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Graduate Degree Coursework Requirements and Guidelines

Students who began the M.A. Program in Fall 2018 and after follow these requirements

I.        Thirty graduate-level credits are required for the M.A. degree. 

II.        These credits are to be distributed in the following way: 

1. Four graduate seminars (700-level) in the Department, one of which must be the Methods seminar taken in the first year. 

2. The remaining classes should be taken with four different Art History faculty members. The four do not include instructors for Methods and the Museum Studies seminar.

3. It is strongly recommended that students take at least three courses in their major field of study and two courses in their minor field (see the section on Examinations for the M.A. Degree below). 

4. One course may come from outside the History of Art and Architecture with the agreement of the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Director (GPD).

III.       A full-time course load as defined by the Graduate School is nine credits. If a student is holding a Teaching Assistantship, auditing a number of courses, or studying for the M.A. Exam, six credits may qualify as full-time. The Graduate Program Director must approve all proposed courses.

IV.       From time to time, students have elected to take additional courses for audit credit, as opposed to full credit. This option is particularly useful in preparing for the Image Exam (described below). Official audits appear on the transcript, but do not count toward the degree requirements stated above. The minimum standard for an audit is regular attendance, with no absences. Permission of the instructor is required, and students should be sure to check with the instructor to determine what constitutes an audit, since requirements may vary from instructor to instructor. Furthermore, while the Graduate School allows for a change from graded credit to audit until the last day of classes, the student must have permission of the instructor for the change and must be passing the course at that point. The last day for graduate students to drop a class (which appears as DR on the transcript) is listed yearly on the academic calendar.

V.        While students are encouraged to pursue individualized work, no more than six credits of Independent Study may be counted toward the 30 hours for the degree.

VI.       The University allows the transfer of up to six credits of graduate work at another institution or six credits completed as a non-degree graduate student on campus (provided that the student registered for the course through the Graduate School). Individual petition to the GPD accomplishes the transfer.

Graduate Student Advising

In the first year of study, during Counseling Week each semester each student consults with the GPD about his or her schedule. The GPD will help students balance their level of preparation and interests with the general requirements and pattern of offerings.

At the end of the first year, graduate students select a faculty advisor in their major field of study. The faculty advisor serves as chair of the student’s M.A. Examination committee, discusses coursework, and offers career counseling.

Foreign Language Requirement

For most careers in the history of art and architecture, knowledge of foreign languages, especially French and German, is extremely important and often a fundamental requirement. Students in the M.A. Program are expected to read in a foreign language in connection with their academic work, especially in seminars.

Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, or Spanish (or another relevant foreign language) in order to receive the M.A. degree, and they must pass a language examination before becoming eligible to take the M.A. Examination.

The written examination requires translating a selected passage of art-historical writing into English. The passage must be translated in 90 minutes with the use of a dictionary. The GPD administers the examination once at the beginning of each semester. Individual exams will not be given to students who do not pass at the beginning of the semester. All students are required to take the examination during their first semester and subsequently until they have passed it. The faculty considers language proficiency in making awards for Teaching Assistantships.

Students who do not pass the examination at once are required to take credit or officially audit a language course during their first semester. They must continue to take language courses or other concrete steps toward learning a language, as determined by the GPD until the requirement is met. In exceptional circumstances, the graduate-level study of a foreign language may satisfy the requirement.

Examinations for the M.A. Degree

There is no thesis requirement for the M.A. in History of Art and Architecture. Instead, there are two written exams, the Image Exam and the Essay Exam, both of which are offered twice a year, as well as a culminating Oral Exam. Students with incompletes in coursework may not take the Image, Essay, or Oral exam.

I.          Timing

The Image Exam is given at the beginning of November and the last week of March. Exact dates are to be announced. The Essay Exam is given on a subsequent day to be announced in both months. Students may take the Image Exam during their penultimate semester of coursework or later. Students may take the Essay Exam no earlier than the last semester of coursework.

In the case of students who take both exams on the same day, the Committee will evaluate the Image Exam first. If the student passes the Image Exam, then the Committee will evaluate the Essay Exam.

No portion of the Image Exam may be rewritten, but a student may retake the entire Image Exam once. Students who pass the Image Exam but fail the Essay Exam may retake the Essay Exam once. In this circumstance, portions of the Essay Exam may not be rewritten, but the student must retake the entire Essay Exam.

II.        The Image Exam

1. Image Identifications (5 minutes for each identification)

What is a satisfactory image identification response essay?

Identify the work of art correctly. The identification should include creator (if known), title of the work, date and period if given (e.g. dynasty), and location for architectural works. It does not need to include the museum collection in which the work is held. The response should then comprise a graduate-level response essay to the question, "why is this work on the list of required images?"

A graduate-level essay should articulate what makes a work both important in and of itself and representative of something larger than itself. If there is something significant about the work itself that justifies its place in art historical scholarship, note that (for example, an innovation; or something noteworthy that the artist, artisan, or architect does with form or structure, whether a "first" or not). But these works are also chosen because they relate to larger contexts: context may be a historical phenomenon or event, an artistic movement, a cultural concept, or theory. Note that this list has the word "or" in it. Certain works of art have attracted more discussion relating to historical context than theoretical context. The lectures we give, textbooks, monographs, and the latest journal articles that discuss these works will offer this context.

To summarize: the ability to express something that is significant about a work's form and how that work relates to a larger context is what constitutes a graduate-level answer.

Can you provide a sample essay response?

A sample essay response for a work of art from X time period and place will look different from a response for a work of art from Y time period and place. Instead, we provide the guideline above as an overarching and flexible rubric that can be applied to all of the works on the required image list.

2.  Unknown Images (15 minutes each)

Students will be shown unknown images (one selected by each member of the graduate faculty). They must attribute and write about five of the total shown. The unknowns will be given to each student during the Exam as a packet of color reproductions.

III.       The Essay Exam

In the first week of the semester during which a student plans to take the Essay Exam, he or she must provide the GPD with a list of coursework to be counted for the degree. At that time, the student will declare a major and minor field of concentration. The student must also select two members from the faculty as an examining committee and must identify one as the committee chair. The faculty will appoint a third committee member if there is a tie vote in evaluating the Essay Exam. The members of the committee usually represent the major and minor fields of concentration. An additional faculty member may serve on the committee in the case of a publishable paper (see below).

For the Essay Exam, students must answer two of at least three questions in the major field and one of at least two questions in the minor field. Each essay is one hour long. The art historical research and teaching areas represented at the department are as follows:

  • Art before 1750

    • Ancient Greek and Roman
    • Medieval Europe

    • Italian Renaissance and Baroque

    • Colonial Latin America

  • European/American Art after 1750

    • American Art (Colonial to 1940)

    • Black diasporic visual culture in the 18th and 19th centuries

    • European, 1750 to 1914

    • European/American Art, 1880 to the present

    • Architecture in Europe and the United States, 1800 to the present

    • Latin American and US Latinx Art

  • Non-Western Art

    • East Asian

Other fields may be selected with faculty consent.

   ** Basic Guidelines for MA Essay Exams**

1) The questions on the exam are based on the student’s graduate work in the major and minor field. As such, the core issues addressed should come from upper-level survey courses the professor offers in the field (especially extra graduate-level readings and research), as well as graduate seminars in the field. 

2) Once a student has chosen her or his major and minor fields, she or he meets with the professors who will serve on the committee. This would normally be in the Fall of the second year in the program, assuming the student plans to take the Essay Exam in the Spring of the second year. At this meeting, the professor and student discuss general issues and themes that might be addressed in the exam but not exact question topics. At this time, the faculty and student may also decide upon some additional bibliography to be covered. This may also include material from classes the student has not taken or only audited if the professor provides a recent syllabus.

3) The Essay Exam answers should show broad comprehension of both the major and minor fields. This includes artists and works of art as well as scholarship. 

4) On the Essay Exam there will be at least three questions in the student’s major field and two questions in the minor field. (The student answers two questions in the major and one question in the minor)

IV.       Publishable Paper Option

In exceptional cases, students who have carried a research project to a sufficient state of completion while enrolled in the MA program and under the supervision of a member of the department's faculty may be nominated by that faculty member to submit a publishable paper in place of the written examination in the major field (the student would still take the Essay Exam in the minor field). The student must declare their intention to write a publishable paper under faculty supervision to their advisor by April 1 of their first year in the program. The student will provide the professor with a proposal of the project by the first day of classes in their second year of the program, which the professor will present for approval to the entire faculty by the second faculty meeting of the semester. A draft of the final paper must be completed and distributed to all exam committee members by the beginning of the term when the student plans to complete degree requirements. The final draft is due to all members of the student’s committee at least two weeks before the date of the Essay Exam.

V.        The Oral Exam

The Oral Exam is a defense of the Essay Exam and an overview of the student’s participation in the Program. Once students are notified that they have passed the Essay Exam, they will arrange immediately with their committee to schedule the Oral Exam, which usually takes place about a week after the Essay Exam to meet the Graduate School notification of graduation deadline. The Oral Exam is normally about one hour long. Students will be notified if they passed the entire exam at the end of the Oral.

VI.       Grading Standards

Students must achieve a B or better on all portions of the M.A. Examination to pass.