Ph.D. track in History and Theory of Architecture

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The interdisciplinary nature of the doctoral (Ph.D.) program stresses the relationship of architecture, urbanism, landscape, and building technologies to their cultural, social, and political milieus. Supported by strong affiliations with other departments in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, the program offers a comprehensive approach to the study of the field. Students interact with their peers to sustain individual projects in a context of collective research.

The History and Theory Track
The Ph.D. Committee sets the course requirements for each student according to his or her previous experience, specialized interests, and progress through the program. For the first two years, each student engages in coursework and independent study and is required to complete a minimum of four classes each semester, including required language, audited courses, and independent reading courses, for a total of sixteen courses, at least nine of which must be taken for a grade and result in a paper. After their first year of doctoral study, students are encouraged also to apply for assistantships in instruction, which are considered an intrinsic part of a scholar’s training. If the student is hired as an Assistant-in-Instruction (AI), the minimum number of courses the student must complete that semester will be reduced to three. This will not reduce the number of required papers, so the AI assignment replaces only an audited course.

Typical Course Sequence (Four courses per semester minimum load)

  Fall Spring
First Year Proseminar Proseminar
  Two courses for credit One course for credit
  One audited course Two audited courses
Second Year Two courses for credit Two courses for credit
  Two audited courses Two audited courses

Language Requirement
Students are required to have a reading knowledge of two foreign languages other than English before the end of the second summer in residence. These languages should be relevant to the general history of the discipline (French, German, Spanish, or Italian) or specifically relevant to the student’s area of research. A student’s native language will not count if it is not relevant to the proposed area of research. In order to receive credit for each language, students must pass a reading comprehension exam in the appropriate language department at Princeton. A grade of “high-pass” in a summer language course at Princeton may also be used to fulfill the language requirement. Students who are native speakers of the language may waive the exam requirement.

General Examination
The General Examination, which is normally taken upon completion of two years of coursework, is designed to ascertain the student’s general knowledge of the subject, acquaintance with scholarly methods of research, and ability to organize and present material. The General Exam is an oral examination based on a dossier of six rewritten seminar papers, selected in consultation with the Ph.D. Committee. The components of the general examination are assembled sequentially during the student’s period in residence.

Following the successful completion of the General Examination, students work with a dissertation committee to develop a proposal that clearly defines the field of research, comments on the state of existing research in the selected field, and explains the contributions to the field the dissertation will make. The proposal must outline the basic hypothesis to be explored and must make a coherent statement about archival sources or theoretical objects to be examined and the methodological approach to be taken. The student then presents a public defense of the dissertation proposal for approval by the Ph.D. Committee. Successfully completing the defense of the proposal marks the transition into independent scholarly work on the dissertation. The culmination of the program is the defense of the finished dissertation at the final public oral examination.

Recently Completed Dissertations: The wide range of possible research topics is illustrated by the following dissertations.