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Medieval Studies Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Medieval Studies

Program Description

The aim of this comparative and interdisciplinary field is to allow students to concentrate more fully on medieval studies than is possible in the programs of traditional departments. Although programs to fit individual interests and needs are emphasized, there are some degree requirements, such as reading knowledge of Latin and a course in paleography and research methods, that must be met by all candidates.

The program does not ordinarily admit students seeking a terminal M.A. degree. Ph.D. degree candidates are granted the M.A. degree after successful completion of course work and the general field exams. For the Ph.D. degree, reading proficiency in Latin and two foreign languages, and teaching experience are required.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-8545

259 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • medieval archaeology
  • medieval art
  • medieval history
  • medieval literature
  • medieval music
  • medieval philology and linguistics
  • medieval philosophy



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Ideally, a broad undergraduate major in one of the participating disciplines, including college-level Latin and preparation in modern research languages (e.g., French and German), should precede graduate concentration in this field. All applicants are required to submit a 20-page writing sample on a medieval topic and three letters of recommendation. All U.S. citizens should take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and, where available for disciplines in an applicant's major area, the GRE subject test. Non-U.S. citizens are advised but not required to take the GRE. Contact the Field office for additional information, or visit our Web site, Cornucopia.

Learning Outcomes

Learning objectives

The Graduate Field of Medieval Studies seeks to train PhD students to conduct interdisciplinary research, with a focus on an area of specialization. The Field fosters students’ wholehearted engagement with integrating relevant materials and approaches from across the so-called disciplinary spectrum into a personal research vision. Within their area of specialization, students should receive training that is at least equal to that of specialists in that area who earn their PhD degree in traditional, disciplinary departments. Students in Medieval Studies are expected to uphold professional and ethical standards in the profession.

When students complete the PhD, they should be able to:

  1. make an original and substantial contribution to the field, producing publishable scholarship in a timely fashion.
  2. demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of one major concentration within the field.
  3. have a broad knowledge of research and theory across three or more concentrations, comprising a major concentration and two or more minor ones (which may include one minor concentration from another Graduate Field outside Medieval Studies). At least one minor concentration should be in a discipline (usually, as determined by departmental affiliation) different from that of the student’s major concentration; see the Program in Medieval Studies Procedural Guide for details.
  4. demonstrate working proficiency in at least one major medieval language (typically, Medieval Latin) and two major modern research languages.
  5. communicate research findings effectively in written and in spoken presentations.
  6. demonstrate effective skills in undergraduate teaching and potential for graduate teaching.

Measuring learning objectives


Latin exam (Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies, Level 1, by the beginning of 4th year) or equivalent in a medieval language approved by the Field; two other language exams (at discretion of student’s Special Committee); A exam (qualifying exam, by the beginning of 4th year); and B exam (dissertation defence)

  • chairs of Special Committees for A and B exams will submit to the DGS one-page reports identifying strengths and weaknesses in light of the field’s learning goals. Reports on A exams should refer to learning outcomes 2, 3 and 5. For B exams and dissertations, reports should refer to 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.
  • proficiency in Medieval Latin is deemed a general requirement for any student working in Medieval Studies with a focus on the region of (modern) western Europe. Students whose work focuses on regions outside western Europe (e.g. Byzantium, the Muslim Caliphate, China) are expected instead to demonstrate proficiency in the major language of the medieval sources of their region (e.g. Byzantine Greek, Arabic, Chinese).
  • learning outcome 4 is assessed by the external benchmark of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies Level 1 (“MA level”) Medieval Latin exam, in conjunction with the Special Committee’s assessment of proficiency in both Latin and the appropriate modern research languages, as determined by each student’s Special Committee. (For students exempt from the Medieval Latin requirement, the Special Committee alone is responsible for assessing proficiency in a major medieval language.)

Graduating Student Surveys

  • the Program will monitor graduating students' responses to the exit surveys administered by the Graduate School, focusing on students' sense of how well each learning goal for PhD students in Medieval Studies was achieved; which aspects of the PhD program were most helpful for their learning and why; and what the Field of Medieval Studies could do differently to help students learn more effectively.

Teaching assessment

Three types of data will serve to assess learning outcome 6:

  • Course Leaders supervising PhD students who teach First-Year Writing Seminars will confer with students about syllabus and assignment design, section discussions and grading; Course Leaders will also observe students’ teaching (at least once a semester). Course Leaders will write structured observation reports on PhD students’ effectiveness in undergraduate teaching; these reports will be kept in each student’s file. Course Leaders will be expected to provide students with feedback on their teaching.
  • Students will produce a self-assessment report after having taught for two semesters (typically, at the end of the Spring semester of their 2nd year).
  • Special Committee chairs will include in their report on a student’s B exam comments about the student’s potential for graduate-level teaching, based on their own (and other Special Committee members’) experience, as well as on canvassing of other faculty with whom the student had taken graduate seminars or directed reading courses.

Quantitative measures: Time to A exam, Time to Degree, and Job Placement

  • the Field will continue to track job placement of graduating students, and monitor changes in the average time to A exam and time to degree (as recorded by the Graduate School).
  • since a variety of placement options outside academic research and teaching positions constitute successful outcomes for our students, the Field will continue in its efforts to enable students to find jobs that allow them to take advantage of their varied skills. We will continue to communicate with our alumni to track their long-term success beyond Cornell.

Acting on assessment information

A Field faculty meeting will be held each Fall semester to review the progress of continuing students. In advance of this meeting, the DGS will make available all reports and data on assessing graduate student learning from the previous academic year.