PhD Art History
How to apply?
PhD Art History
- UIC’s PhD program in Art History is an internationally recognized, interdisciplinary center for the study of art and architectural history, theory and criticism housed at a public research University situated in the dynamic city of Chicago. We offer a rigorous and innovative academic education in critical and analytic thinking, research, writing, and visual literacy. Students leave the program with the necessary skills to enter the academic job market or to work as professionals in an array of settings.
- The program in Art History takes a global, interdisciplinary approach to research and education. Our faculty is committed to critical theory, historiographical inquiry and interdisciplinary work drawing from literary studies, political philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, and histories of technology and religion, and translation studies. Faculty work collaboratively with other academics and institutions around the world to investigate the local and intertwined visual cultures of the United States, the Ancient Americas, Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and West and South Asia. We are also invested in interrogating the changing place of art in a rapidly globalizing capitalist economy.
- Cross-disciplinary work with UIC’s distinguished programs in languages and literature, philosophy, film studies, women’s studies, history, and the social sciences is strongly encouraged. A student may also opt for a more formal relationship with other departments through the Interdepartmental Concentrations in Gender and Women’s Studies and Violence Studies.
- We also take advantage of the fact that we are located in Chicago, a city with world-renowned libraries, museums and institutions for art and architecture, including the Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, Graham Foundation for Architecture, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Newberry Library, Field Museum, Renaissance Society, and UIC’s Gallery 400 and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Our students have the opportunity to take classes from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago as part of their coursework, and to draw on faculty from other universities for their advisory committees.
- Approximately four students are accepted each year to the PhD program with full funding for four years (tuition and stipend). These fellowships, dependent on students’ good academic standing, often involve teaching or other types of departmental service. Our students have also been successful in obtaining further support from various university fellowships and positions in Gallery 400 and the Hull-House Museum. The department also supports travel for research and archival work, and conference presentations.
Requirements for the Degree
In addition to the Graduate College minimum requirements, students must meet the following program requirements:
- Minimum Semester Hours Required: 96 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree.
- Foreign Language Requirements: Students must present evidence of advanced knowledge of a language other than English as it relates to the student’s chosen area of research. Evidence of the ability to pursue research in additional languages may be necessary, depending on the availability of literature in the field selected, and the selection of those languages must be approved by the student’s advisor.
- Course Work: Candidates must complete at least 64 semester hours of course work beyond the master’s degree. Of this amount, 32 semester hours must be in graduate seminars, of which 16 semester hours must be taken in the department. At least 32 semester hours of credit beyond the MA degree must be at the 500-level. Of the 64 semester hours required beyond the master’s degree, a maximum of 24 semester hours of dissertation research are allowed.
- Required Core Courses: AH 510 and 511. Students who have taken equivalent course work as part of an MA degree may petition the director of graduate studies for a waiver of specific requirements; no course credit is given for a waived course.
- Grade Requirement: Because Art History is a competitive professional field, doctoral students are expected to earn As in their courses. Students should earn no more than one B during their tenure in the Art History PhD program at UIC, and no credit will be given for a course taken as part of the doctoral program in which the grade earned was less than a B. With the second B, or any grade below B, the student will be placed on departmental probation, requiring the student to demonstrate improvement by earning As during the next semester in which they take courses. The third B will be considered grounds for dismissal from the program, at the discretion of the faculty.
- Students who have taken equivalent course work as part of an MA degree may petition the director of graduate studies for a waiver of specific requirements; no course credit is given for a waived course.
- Preliminary Examination Required: written and oral, to be taken upon completion of the course work and satisfaction of the language requirement. The written examination will cover the student’s two areas of focus; the oral examination will be based on the written sections.
- Dissertation Required: the dissertation will make a contribution to knowledge in art history and will be publicly defended before the scholarly community.
- Semester Hours Required: The candidate must complete 96 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, and 64 credits beyond the MA degree. Of this amount, 32 semester hours must be in graduate seminars, of which 16 semester hours must be taken in the department. At least 32 semester hours of credit beyond the MA degree must be at the 500-level. Of the 64 semester hours required beyond the master’s degree, a maximum of 24 semester hours of dissertation research is allowed.
- Transfer Credit: Students may petition to receive credit for courses taken at other universities.
- Required Core Courses: AH 510 and 511
- Students may also pursue topics that cross both areas of focus or expand beyond them. Each student will select 16 hours from seminars AH 441, 460, 463, 464, 465, 470, 471, 513, 522, 530, 540, 550, 560, 561, 562, 563, 570, and directed readings courses in the area of focus, as approved by the director of graduate studies.
- Students who have taken equivalent course work as part of an MA degree may petition the director of graduate studies for a waiver of specific requirements; no course credit is given for a waived course.
- Dissertation Research: AH 599. Ph.D. Thesis Research. May be taken for 0–16 hours on pass/fail option only. Prerequisites: Consent of advisor and the DGS.
- Students must present evidence of advanced knowledge of a language other than English as it relates to the student’s chosen area of research. Evidence of the ability to pursue research in additional languages may be necessary, depending on the availability of literature in the field selected, and the selection of those languages must be approved by the student’s advisor or the DGS if the student does not have an advisor.
- Selection of Language: Reading knowledge of a foreign language relevant to the student’s plan of study is required. The Director of Graduate Studies or faculty advisor will approve the selection of a language. French and German are the languages most frequently selected for those pursuing the degree, but the study of any language important to the student’s area of research interest willbe considered.
- Proof of Language Competence: The student must do one of the following:
- Receive a grade of B or better in a UIC foreign language reading course for graduate students (or its equivalent at another institution, with the approval of the DGS). These courses will not count toward the 36 credit hours required for the MA or PhD degree.
- Pass a language exam administered by a language department at UIC. The department recommends that students take the language exam during their first year of graduate study. In case of failure, the student may repeat the examination until it is passed. The foreign language requirement must be satisfied before the student registers for thesis research.
- A test administered by or through the Department of Art History of no more than two hours. The language test usually consists of a translation of a passage into English with the aid of a dictionary.
- 4 semesters of college/university language study, with a grade of B or better. Courses where readings are in translation may not be used. The last semester of study can be no more than 5 years prior to the student’s first year of graduate study.
- The equivalent of the above (determined by the Director of Graduate Studies) in workshops, summer programs, fieldwork or research in a foreign language, or other language-learning activities.
- A degree from a foreign university where English is not the primary language of instruction. In cases of languages, such as some Native American languages, where there is not a significant body of written material in the language, courses focusing on grammar and conversation, or spoken fluency as demonstrated by testing, may be used.
- Native speakers with advanced reading skills as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies are exempt from the language requirement as are those students who have completed: 1) study in a foreign language at a foreign university, 2) field work conducted in a second language, or 3) summer intensive second language programs at an advanced level.
- A test of language proficiency from the MA degree (must be noted on transcript).
- Effective Fall 2019, it is recommended that students complete their dissertation prospectus in the fall semester of their third year, during which they should register for AH 596—an independent study, geared toward meeting this objective, to be supervised by the dissertation advisor. The prospectus, submitted to the student’s dissertation committee (see committee guidelines below) and defended by semester’s end, should be approximately ten pages long and include the following:
- a clear statement of the problem to be investigated in the dissertation and a working thesis.
- a critical review of the state of the research on the topic.
- the initial expected archival sources.
- an outline showing how the topic will be developed.
- a working bibliography.
- The student will meet with the advisor and at least two members of the Dissertation Committee to discuss and defend the prospectus. The prospectus defense provides an opportunity for the committee and the student to discuss the intellectual and methodological aspects of the dissertation and to formulate research plans and strategies. If the committee deems the defense has been satisfactory, the student will file a copy of the approved prospectus with the DGS within two weeks. If the defense is deemed unsatisfactory, the student may petition to have another defense.
- The purpose of the doctoral exam is to determine the candidate’s readiness to undertake dissertation research and passing it constitutes formal Admission to Candidacy. Effective Fall 2019, students should plan to complete their exams by the end of their third year so that they can begin the work of applying for external funding in the fall of their fourth year.
- Examination Committee: The student forms an Examination Committee when coursework and the language requirement are completed. The committee will be composed of at least five members of whom at least three are UIC graduate faculty with full membership, and two of whom must be tenured. It is recommended but not required that one member be from outside the Department of Art History, either from another UIC department or from outside the university. For all administrative purposes, the chair of the committee must be a full member of the UIC graduate faculty and must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Art History. For the purposes of research guidance a student may also work with a scholar outside the department (or outside UIC) who effectively functions as a co-chair. Committee members must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College who will appoint them. The committee recommendation form is located here.
- Exam Areas of Specialization: Each student will propose two areas of specialization for the preliminary examination. In most cases, one will be chronological or geographic such as Renaissance art, or American art, and one will be thematic such as gender and art, or landscape or furniture design. The student will also give an indication of the proposed dissertation subject matter. The suggested areas of specialization and subject matter for the dissertation will be submitted to the Examination Committee at least three months prior to the potential date of the preliminary exam so that the committee and the student can negotiate the areas to be covered by the exam.
- The Examination Committee will meet (part of the time with the student), elect a chair, set up the test schedule and approve the two fields of concentration and the reading list. Students are expected to prepare for the exam on their own and cannot assume that courses taken in the department will necessarily prepare them for it. They are strongly encouraged to consult those members of the graduate faculty who are responsible for their examination fields in order to become familiar with the expectations of those individuals. They are also encouraged to consult previous doctoral exams, which are available from the DGS. Doctoral candidates are expected to have a reading period of three to six months to prepare for the examination.
- Written Exam: Prepared by the Examination Committee, the Ph.D. exam format is a 72 hour take home-exam. Questions and answers can be delivered by e-mail with the consent of both faculty and student. Candidates will answer two questions in total, with one question pertaining to each of their subject areas. The committee will provide the student with at least two, but not more than three questions per subject area. Questions in both subject areas are distributed at the same time, however, to allow for flexibility and planning on the part of the student.
- Oral Exam: The written exam will be followed by an oral defense of the exam one to two weeks later. The oral component is intended to address issues/weaknesses in the exam that could cause complications for candidates as they approach the dissertation process.
- Exam Grading: The committee shall meet approximately half an hour before the oral exam to determine a “pass” or “fail” grade for the written component of the exam, and to briefly discuss each member’s questions for the student. After the oral exam, each member will assign a final grade of “pass” or “fail”, and the chair will inform the student of the committee’s decision immediately after the oral exam. A candidate cannot be passed with more than one “fail” vote. The examination report must be signed by all members of the committee. The results of the examination must be submitted to the Graduate College within two weeks of the completion of the exam.
- Admission to Candidacy: Students who have passed the exam will be notified of their Admission to Candidacy by the Dean of the Graduate College.
- Retaking the Exam: If the student does not pass the exam, on the recommendation of the committee, the chair may permit a second examination, which must be taken within one year. A third examination is not permitted. Students who do not complete the degree requirements within five years of passing the preliminary examination must retake the examination.
- The dissertation should be a book-length study in which the candidate demonstrates a full range of scholarly skills. It should show insight and originality in the questions it proposes to answer. It should also present evidence of thorough research in primary and secondary sources. Arguments should be clear, well-written and persuasive both to specialists and to other scholars outside the field. The dissertation will make a contribution to knowledge in art history and will be publicly defended before the scholarly community.
- Advisor: The advisor will be the candidate’s dissertation director. He or she must be a member of the UIC graduate faculty and is considered the primary reader of the dissertation. The student will submit the name of the proposed advisor at the time he or she submits the prospectus.
- Dissertation Committee: The student forms a Dissertation Committee after Admission to Candidacy (the committee recommendation form is located here). The committee will be composed of at least five members of whom at least three are UIC graduate faculty with full membership and two of whom must be tenured. At least one member must be from outside the Department of Art History, either from another UIC department or from outside the university. The chair of the committee, who will be elected by the committee members, must be a full member of the UIC graduate faculty. Committee members must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College who will appoint them.
- Members of the Dissertation Committee may or may not be the same as those on the Examination Committee, depending on the student’s choice. If, as the work progresses, the chair or any committee member no longer wishes to supervise a candidate’s dissertation, he or she must inform both the candidate and the DGS in writing. If the advisor or a member of the committee is, for any reason, unable to supervise the candidate, the candidate, in consultation with the DGS, will suggest an appropriate alternate. Candidates who wish to change chairpersons or committee members must secure the consent of another member of the graduate faculty to join the committee, notify the current chair, and submit the name to the DGS in writing. In all cases, any changes in committee membership must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate College.
- Change of Plans: If any substantive changes are made to the plans for the dissertation as outlined in the approved prospectus (which might include a change in direction, focus, methodology, or material covered), the candidate must write a revised prospectus and arrange a further defense.
- Monitoring the Dissertation: It is the advisor’s responsibility to decide when the candidate needs to submit all or part of the work-in-progress to other members of the committee for review. The committee members will give comments to the advisor who will convey them to the candidate. The director may call a meeting of the committee at any time that he or she deems appropriate.
- Dissertation Defense: A defense is scheduled after the Dissertation Committee members have tentatively approved the dissertation. The committee may accept the dissertation as it stands, accept it conditionally pending certain revisions, or reject it. Revisions can range from minor editorial changes to a major recasting of a substantial portion of the text. Normally the committee delegates to the chairperson of the committee the responsibility for ensuring that these revisions are made. All dissertations must meet the format and stylistic requirements of the Graduate College. There will be an oral defense of the dissertation attended by the doctoral candidate and the members of the dissertation committee, advertised and open to the academic community of the university and announced at least one week prior to its occurrence. The committee vote is pass or fail. A candidate cannot be passed if more than one vote of fail is reported.
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- Sarah M Dreller: “Architectural Forum, 1932-64: A Time Inc. Experiment in American Architecture and Journalism” Summer 2015
- Monica Obniski: “Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard” Summer 2015
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- Margaret Denny: “From Commerce to Art: American Women Photographers 1850-1900” Summer 2010
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Policies and Procedures
Administration of the Ph.D. Program
- The Ph.D. program in art history is the responsibility of the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) and is administered by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). All questions or problems should first be directed to the DGS. If there are unresolved problems these may be taken to the chairperson of the department.
- Graduate students taking courses must meet with their advisor before registering each semester to discuss the available offerings and their progress toward the degree. Students are also encouraged to consult with other members of the department.
- Students normally register continuously until all course requirements for the degree have been completed. Those students on full-time status must register for 9 semester hours or more each semester.
Minimum Grade Point Average
- Required GPA: 3.00/4.00 or higher. Students whose GPA drops below this average must meet this requirement in the following semester of enrollment or be placed on academic probation. While on probation, students will not receive financial aid or fellowships. After two semesters on probation, the student will be dismissed from the program.
- Students admitted to the PhD program with an approved MA, must complete the requirements for the degree within 7 consecutive years after initial registration as a doctoral student. Students entering the program with a BA must complete the requirements for the degree within 9 years after the initial registration. Exceptions to this requirement will be granted only upon application and then only if the justification is sufficient in the judgment of the GPC, the DGS, and the Graduate College.
Leave of Absence
- Except for international students whose visas require continuous registration and doctoral students who have passed their preliminary exams, graduate degree-seeking students may take one semester (fall or spring) plus the summer session off without formal leave approval from the Graduate College. Degree students who desire to take an additional consecutive semester off, for a total maximum of 3 consecutive terms, must file a Graduate Petition for Leave of Absence by the tenth day of the third term for which leave is requested. For exceptions to this policy, please consult the Graduate College catalog.
- Time spent on leave formally approved by the department and the Graduate College does not count towards the time to complete the degree.
Our MA program currently requires that students complete 36 hours of coursework, including AH 598 (Thesis Hours) or AH 590 (MA Paper Research). The Graduate College requires a minimum of 32 semester hours to earn a MA.
Below are proposed requirements for students in the PhD program who wish to pick up a MA degree. It puts them on a pathway to complete their exams either in the third or fourth year of the program, depending on their rate of progress.
- Minimum Semester Hours Required: 32.
- Course Work: A minimum of 16 hours at the 400/500-level in art history courses. All students are required to take courses from at least three different tenured and tenure-track UIC Art History faculty members (this is a change from our standard MA requirements, which stipulate 4).
- Required Courses: AH 510 and 511. Of the remaining coursework selected with an advisor, all students are required to take at least one course in each of the following areas: Ancient/Medieval/Early Modern (before 1800); Modern/Contemporary (after 1800); and Africa/Asia/Indigenous Americas.
- Thesis or two-paper option.
In recent years, we have admitted increasing numbers of students with only a BA into our PhD program, at least one of whom is interested in attaining her MA degree. The MA requirement of a foreign language is met by the PhD requirements. Distribution requirements would ensure that students in our PhD program who lack the MA are adequately trained in art history beyond their subfield.
- The Art History Department expects doctoral students to seek external support beginning in their fourth year of the program, after which no department support is guaranteed. Students entering the program beginning in the Fall of 2019 are required, at the start of their fourth year, to submit to their advisor a list of fellowships they are planning to apply for. After the fourth year, it is required that students requesting department support are also applying for external support.
- Students who complete their prospectuses and exams by the end of their third year and apply for fellowships in their fourth year and who wish to teach their own class will be given priority by the faculty when teaching assignments are made.
Art History Teaching Assistant Policy
Art History Teaching Assistant Policy
The Art History department employs Teaching Assistants to help faculty members provide a rich and meaningful educational experience for both our students and the Assistants themselves. Toward that end, there are certain requirements of their positions that the Assistants are asked to meet.
Compensation and Appointment
- TAs receive a tuition waiver and a stipend set by the university
- TAs are selected by the Graduate Program Committee of the Department
- Newly appointed TAs are required to attend the TA orientation offered by the University shortly before the start of the Fall semester
- TAs must attend all meetings of the course to which they are assigned and to do all the required readings for the class in addition to whatever auxiliary preparation the professor deems reasonable.
- This may take the form of additional readings, the preparation of lecture notes, or the leading of group discussions of the course material.
- TAs may also be asked to run regular discussion sections and be responsible for developing material from the class lectures to facilitate discussion, for administering, and grading, course exams, for assigning and grading written assignments, for conducting review sessions, and for performing other relevant duties that the instructor might require.
- TAs are also asked to make themselves available for extra-class consultation with their students by maintaining regular office hours (usually one fixed hour and one or two by arrangement).
Survey of World History of Art (AH 110 and 111)
Most of the department’s Teaching Assistants are involved in the Survey of World History of Art (AH 110 and 111). For these classes:
- TAs are required to attend a weekly meeting (usually on Friday afternoons) at which the professor will discuss the content of each review session and other subjects related to the class.
- While this meeting normally takes from one to two hours, students are expected to keep their schedules sufficiently open following this meeting to be able to address unanticipated issues.
- The TAs are also expected to aid in the development of the writing and research skills of their students that are necessary for written assignments, as well as the development of student study skills in preparation for quizzes and exams.
- Finally, TAs are required to grade their students’ written assignments and exams in a timely manner.
Accountability and Evaluation
- Ultimate authority on all matters of teaching resides in the professor and any serious course-related problems relating to students’ academic performance, or ethical or personal issues should be brought to his or her attention.
- TAs will be evaluated every semester by the supervising professor and a short written statement summarizing that evaluation will be submitted to the Graduate Program Committee.
Funding Grad Research and Travel
The department seeks to support all graduate student research and professional activity to the best of our ability but can only do so to the extent that funds are available. We encourage students to apply for all relevant research and travel funding needs.
The review and selection will be conducted by a faculty committee, who will recommend a slate of awardees to the department for approval based on the following criteria:
- cohesiveness of the study or research plan and the clarity with which it is conveyed to the non-specialist
- direct impact travel will have on the research and/or professional standing
- strength of the overall academic record
- soundness of the budget request
- timeliness of progress toward the degree
- previous departmental awards may be considered
Please limit your research statement to 500 words or less. A typical budget generally includes transportation, lodging, and expenses for fieldwork. Please indicate if you have funding toward the travel from other sources and/or if such funding is pending.
Applications will be considered annually on October 15th and March 15th.