Erica Mukherjee (Ph.D. candidate) has just received a Cornell University Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship and will use it to study Bengali at the South Asia Summer Language Institute at the University of Wisconsin this summer. Congratulations!
The Stony Brook doctoral program offers an intensive, far-ranging education, culminating in an original research and writing project. It prepares students for a professional career in higher education, or for jobs in media, government or other fields which rely upon the skills and knowledge of the historian. In addition to acquiring thorough training in a chosen specialty defined by time (medieval, early modern, 18th, 19th or 20th centuries) and by place (Latin American, U.S., European, Asian or African), students of different periods and regions of the world take many of the same courses, on topics drawn from the department’s thematic areas. Our innovative approach, now taken by other history departments as a model, prepares students for research and teaching about the past not just for a single corner of the world, but in its relationship and interdependence with other places. At Stony Brook, many courses and much teaching now revolve around fundamental sets of ideas which are continuing to reshape historical scholarship about many times and locales. Our graduate students still receive solid grounding in the national or regional histories and periods of their choosing. Whether Europeanist or Latin Americanist or Asianist or Americanist, graduate students have ample chances to study with faculty in their own geographic specialty, as well as to work with other faculty specializing in the thematic clusters of interest them. And our thematic emphasis enables them also to think across and beyond these boundaries, in ways that make for cutting-edge scholarship, as well as timely and insightful teaching. Our current thematic clusters are Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization; Nation-State, Civil Society, and Popular Politics; Environment, Health, Science and Technology; and Gender, Race, and Sexuality (see the web page for theme descriptions, as well as associated faculty and their research interests).
The first phase of doctoral program consists of course work. During their first year, all students take a Core Seminar that covers fundamental readings in several thematic areas, as well as basic methods of research and historical writing. Early on, students also take Field Seminars in conventional geographic and chronological specialties, Theme Seminars devoted to readings in the department’s topical areas of specialty, as well as a Teaching Practicum. In the second year, they may begin taking Research Seminars, organized around the production and presentation of major research papers. During the third year, all students must take a comprehensive oral examination in their primary and secondary fields. In addition, all students must take the Dissertation Prospectus Seminar, in which they compose and discuss their dissertation projects and prepare preliminary fellowship proposals. Upon satisfactory passage of the required courses, the orals, and any language requirement, students are then “advanced to candidacy.” In the final phase of their doctoral education, students work closely with a faculty advisor to research and write the Ph.D. dissertation—a book-length manuscript that offers a significant contribution to the historical literature. In accordance with Graduate School rules, the official “time limit” is seven years, from a student’s “advancement to candidacy” to the defense and submission of the dissertation.
Course of Study and Program Requirements:
Students in the doctoral program are expected to complete three years of coursework distributed in the manner outlined below. All students take the team-taught Core Seminar in the first year. Course requirements also include 2 Field, 3 Theme, and 2 Research seminars, plus an additional Field or Theme seminar (depending on the student’s academic needs and course availability). At the end of the third year, students take a comprehensive oral examination designed to assess their mastery of the subject matter, conceptual tools, and research skills necessary to undertake independent research for the dissertation. The dissertation is to be a substantial piece of original research completed independently by the student, and all students are required to defend their dissertation orally before their Doctoral Defense Committee at the end of their course of study.
1. Core Seminar (HIS 525/526, 524/527: 3 credits each semester). This course provides an intensive, year-long introduction to historical theory and research. It also familiarizes students with the thematic organization of the graduate program. All full-time students in the masters and doctoral programs are required to take this course, which is offered only as a fall/spring sequence, during their first year.
2. Two or Three Field Seminars (3 credits each). The department offers a number of field seminars designed to familiarize students with the history and historiography of specific regions and periods. These courses include: Medieval and Early Modern Europe (HIS 501) and Modern Europe (502); Early American History (521) and Modern American History (522); Colonial Latin America (541) and Modern Latin America (542) are offered frequently. In addition, Field seminars are offered in African and Asian history: Introduction to African and/or Asian History (562), South Asian History (563), Chinese History (564), and Japanese History (565). Some of these Field Seminars are populated with students in the Masters in Teaching program (MAT), as well as with MA and PhD students. Students may choose to take either two or three field seminars, in accordance with their intellectual interests and needs.
Most of these Field courses are offered on a one- or two-year cycle, though some are offered less frequently. Students choosing to concentrate in the history of Europe, US, or Latin America are encouraged to complete both parts of the field seminar sequence in their area of concentration. If more survey or focused reading is required in a specific area, students have the option of taking a third Field seminar or a relevant Theme seminar. With the approval of the Graduate Director and Advisor, students may also satisfy their Field Seminar requirements by taking an appropriate course in an outside department or institution.
3. Three or Four Theme Seminars (3 credits each). The theme seminars are the heart of the department’s commitment to the theoretically informed, interdisciplinary study of history. Topics, approaches, and instructors vary, but these seminars generally fall within the rubric of our program’s theme clusters: Gender, Race, and Sexuality; Nation-State, Civil Society, and Popular Politics; Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization; and Environment, Health, Science, and Technology. On occasion, students may apply to take seminars in outside departments or institutions (that is, other universities in the NY Consortium) that may serve as a Theme Seminar. There is also some flexibility for those students wishing to take either three or four themes. On occasion, students may also wish to “convert” a Theme Seminar into a Research Seminar (by completing the readings and writing a research paper, with the prior arrangement of the seminar professor and the student’s advisor).
4. Two Research Seminars (3 credits each). One Research Seminar, “Text and Context,” is offered each semester. It gives students the opportunity to carry out individual research projects using primary sources in areas related to their developing scholarly interests. Research seminars are generally taken during the second and third years. Third-year students often use the Research Seminar to begin preliminary work on their dissertations.
5. Supervised Teaching (HIS 581, 3 credits). All students who hold teaching assistantships must register for this course.
6. Teaching Practicum (HIS 582, 3 credits). Required of all Teaching Assistants, as well as those expecting to TA for undergraduate courses in the future. It is generally taken during Fall semester of Year 1. This course gives students the opportunity to discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of undergraduate classroom teaching in a large, diverse public university. Stony Brook offers a laboratory for future college teachers to develop and try out “lesson plans,” as well as to broach such universal concerns as classroom authority, student participation, student-teacher relations, the problem of plagiarism, sexual harassment, etc. Students may be required to attend teaching workshops offered by the Graduate School in addition. These workshops, as well as the Teaching Practicum, are also open to students who do not hold teaching assistantships.
7. Dissertation Prospectus Workshop (HIS 695, 3 credits). This course must be taken by all students and should be completed in the Spring semester of Year 3. Students are expected to work closely with their own advisors during the semester, as they prepare their dissertation plan. By the end of the course, students will produce and present to the History Department a formal Dissertation Prospectus (usually a 15-20 page proposal). The prospectus must be acceptable both to the instructor of the workshop and to the student’s advisor. Completion of the workshop and the dissertation prospectus are required for advancement to candidacy. The course grade is S/U.
As part of the coursework taken prior to the qualifying examination, students may also enroll in the following workshops:
8. Reading Workshops (3 credits each). On the rare occasion that a student’s needs are not met by the department’s Field and Theme seminars, he/she may wish to arrange with an individual faculty member to undertake a specific set of readings on a topic of mutual interest.
9. Orals Workshop (HIS 684, 3 or 6 credits). This workshop provides a space for students to work semi-independently in the scholarly literature of their developing fields of specialization. Normally, students enroll in the Orals Workshop (for either 3 or 6 credits, depending on their remaining course requirement needs) in the Fall semester of Year 3. To prepare for the Orals, students have to define three areas of specialization (two areas in their major geo-political field, and one examiner in a comparative field). Ideally, students should develop their Orals book lists and topics on the basis of the most relevant Field and Theme seminars they have taken and in consultation with their Orals committee. Students may use the Orals Workshop to read independently or in small affinity groups, as well as to meet periodically with Orals committee members. All students should make sure they have dress rehearsals before the exam actually takes place. (See below for details on the Oral Examination.)
10. Courses in Other Departments and Institutions: Students are encouraged to take courses in other departments in order to acquire the theoretical tools offered by other disciplines and gain an interdisciplinary perspective on their fields of interest. Many of our students take courses in such departments as Sociology, English, and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, as well as such interdisciplinary programs as Women’s Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Such courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. In addition, Stony Brook belongs to a NY-area Consortium of universities. Students are welcome to take graduate seminars for credit at Columbia, NYU, or other institutions. The Graduate School has a form for this (what else is new?!), and the student should obtain prior permission from his/her advisor and the graduate director. Whether the outside course is to count for a Field, Theme, or Research course is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Below is a sample course of study that might be followed by a first-year student without a Master’s degree who also holds a teaching assistantship. (New students must take 12 credits per semester during Year 1; those students with MA degrees or who have obtained at least 24 credits at the graduate level are required to register for only 9 credits per semester.)
Core Seminar I (HIS 525): 3 credits
Field Seminar: 3 credits
Teaching Practicum (HIS 582): 3 credits
Theme Seminar: 3 credits
Total: 12 credits
Core Seminar II (HIS 526): 3 credits
Supervised Teaching (HIS 581—credit for the TA): 3 credits
Theme Seminar: 3 credits
Reading Workshop: 3 credits
Total: 12 credits
B. Full-time Status
Students who have fewer than 24 credits are required to register for 12 credits in order to maintain full-time status. Full-time enrollment for students who have earned the master’s degree is 9 credits. Students acting as teaching assistants must carry 9 credits (including the 3-credit Supervised Teaching, HIS 581). Once a student has advanced to candidacy, s/he must register for 9 credits of dissertation research (HIS 699, 700, 701) each semester until the degree is awarded in order to remain on full-time status.
C. Award of Master’s Degree for Doctoral Students
Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for the master’s degree may petition the Graduate school to be awarded the master’s degree while continuing in the doctoral program.
D. Foreign Language Requirement
All students (except native speakers of the language of their field of specialization) must demonstrate proficiency in at least one relevant foreign language before being advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. This is a Graduate School requirement that may not be waived. Minimal proficiency in a language means the ability to translate a given passage clearly and accurately with the aid of a dictionary. Relevant language(s) are determined by the student’s area of specialization.
Proficiency may be demonstrated either through a written exam administered by the department or a satisfactory grade in a graduate language course (e.g., French 500). The in-department exam consists of translating a passage from a scholarly work in History, with the aid of a dictionary. It is administered and evaluated by an appropriate faculty member. The results of the Language Exam must be reported to the department’s Graduate Coordinator and entered into the student’s file.
At the discretion of the advisor, a student may be required to study additional languages as part of his or her degree program. It is the student’s responsibility to establish with her or his advisor which foreign languages are necessary for the completion of the Ph.D and to make sure they have completed the language requirement in a timely fashion so that they may advance to candidacy. Ideally, students take their written language exams by the Fall semester of year 3.
E. Oral Examination and Advancement to Candidacy
By the end of the second year in the doctoral program, each student should name a Ph.D. advisor, and in consultation with that advisor, name two additional members of the department who agree to serve on his/her Oral Exam Committee. The committee will help the student define his or her examination fields, language requirements, and course work, as well as monitor the student’s progress on the dissertation. In some cases, the committee will review and endorse the student’s dissertation prospectus, as well.
The student’s Oral Exam Committee must be submitted and approved by the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the exam. The “Statement of Fields” form is available in the Graduate Program Coordinator’s Office. It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate the examination date and time with his or her committee. The examination may not be taken until all University and History Department requirements have been met. Students should check with Roxanne Fernandez, our Graduate Coordinator, to make sure his/her records are up-to-date and to process the paperwork.
Full-time students are expected to take their Oral Exam no later than the end of the sixth semester of graduate study. The student, in consultation with the examination committee, will arrange the day, time, and place of the Oral Exam. In addition, the student shall present to each member of the examination committee–no later than the middle of the semester that precedes the Ph.D. oral examination–a suggested list of books and topics. Committee members will advise the student of any changes or additional reading that is to be completed for the examination. The Oral Exam usually lasts about 1 ½ or 2 hours and is graded as “pass with distinction,” “pass,” “weak pass,” or “fail.” Students who fail the Oral Exam may petition to take the exam a second time at a future date.
F. Dissertation Committee
As the doctoral student is near completion of the dissertation, he/she must constitute a four-person Dissertation Defense Committee. The Advisor plus three other faculty members (including one “outside faculty” member) compose the Dissertation Committee. If, in the rare case, a Ph.D. advisor is no longer willing to serve as dissertation advisor or if the student wishes to work with a new advisor, the student must identify some other faculty member in the History Department to serve. The new Advisor must declare in writing his/her willingness to serve as dissertation advisor before the student may be advanced to candidacy. Normally, the dissertation advisor meets with the student at least once each semester (or, if the student is not in Stony Brook, will correspond) to discuss progress on the dissertation.
G. Dissertation and Defense
Following Advancement to Candidacy, students are required to enroll for one credit of dissertation research each semester until the dissertation. Teaching assistants will register for 9 credits of Research for the Ph.D. (HIS 699). The student must present the completed dissertation in such a way that the dissertation committee has a reasonable period in which to read, critique, and suggest changes to be incorporated into the final version before the dissertation defense.
The dissertation is the basic requirement for the conferral of the Ph.D. The completed dissertation must be in the hands of the committee at least one full month before the scheduled date of the dissertation defense. Ideally, the dissertation committee has one or two months to read and correct the dissertation and to give the student their written criticisms and suggestions. These comments must be in the student’s hands one month before the dissertation defense. If the criticisms are not written out, the student can assume the dissertation is approved in the form submitted. The student must answer all written objections and corrections by revising the dissertation to the faculty member’s satisfaction before it is submitted to the Graduate School.
The Dissertation Committee is composed of four faculty members, including the student’s Advisor and one faculty member outside the field of History or the institution of Stony Brook. The Defense is also open to interested students and faculty. The Graduate School must give advanced approval of the Dissertation Committee. (The same form used for the oral exam will be used for the defense. These forms are available in the Graduate Program Coordinator’s Office and must be forwarded to the Graduate School at least ONE MONTH BEFORE the scheduled date of the defense.) All the paperwork for both the Oral Exam and Dissertation Defense must go through the History Department’s Graduate Coordinator, Roxanne Fernandez. She can help you with the bureaucratic requirements.
H. Advising and Evaluation
When students are accepted into the graduate program, they are assigned a first-year advisor based on the areas of interest indicated by the student in his or her application. Students may change advisors with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies at the end of Year 1 or thereafter.
Advisors will meet with incoming students to discuss program requirements and the student’s individual course of study, and they will meet with their advisees on a regular basis as they progress through the program. Ideally, students should consult with their advisors about their course of study (including, general course selection, language requirements, and enrollment in courses outside the department) at the beginning of each semester. Faculty members meet at the end of each Spring semester to evaluate the progress of all students in the graduate program.
Evaluations of student performance will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the student and include suggestions for improvement. The advisor or another designated faculty member will be responsible for submitting a written or oral summary of the evaluation. All students will be ranked in one of the following three categories:
Good Standing: indicates satisfactory grades and timely completion of degree requirements.
Some Concerns: may reflect low grades in one or more courses, slow or intermittent progress towards the degree (even if grades are acceptable), or areas or skills needing special attention.
Probation: unsatisfactory academic performance and/or progress towards the degree. This departmental probation is independent of the rules for academic probation set by Graduate School. The Graduate Committee will lay down specific steps to be taken by students on probation, including a timetable, and failure to satisfy these conditions may result in dismissal from the program. Students on departmental probation whose academic performance remains unsatisfactory may be permitted to complete the master’s degree but asked not to continue towards the doctoral degree.
Students are encouraged to meet with their advisors to discuss the results of this annual assessment, and such meetings are mandatory for those students who are either placed on probation or for whom some concerns are noted. The performance of students who receive either of these ratings will be reevaluated at the end of the fall semester.
In recent years, the Graduate School and the Department have cracked down on the problem of Incomplete Coursework. Students are strongly discouraged from taking Incompletes in their courses except in the case of pressing emergencies. The pressure of Incompletes impairs one’s ability to perform well in subsequent semesters, and Incompletes can negatively affect a student’s eligibility for financial aid. Graduate School regulations require that all Incompletes be changed to letter grades within one calendar year after the end of the term in which the course was originally taken.
The Graduate School has also instituted a stricter policy concerning Time Limits for completing the program as a whole. Students who do not defend their dissertation within a seven-year period are required to petition for a “Time Limit Extension” from the Graduate School. These petitions are contingent on a “contract” that the student draws up with his/her advisor and the DGS for the completion and defense of the dissertation. Students should bear this time frame in mind, as they make plans for doing dissertation research and writing.
G. Extra-classroom professional activities.
Most students become involved in a variety of scholarly and collegial activities within and outside the History Department, and we welcome student initiatives to help us build a collegial community. Students are encouraged to take full advantage of the activities of interdisciplinary and community-building programs on campus: the Humanities Institute, the Latin American and Caribbean Center, the Initiative in the Historical Social Sciences, the Graduate Student Union, etc. etc., as well as of our own departmental Seminar Series for faculty and graduate students and the Department’s various welcome, end-of-the-year, and holiday parties (when we really count on the volunteerism of everybody!). We also urge you to take full advantage of scholarly activities in the greater metropolitan area, and to seek out opportunities to participate in scholarly conferences both here and at other institutions.
Please feel free to bring ideas, initiatives, or concerns to Alix Cooper, current Graduate Director, and/or to Michael Barnhart, Chair. For more administrative issues, our Graduate Coordinator, Roxanne Fernandez, is ready to answer questions or help you in any other way she can. Susan Grumet is on top of just about all facets of this department, and is especially helpful when it comes to the Undergraduate Program.
Later this spring, Ph.D. candidate Gregory Rosenthal will join eleven other scholars from across the country to participate in the Cornell University Institute for the Social Sciences’ 2013 Institute on Contested Landscapes. Gregory will be presenting a paper titled “The Property on/is their Backs: Dispossession and Wage Labor in Nineteenth-century Hawaiʻi.” Gregory has also received two dissertation research awards for this summer and fall: a Michael J. Connell Foundation Fellowship from the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; and an Arthur J. Quinn Memorial Fellowship at the Bancroft Library at UC-Berkeley.
Raquel Otheguy (Ph.D. candidate) has just been awarded the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for the 2013–2014 academic year. This highly competitive program aims to identify the most talented researchers conducting dissertation research related to education. Raquel’s dissertation fellowship project is (tentatively titled) “Education in Nation, Empire, and Diaspora: Afro-Cubans from 1878 to 1920.” Congratulations!
Froylán Encisco has won a distinguished year-long (2013–14) pre-doctoral residential fellowship at the U.S.-Mexico Studies Center at UC-San Diego, where he will complete his dissertation on the local and global origins of drug trafficking in Sinaloa, Mexico, in the twentieth century. Congratulations!
Congratulations to Carlos Gomez Florentin (Ph.D. candidate), who has just been awarded the 2013 Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The IDRF Program supports the next generation of scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences pursuing research that advances knowledge about non-U.S. cultures and societies. Since its inception in 1997, the highly prestigious IDRF Program has funded more than nine hundred projects—more than twenty of them from Stony Brook’s history department alone. Carlos’s dissertation research focuses on the unintended environmental, social, and political consequences of dam-building for mid twentieth-century Paraguay and Brazil.
I’ll be giving a presentation at this year’s Susman Graduate Conference on my research into changing beliefs about magic and witchcraft in Enlightenment America (British colonial and early U.S.), and the links between these intellectual changes and the formation of national identity.
Accusations, trials, and persecutions of witches form a fascinating and peculiar episode in colonial American history, with the famous Salem trials as the most well-known example of what is often conceived of as a Puritan, New England, or 17th century phenomenon. However, the memory of earlier beliefs in magic and actions upon those beliefs still exerted influence over British-American colonists and U.S. citizens in the 18th century. A review of American magazines from this period reveals a continued, but different, preoccupation with magic and witchcraft. Elite Americans of this period thought about magic, but at a distance, with distaste and no small amount of shame. Published works repeatedly consigned it to a kind of local dark age; the colonial forefathers had to be defended from criticisms for their prosecution of witchcraft as a crime; and increasingly, magic became less a threat to be controlled, and more a mere “superstition” clung to by the “vulgar.”
A complex process was underway, by which early Americans disposed of their culture of magic, alternatingly forgetting and reconsidering it. Americans of the 18th century distanced themselves from their historical beliefs in magic, and then conceptually relocated this belief elsewhere, reattaching it to a variety of Others: the English, the French, Africans, Native Americans, and the superstitious masses, an “other within.” Through this transformation of memory and history, the myth of an ideal America – enlightened and reasonable, free of the irrational superstitions that plagued its past, its rivals and victims, and its own inferior members – was born. My upcoming paper on this topic will show how a sea change in early American perspectives on the supernatural influenced and constituted the formation of a U.S. American national identity.
The 35th annual Warren and Beatrice Susman Graduate Conference will be held on April 20, 2013 at Rutger’s New Brunswick campus. Its topic is “Myth, Memory, and History: New Approaches to an Elusive Past.”