pursue the thesis option must have reading knowledge of two modern languages: German and a Romance language.

The department expects that the modern language requirement will be met by the end of the third semester for use in advanced coursework as well as thesis research and writing.

Master’s Thesis Committee

The master’s thesis committee consists of at least three people: the student’s thesis advisor, a second member from within the department, and a third member from outside the department. The student should invite the latter two after consultation with his or her thesis advisor.

The committee must approve the thesis topic in the semester before the student plans to defend the thesis; often, this is accomplished during an interview for candidacy.

Master’s Thesis

The master’s thesis enables graduate students to engage in independent and thorough research in a specific area of study. While the thesis need not be an original contribution, neither can it be an uncritical compilation of published facts. A successful thesis will demonstrate the student’s ability to use bibliography in the field; effectively utilize research tools and techniques; synthesize a variety of types of sources; and sustain an argument.

Master’s Thesis Defense

The defense of the master’s thesis is an oral examination, chaired by the student’s advisor, which focuses specifically on the MA thesis. The student should submit a complete draft of the thesis to the advisor at least two months before the intended defense date and a final draft, approved by the advisor, to the entire committee 30 days before the defense. Any changes recommended by the committee during the defense must be made before the finished thesis can be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies.

  • The thesis defense can be held only in the fall and spring semesters before the final week of classes.
  • Each student is responsible for ensuring that he or she meets the deadlines and guidelines established by the Office of Graduate Studies for thesis submission and graduation.

see also Master's Requirements (University)