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RASC/a: Ph.D. Program in Art History

Rhetorics of Art, Space and Culture: Ph.D. Program in Art History

In 2011 the Art History Department launched a Ph.D. program that builds on more than twenty-seven years of experience in graduate studies. Our Master’s degree program is highly respected and our students successful. In recent years, our MAs have gone on, most fully funded, to Ph.D. programs at Yale, Harvard, Northwestern, Brown, Cornell, Michigan, UCLA, USC, UT Austin, USC, and the Courtauld Institute in London.

The doctoral program is centered around the rubric RASC/a (derived from the Spanish for “scratch”), which stands for “Rhetorics of Art, Space, and Culture.” It builds upon the strengths of the present faculty but with renewed emphasis on historical and new media, visual technologies, architecture and the city, race and gender, and performance and ritual. Emphasizing spatial and well as visual culture, it extends the department’s commitment to the study of technologies of visual communication, while also advancing a transregional and transnational approach to the arts of the Americas, Europe, and the Ancient world.

Students can enjoy close mentorship within a small-program setting and generous funding: the typical doctoral fellowship package includes of five years of tuition and health benefits plus a stipend of $25,000 per year. Competitive support is available for off-campus and international research and conference travel. Our campus facilities include a number of significant resources for graduate training. In addition to a dedicated art and art history library (Hamon Library), the SMU campus is home to the Meadows Museum of Art, one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Iberian art outside Spain; the Bridwell Library, with its internationally-recognized collection of manuscripts, incunabula, and early print media; and the DeGolyer Library, whose collections include a wealth of materials on early voyages and travels, Western Americana, and the history of science and technology.

Dallas/Ft.Worth is home to numerous museums and collections of international stature, and our students enjoy access to these remarkable resources as well. The Dallas Museum of Art holds an encyclopedic collection of over 30,000 objects, with particular strengths in Modern and Contemporary, Classical, American decorative arts, African, Islamic, and Pre- Columbian. The Kimbell Museum, housed in Louis Kahn’s landmark building, boasts a smaller but superlative collection of art from around the world. The Amon Carter museum includes one of the world’s best and most comprehensive collections of American photography, with strong holdings in American art and sculpture. The Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas) and the Modern Art Museum of Ft.Worth possess fine collections of twentieth and twenty-first century American and European art. These collections are joined by a number of smaller museums in the area (including the Dallas Latino Cultural Center, the McKinney AvenueContemporary), as well as several first-rate private collections. Our students often receive internships at these institutions, as well as regular instruction in their galleries and storage rooms.

Doctoral Curriculum

Year 1: Fall Semester: 9 hrs.

  • ARHS 5303: Proseminar in Art History
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar

Year 1: Spring Semester: 9 hrs.

  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar

First Year Review: Late May

Year 2: Fall Semester: 9 hrs. + Teaching practicum

  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Teaching Practicum

Year 2: Spring Semester: 9 hrs. + Teaching practicum

  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Teaching Practicum

Second Year Review: May

Year 3: Fall Semester: 3 hrs. + Teaching practicum

  • ARHS 7301: Doctoral Workshop
  • Teaching Practicum

Year 3: Spring Semester: 3 hrs. + Teaching practicum

  • ARHS 7302: Exam Preparation
  • Teaching Practicum

Doctoral Exams (May)

Year 4: Dissertation

ARHS 8101 and 8102: Dissertation research

Year 5: Dissertation

ARHS 8103 and 8104: Dissertation writing and submission

  • First Submission (Sept./Jan.); receive commentary (Oct./early March)
  • Final Submission (March/Oct.)

Languages: Students will have mastery of at least two languages. They enter the program with proficiency in a first language. They must pass a departmental language exam by the end of their first year, with exams to be administered in late fall and spring.

Students with MA degrees in hand must enroll as first year students. At First Year Review they may petition to move directly to the third year (oral examinations and dissertation colloquium).

Teaching practicum: “TA-ships”—students apprentice with members of the faculty in teaching.

Workshop: research/writing seminars led by a member of the faculty. Students engage in intensive, collaborative assessment of research strategies and writing technique.

First Year Review: is intended as a formal evaluation of a student’s progress during the first year. Students who do not pass First Year Review will be dropped from the program.

Second Year Review: determines if a student is eligible to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, or to receive the Master’s degree (terminal MA students).

Ph.D. qualifying examinations: come in the third year, and consist of two parts.

  • An oral exam is administered in the third year. It is based on four fields, at least one of which must be outside the European tradition or in an area that is non-contiguous with the historical period/area of the student’s dissertation topic. Students are expected to be working on their dissertation prospectus as they study; they will submit a finalized prospectus to the faculty in the first month of the following semester (Sept./Jan.) The examining committee will consist of the three main dissertation advisers, plus a fourth member.
  • A dissertation colloquium, based on a five-page prospectus/outline of the dissertation topic and argument, plus a bibliography and state of the field. The colloquium effectively consists of a second oral exam, this time oriented around the material/historical period/analytic introduced with the prospectus. In consultation with the thesis advisers, two “major areas” of examination will be determined; colloquium examination will address these areas, plus a third, the dissertation argument itself.
  • Dissertation committees consist of three members, drawn from within SMU’s ARHS program, across campus, or from other universities. At least two members of the committee must be full-time ARHS faculty. We encourage our students/ to appoint a committee member outside SMU.

Dissertation submission/acceptance:

A two-semester process that unfolds over year six of the doctoral program. Within a month of the first semester of this year (in Sept./Jan.), the Ph.D. candidate will submit to her/his committee a polished set of chapters comprising not less than one half of the anticipated final dissertation. Candidates will receive written commentary on their work within a month of this submission. The final dissertation is submitted in time for SMU administration to process the paperwork in time for the award of the Ph.D. degree at the end of the year. Generally, a March/October final submission for May/December degree-award.

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