The PhD Comprehensive exam, which includes both a written and an oral component, is designed to establish the candidate’s promise as a generalist and a researcher. The first quality is essential for any job in classics, the second for many; more immediately, both will be crucial in the dissertation phase of the PhD program. On the exam, the well-prepared candidate will exhibit not only solid knowledge of names, historical dates and facts, and texts in the original, but also the skills needed to analyze, compare, and synthesize sources in order to address important questions about Greek and Roman literature and culture.
The written exam consists of essays on pairs of passages from ancient texts; some pairs will be accompanied by specific thematic prompts, while others will invite the candidate to come up with an approach on his or her own. Although not all questions will require accompanying translations, in each essay the candidate is expected to make close use of the texts, demonstrating linguistic competence and understanding of style. The combined MA-PhD Reading Lists in Greek and Latin contain the core material to learn and will be the source of most exam questions. At the same time, a candidate should understand these texts in their larger contexts, as well as the various relationships between the texts, well enough to be able to discuss additional relevant sources. To this end, some questions may present passages from off the lists.
Familiarity with essential modern scholarship in the areas covered on the Reading Lists, and the ability to devise informed interpretations, are part and parcel of exam preparedness. The faculty-authored study guide (to be linked here soon) will be an essential starting point, but candidates should also generate their own guides, terms lists, etc. as they read, and to consult individual faculty for recommendations. They are also expected to make use of their experience in courses, TA positions, and all other forms of exposure to the profession (lectures, conferences, etc.) during their time in the program. A great deal of self-directed individual study is required, especially during summers and independent studies. Group study is also highly recommended.
Provided that the candidate produces a written exam satisfactory to the exam committee (which will consist of several members of the department faculty), an oral exam will be scheduled shortly thereafter and conducted by the same committee. The candidate will answer questions about the essays from the written exam and about other topics not covered in the written.
In certain circumstances, a student may retake an exam after failing. See the departmental policy on Academic Probation and Dismissal.
All Ph.D. students must first complete the M.A. Reading list.
A pdf version of the PhD Reading List only (also found below) is available here.
A pdf version of the combined M.A. and Ph.D. reading list is available here.
Greek PhD Reading list (in addition to works on the MA List)
Aeschylus: Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica Book 3
Aristotle: Politics Book 2
Callimachus: Aetia Books I-II fr. Pfeiffer, Hymn to Apollo, Hymn to Artemis
Demosthenes: Olynthiacs (1-3), Against Androtion (22)
Dio Chrystostom: Euboean Oration (no. 7)
Herodotos: Histories Books 8-9
Iliad 1-6, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23-24
Odyssey 1, 3-6, 9-12, 19, 21, 23
Homeric Hymn to Apollo
Isokrates: Plataikos (14)
Lucian: Peregrinus, Somnium
Lyric poetry (from Campbell’s edition):
Alkaios 42, 129, 357
Anakreon 348, 356-57, 359
Arkhilokhos all frs. + appendix no. 1
Ibykos 282a, 287
Mimnermos all frs.
Sappho 2, 44, 102-Fr. Adesp. 976
Solon all frs.
Theognis ll. 87-92, 173-82, 341-50, 503-10, 667-82
Lysias: Against Eratosthenes (12)
Pindar: Olympia 1, Nemea 4, Isthmia 4
Plato: Symposium, Republic Book 2
Plutarch: Demosthenes and Cicero + synkrisis
Sophokles: Ajax, Antigone
Theokritos: Idylls 7, 11, 15, 22
Thucydides: History Book 2
Latin PhD Reading List (in addition to works on MA list)
Ammianus Marcellinus: Histories 21
Apuleius: Metamorphoses Book 1
Augustine: Confessions 8.1-24
Augustus: Res Gestae
Caesar: Bellum Civile Book 1
Catullus: all poems not on MA list
Cicero: In Catilinam 1, De Imperio Pompeii, De Amicitia, all letters in Shackleton Bailey’s edition
Early Latin Prose: Selections in Courtney's edition
Ennius fragments (In Warmington, Remains of Old Latin): Annales 1-48,80-100,173-93 210-27,409-16; Satires 1-31
Horace: Odes 2, 3, 4; Satires 1.1, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.1; Ars Poetica, Epistles 1.1, 1.19
Jerome: Vita Pauli, Epistulae 22 Entire
Juvenal: Satires 1, 4, 10
Livy: History 2.1-33, Book 21
Lucan: Pharsalia 1.1-227, Book 2
Lucilius fragments (In Warmington, Remains of Old Latin): 1-46, 1061-1092, 1145-1151, 1196-1208
Lucretius: De Rerum Natura 5.935-1457
Martial: Epigrams Book 1, Book 12 preface and 12.2(3), 6, 18
Ovid: Amores Book 1, Ars Amatoria Book 1, Metamorphoses Book 6, Tristia Book 1
Persius: Prologue, Satire 1
Petronius: Satyricon 1-5, 85-86, 111-112
Pliny: all letters in Sherwin-White’s edition
Propertius: Elegies Book 1, 3.1
Prudentius: Peristephanon 2, 12
Quintilian: Institutio Oratoria Book 10
Sallust: Bellum Catilinae
Seneca: all letters in Costa's edition, Consolatio ad Marciam, Thyestes, Octavia
Statius: Silvae Book 2
Suetonius: De Grammaticis et Rhetoricis, Nero
Tacitus: Annales Book 4, Agricola
Tertullian: De Spectaculis
Tibullus: Elegies Book 1
Vergil: remainder of Aeneid, Eclogues, Georgics