CAT Ph.D. Track in Cultural Studies
The Cultural Studies Program at Stony Brook is designed for students whose interests cut across traditional modes of study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Areas of emphasis include popular and mass culture, minority and diasporic cultures, visual culture, media and technology, cultural production, cross-cultural and transnational/global formations, as well as the study of elite, dominant, and national cultures. Course requirements are designed to build competence in interdisciplinary Cultural Studies theory and practice, maximize collegial interaction among students, and allow students to develop disciplinary fluency in a particular subfield.
The Department Cultural Analysis & Theory’s strengths lie primarily in critical and cultural theory, cinema and media studies, visual culture studies, comparatist and cross-cultural studies, as reflected in the Department’s popular undergraduate major in Cinema and Cultural Studies. Competence in languages other than English has also long been considered essential to the department’s mission. A network of affiliated faculty represent a wide range of areas in disciplines including Africana studies, art history and studio art, Asian and Asian American studies, English, European and Hispanic languages, history, music, philosophy, and women’s studies.
Full Information on Graduate admissions and M.A. and Ph.D. degree structure can be found in the Department Handbook(available as a PDF).
A. Core Courses
CST 502: Theories in Cultural Studies
CST 510: History of Cultural Studies
CST 680: Cultural Studies Research Seminar
CLT/CST 698: Teaching Practicum
Twelve additional graduate courses, at least three of which must be CLT/CST courses numbered 600 or higher.
To ensure disciplinary fluency in a more traditional sense, students are strongly recommended to take at least three of these courses in a single discipline (outside the core cultural studies sequence), and to include at least one faculty member from that field on the Ph.D. oral exam and dissertation committees.
Ph.D. students may choose to demonstrate competence in either one principal foreign language (that is, any language that is of principal importance to the student’s course of study) or two secondary languages. English may count as a principal language for non-Native speakers. Competence in the two secondary languages can be demonstrated by: 1) earning a grade of B or better in a graduate translation course or 2) passing a translation examination to be taken with a dictionary.
Students who are candidates for the Ph.D. will normally take their comprehensive examination no more than one year after completing their course work. Completing the language requirement is a prerequisite for sitting for the examination.
Committee for the Examination
Students will discuss the choice of a dissertation chair for their examination committee with their advisors and the director of cultural studies. One CAT faculty member will be asked by the student to serve as chair of the committee. Three more faculty members who can examine the student in one or more areas of the examination, as defined below, will be selected by the student in consultation with the director of graduate studies, the advisor, and the Chair of the committee. At least three of the four members of the examination committee must be CAT faculty or affiliates. At least three of the members of the committee must be physically present at the examination.
A reading list for all four parts of the examination will be compiled by the student with the help of the examination committee. The definitive version of the reading list, with a cover page bearing signatures of the committee members and indicating who will direct the examination and chair the dissertation, must be submitted to the graduate studies committee no later than one month prior to the scheduled date of examination. The list must be approved by the faculty members of the graduate studies committee. Please note: Students should also submit a description of the special area, related to the dissertation, along with the reading list.
The examination is oral, with the duration to be determined by the members of the committee but not shorter than two hours and not longer than three. Questions posed by examiners will be based on the reading lists for the examination. The examination may be passed, passed with distinction, failed, or failed in part. In case of failure, the examination may be retaken once, but no later than the end of the semester following the time when it was initially scheduled. In case of partial failure, the second examination will cover only the area(s) on which the candidate's performance was inadequate.
The Four Parts of the Examination:
1. Cultural Theory. Students will be examined on a combination of cultural theory pertinent to their research and from the Cultural Theory Reading List. The historical, geographic, and thematic aspects of the list will be determined in consultation with the student's examining committee.
2. An in-depth Study of a Cultural Phenomenon. Knowledge of the historical development and context (social, economic, etc…) of the phenomenon will be expected, and the reading list should include, in addition to relevant primary texts, a selection of major critical and theoretical works.
3. An historical Period. Demonstration of historical breadth. Possible options include classical antiquity, Medieval, baroque and neo-classical, romanticism, modernism, and postmoderism as well as unique historical moments chosen by the student, such as the time between the two world wars or the last two decades of the twentieth century. Other traditions outside the West may also be included. The student will be expected to know the history and the social and intellectual background of the period.
4. Area of Specialized Interest. Defined as a focused subject, issue, debate, or problem related to the student's projected dissertation topic. The student will be expected to have a wide knowledge of the history and scholarship that inform the background of the area.
Each part of the examination should include at least 40 works. Half of the list for Part 1 will be composed of books from the Cultural Theory Reading List and the student’s research interests. The Cultural Theory Reading List is available from the CAT office. There is no standard list of required works for parts 2-4, although committee members may insist on including certain texts at their discretion. All parts of the reading lists must included texts in at least two languages other than English (translations are acceptable). Reading lists in these areas are not intended to be exhaustive, but they should provide coverage of the field that adequately prepares the student to teach courses in the areas of the examination. Guidelines for the preparation of the reading lists can be obtained in the Department.
Advancement to Candidacy
Advancement to candidacy is granted by the Graduate School upon recommendation of the director of graduate studies after a successful comprehensive examination. Again, all other requirements must have been met before the student sits for the comprehensive examination. Students who have passed their Ph.D. oral comprehensive exam will be deemed to have passed the equivalent of the master's exam and be granted a M.A. degree unless they already have a master's degree in cultural studies from another institution. The student must file appropriate papers with the department.
The dissertation represents the culmination of the student's degree program and should be a serious contribution to scholarship.
Within three months of passing the comprehensive examination, the student must be prepared to schedule the Dissertation Proposal Review.
As soon as possible, after the Comprehensive Examination, the candidate should choose a dissertation advisor, as well as the three CAT readers of the dissertation. (The reader outside CAT may be chosen nearer to the defense date, at the discretion of the dissertation advisor). The advisor of the dissertation must be a member of the CAT core faculty. Affiliates may co-direct dissertations with a core faculty member. In consultation with the dissertation advisor and the readers, the candidate drafts a dissertation proposal.
The dissertation proposal, which must be appropriate to cultural studies, should be between 2000 and 3500 words, not counting footnotes or bibliography, and should include the following:
- Title of the dissertation;
- Description of the topic and its appropriateness for cultural studies in focus and method;
- The rationale behind the choice of topic, and the anticipated contribution of the proposed research to knowledge;
- A discussion of the argument your dissertation will advance;
- Current state of research on the topic and a basic bibliography;
- Method of work, including the general approach (e.g., historical, generic, thematic, structural) and an outline of chapters.
When the advisor and readers have approved the proposal, the student and the advisor will schedule a Dissertation Prospectus Review to be attended by the student, the advisor, and all other members of the dissertation committee. Faculty and/or graduate students may be invited to the review at the discretion of the student. The review should be no less than one hour in length. The advisor, the readers, and others in attendance will discuss the proposal with the student in order to insure that the student is ready to proceed in the project. When the advisor and the readers agree that the student is ready, they will sign off on the proposal and submit it to the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate then proceeds to the dissertation.
Guidelines for Dissertation Prospectus Review
- The student will circulate her or his proposal to all members of the committee three weeks prior to the review.
- The student will begin the review with a summary of the project in less than five minutes. She or he should clearly communicate the core thesis of the prospective dissertation.
- The members of the committee will then ask questions and make suggestions.
- The student should take notes during the meeting and make sure that she or he understands what the committee is suggesting.
- At the end of the meeting, the student will be asked to leave the room so that the members of the committee can discuss whether or not they are ready to sign off on the proposal. If the members of the committee are satisfied that the student is prepared to begin writing the dissertation, they will sign off on the document and send it to the DGS.
- In some cases the committee may decide not to sign and request a revised proposal. If the members of the committee are satisfied with the revised proposal, there is no need for a second dissertation prospectus review. In some cases, however, the committee may decide that a second review is necessary.
Dissertation and Dissertation Defense
Although there are no strict regulations on length, dissertations will normally be between 200 and 400 pages, not including bibliography and other supplemental material. The dissertation committee may, in special cases and with justification, allow a student to submit a shorter or longer dissertation.
When the dissertation has been completed in accordance with guidelines published in Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, legible copies of the complete dissertation must be given to all committee members at least one month in advance of the scheduled defense.
The students must submit a final list of their Dissertation Committee members at least one month prior to their defense. The student will need to identify the dissertation advisor and the faculty member who will chair the defense.
All dissertation defenses shall take place on campus and require the full attendance of the dissertation examining committee. Any exceptions from this practice will require approval from the Dean of the Graduate School. Campus Audio/Video Services can be employed in the event that either a committee member or the defending student cannot be on the premises due to extenuating circumstances. While the examining committee may wish to hold the committee examination of the defense in private, the public presentation of the defense will be open to the university community and should be advertised campus-wide three weeks prior to the scheduled date. A minimum of three weeks prior to the dissertation defense, the dissertation abstract, approved by the student’s advisor and director of graduate studies, must be submitted to the Graduate School with details of the time and location for the defense. The Graduate School will be responsible for advertising the defense to the university community.
The dissertation examining committee will set up the ground rules for the defense, which usually involves the student giving a short précis of the research problem, the research method, and the results. This is followed by questions from the Committee and, if the committee so desires, from the audience.
"For general information on Stony Brook University's graduate programs, go to the Graduate Bulletin" Graduate Bulletin
For Ph.D. students awarded teaching assistantships, four years of full support is the department's norm. Awards are renewable annually, provided the student maintains satisfactory academic progress towards the degree and performs teaching duties appropriately (see below, Satisfactory Progress). Students (other than Turner fellows) should not count on assistantship resources beyond the fourth year of study.
During their first year, Ph.D. students will normally be placed as teaching assistants in CAT lecture courses. During their second and third years, students will most commonly teach as instructors in the Writing Program or in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, and during their fourth year, as independent instructors of CAT courses. Admitted students who would prefer a Writing Program or AAAS placement during their first year should notify the Department immediately upon admission into the Ph.D. program. While placements will vary according to student and program needs and constraints, every effort will be made to provide each student with the available range of teaching experiences.
Graduate students in Cultural Analysis & Theory have the opportunity to teach a wide variety of courses. Their teaching obligation may be fulfilled in several ways depending on departmental needs:
- Assisting an instructor in a large lecture course;
- Teaching a small section of a literature course under the supervision of the CAT faculty;
- Participating in the basic language course in a foreign language department or in a composition course in the English department.
- T.A. assignments differ, but the amount of work required cannot exceed 20 hours per week.
T.A.s will usually:
- Hold office hours to review course materials, assist in grading, and discuss other course-related issues with undergraduates;
- Attend classes (graduate courses will be scheduled to minimize interference with T.A. assignments) and read all required entries on the syllabus;
- Lead discussion groups;
- Grade exams, homework, and other written material.
The performance of teaching assistants is monitored by evaluation forms given to undergraduate students at the end of each semester, as well as by faculty members who visit certain classes taught by the T.A. and submit a written evaluation. Stipends of teaching assistants may be terminated if (on the basis of these evaluations and other relevant criteria) the graduate studies committee judges that they have been deficient in carrying out their teaching duties. Superior work as a T.A. is highly valued by the CAT faculty and by the Graduate School. In the past, several T.A’.s from CAT have won the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. This and other prizes for which T.A.’s are eligible carry a cash award.
Advisor and Mentor
The Graduate School requires all students to have an advisor. The director of cultural studies serves as advisor to all entering students during their first year and helps them plan their programs. Before the end of the first academic year, full-time students should choose one official graduate advisor from the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies graduate faculty. Advisor and student meet regularly to discuss the student's progress and program. Advisors are normally chosen for one year, but students are, of course, free to change advisors and are encouraged to consult with all members of the faculty.
Incoming students are also urged to choose a faculty member to serve as a mentor who can meet with the student to discuss a variety of concerns not necessarily involving course work.
The University requires that students receiving a Ph.D. must take at least two consecutive semesters of full-time graduate study. For those entering without prior graduate study or with fewer than 24 graduate credits, this usually means 12 credits per semester; for those entering with more than 24 graduate credits or with advanced standing provided by prior graduate work, this would mean 9 credits per semester.
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