The Ph.D. Program

The Program

Yale University’s doctoral program in Renaissance Studies offers a combined Ph.D. degree with a second department and integrates concentration in that department with interdisciplinary study of the broader range of culture in the Renaissance and early modern period.

The program is designed to train Renaissance specialists, who are firmly based in a traditional discipline but who can work across disciplinary boundaries. Departments that offer the combined degree with Renaissance Studies are Classics, Comparative Literature, English, French, History, History of Art, History of Music, Italian, and Spanish and Portuguese.

A core methods course, offered every other year, is intended to draw together different aspects of the Renaissance movement in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and England. Other departments not affiliated with Renaissance Studies also offer courses which deal with the Renaissance period, and students are free to take such courses with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Yale offers a remarkably broad spectrum of study in Renaissance culture – on average more than thirty graduate courses each year. The list of courses acceptable for credit encompasses the history, literature, art, music and culture of Europe from the later fourteenth century through the sixteenth century in Italy and from the sixteenth through the mid-seventeenth century in Northern Europe.

General Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements for the combined degree in Renaissance Studies vary slightly to accommodate the requirements of each of the participating departments, but all candidates for the combined degree are expected to meet, at a minimum, the following requirements:

Normally, students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of Latin, Italian, and a third language, which will vary according to departmental requirements. At the minimum, an examination in Latin or Italian should normally be passed upon entrance; a second language should be passed before the third term; and a third language by the end of the second year. In some cases, depending on their area of specialization, students may petition to substitute Italian with another language.

Each student is required to take sixteen term courses (in History of Art, fifteen). The normal pattern is to have completed all required courses during the first two years of study, no more than two of which may be Individual Reading and Research.

A two-term core seminar, designed to present a wide range of topics concerned with Renaissance and early modern culture, is required of all combined degree candidates. This course, offered every other year, is open to students from other departments.

Pre-dissertation requirements vary slightly among the nine different combined degree programs, but all students are required to pass qualifying examinations in their prospective departments and also in Renaissance Studies.  All students are also required to write a dissertation prospectus and to convene a minimum of three faculty in a colloquium, to assess and accept the prospectus. For specific requirements, see Individual Departmental Requirements from the listing below.

Upon completion of all pre-dissertation requirements, including the qualifying exams and the prospectus, students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. “Admission to Candidacy” must take place by the beginning of the fourth year of study. The topic of the dissertation will be in the student’s area of departmental concentration but should be treated in the light of the student’s cross-disciplinary training.

The dissertation will be submitted unbound to readers by March 1 or September 1, or preferably earlier. The Graduate School’s deadlines for submission of dissertations are September 15 and March 15.

Master’s Degrees

M.A. (en route to the Ph.D.) The Master of Arts degree is awarded upon completion of the M.A. requirements in the student’s department of concentration.

M.Phil. (en route to the Ph.D.) The Master of Philosophy degree may be requested after all requirements but the dissertation have been met, that is, after meeting all course requirements,  having passed the comprehensive exams and having the dissertation prospectus accepted.      

Departmental Requirements

The specific departmental requirements for the combined degree in Renaissance Studies are listed below by department:


The Yale University Libraries contain approximately nine million volumes. Further, a potential pool of twenty six and one half million volumes is available through the Research Libraries Group.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has extensive holdings of Renaissance Manuscripts, incunabula, and rare books. The Spinelli Archive in the Beinecke Library, covering the 400-year history of a Florentine banking family, is the largest archive of Italian papers outside Italy and a resource in Renaissance Studies unique among American libraries.

The Yale Art Gallery, with its world-famous Jarves Collection, allows direct study of original works of Italian Renaissance art, while the Yale British Art Center, the largest collection of British art outside the British Isles, is richly endowed in paintings miniatures, prints, and drawings from the Tudor-Stuart period.

The Classical Library documents Greco-Roman civilization in a comprehensive collection of books, slides, and electronic archives. Slides, books, and photographs in the Art Library give access to every notable work of art in the period.

The Irving S. Gilmore Music Library contains virtually every modern edition of Renaissance music and also has several thousand microfilms of works by Renaissance composers.

The excellent Divinity School Library and the History of Medicine Collection in the Harvey Cushing and John Hay Whitney Medical Library document the histories of religion and science respectively.

Yale’s Information Technology Services provides a full range of on-line and media resources.

The McDougal Graduate Student Center offers facilities and programs to support both graduate student life and professional development.