I. Course of Study and Degrees
Renaissance Studies is an interdisciplinary doctoral program devoted to the history, literature, art, music and culture of Europe during a period that extends from the later fourteenth century through the sixteenth century in Italy and from the sixteenth through the mid-seventeenth century in Northern Europe.
Since its inception in 1977, the program has been guided by several important aims:
- to offer a formal framework within which to train students along the interdisciplinary lines formerly practiced by scholars who were often the self-trained products of European universities, and thereby to preserve and strengthen an important set of traditional skills;
- to provide for the development of new kinds of cross-disciplinary studies by exposing students to the up-to-date methods and scholarship in a variety of fields;
- to provide, in greater depth and breadth than traditional departments allow, a knowledge of the many inter-connected developments that this remarkably complex period comprises;
- to produce Renaissance specialists, firmly based in a major field, who can become leading scholars in traditional disciplines while crossing disciplinary boundaries.
The graduate program is administered by a Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, and by an Executive Committee consisting of faculty from the departments that contribute to the program. A Student Advisory committee, consisting of the representatives elected by students, meets as needed with the administration to discuss the program and to offer its recommendations.
Course of Study and Degrees
The course of study should normally take the following form:
Years 1 and 2 (and, where necessary, with DGS approval, part of Year 3): Completion of Coursework and Language Requirements
Year 3: Preparation of Oral Examination and Dissertation Prospectus, culminating with “Admission to Candidacy”
Year 4 and following: Writing of Dissertation
As students complete these phases of their education they are eligible for the following degrees:
M.A. (in course toward Ph.D.): The M.A. degree is awarded upon completion of eight term courses, taken in at least three disciplines, and with at least three grades of Honors. The departmental examination in Latin or Italian must have been passed.
M.Phil. (in course toward Ph.D.): Awarded upon “Admission to Candidacy,” i.e. when all requirements except the completion of the dissertation have been met.
Ph.D. Awarded upn acceptance of the dissertation by the Program and the Graduate School.
Please note: Petition for degrees is made through the Registrar. Students should petition for the M.A. and M.Phil. degrees no sooner than the end of the term in which requirements for the degree are met. Certain other requirements concerning residency, etc. must also be met.
Consult the “Yale University Graduate School Programs and Policies” for a full explanation of requirements and procedures.
II. The First and Second Years
The primary advisor to students in the program is the Director of Graduate Studies, who assists students in planning their program and meeting requirements.
Upon entering the program, each student should choose a first-year faculty advisor in their affiliated department with whom to discuss the choice of courses, the development of skills, and the defining of intellectual interests. The DGS and the first-year faculty advisor, in helping students to make the transition into graduate school, will also assist them in identifying mentors and advisors for the longer run.
Most importantly, however, students should take the initiative in approaching all of their instructors and other members of the Yale faculty for advice. The Renaissance Studies Program is well known and supported by faculty throughout the University, and students can expect to find receptiveness wherever they turn for assistance. The most lasting and supportive of advisory relationships are those developed at the student’s initiative.
Each student is required to complete sixteen term courses, no more than two of which may be Individual Reading and Research.
Eight of the courses will normally be in a single department or area of concentration. If this area is literature, the number is ten, six of which should be in one department and four of which should be in other literature departments. A minimum of six term courses should be taken in at least two departments outside the student’s area of concentration.
For those with no previous graduate coursework elsewhere, the most common pattern is to complete at least fourteen term courses in the first two years (at least seven each year) and to complete the remaining courses in the fall term of the third year.
Students are strongly advised, however, to consider completing one or both of the two remaining courses during the first two years so as to leave the third year free for preparation of the Oral Examination and Dissertation Prospectus.
Four consecutive semesters of four courses each can be extremely challenging and arduous, and most students facing the full coursework requirement usually leave a course or two for third year. But there are very strong reasons for completing as much coursework as possible before the third year begins (see under “The Third Year,” below).
Students who have completed relevant graduate coursework elsewhere may ask the Director of Graduate Studies to waive up to four term courses of the course requirement in lieu of transer credit, which the Graduate School does not accept. If you are eligible, discuss this possibility with the DGS upon entering the program.
A formal decision to waive the requirement will not be made until you have completed seven term courses at Yale, but the possible reduction of your courseload has so many important advantages that you should dicuss it at the earliest opportunity. Once you have satisfactorily completed seven term courses at Yale, you should submit to the DGS a written request and information about the courses taken elsewhere. The delay in the formal waiving of the course requirement is to allow for evaluation of the quality of previous preparation. In practice, however, students who have performed satisfactorily in their Yale courses can count on up to a four-course reduction, provided that the previous coursework is relevant to Renaissance Studies. An ideal use of this opportunity is to permit the conclusion of Yale coursework by the end of the second year.
Renaissance Studies does not compile an exhaustive list of recommended courses. Students are expected to consult the course lists of the individual departments, programs and the professional schools (Law, Divinity, Music, etc.) for last-minute changes in offerings, especially in the spring semester. Students may, provided relevance to their program can be demonstrated, receive permission from the DGS to enroll in undergraduate courses in which, with the approval of the DGS and the instructor, they have made arrangements to complete graduate-level assignments. The DGS and faculty members can also assist students in designing courses in Individual Reading and Research.
Students are also eligible to apply, through Yale’s membership in the Folger Institute, for enrollment in the Institute’s annual seminars and workshops. Grants-in-aid to support travel to Washington, D.C. are also available. The Folger’s offerings provide the opportunity to work with leading scholars and faculty and students from other universities on a variety of topics in the Renaissance, including many not always available at Yale. A list of the Folger’s annual offerings is available in the program office and through the faculty member who serves as the Folger Institute’s campus representative. By prior arrangement between the DGS and the Folger seminar leaders, it is possible to receive Yale course credit for completion of Folger seminars. The advanced level of the seminars and the rigors of commuting as often as once a week to Washington make the seminars most appropriate for students at or near the dissertation-writing stage. Enrollment in the Folger Institute is not, generally speaking, advisable during the first two years.
The Renaissance Studies core course, “Introduction to Renaissance Studies,” is a two-term seminar, offered in alternate years, required of all students and designed to introduce important topics in Renaissance culture and methods in Renaissance scholarship. Credit for the core course will normally be applied to the department in which its instructor holds a primary appointment. It is possible, however, with permission from the instructor and DGS, to count the core toward the discipline in which the student concentrates in term papers and other assignments.
Students should complete the requirements for each course by the deadline specified by the instructor. Extensions for incomplete work may be requested on forms provided in the program office and will be granted with the approval of the instructor and DGS. It is not advisable to request more than one extension per semester, particularly during the fall semester, when so little time intervenes between the ending of the semester and the beginning of spring term classes.
To fulfill the language requirement, students must pass the program’s written examinations in Latin and Italian and in one additional language, usually French, Spanish or German. Other languages relevant to Renaissance Studies may be approved as the third language with the permission of the DGS. At a minimum, an examination in Latin or Italian should be passed upon entrance to the program; a second language examination should be passed before the beginning of the third semester and a third should be passed before the begnning of the fourth semester.
The Latin examination is a one-hour test in which students are expected, with the aid of a dictionary, to translate accurately and as felicitously as possible a single passage of Latin prose, about half a page, by a Renaissance writer. The same standards apply to examinations in other languages, which are two hours in length and ask students to translate two passages, one by a Renaissance writer and one by a modern scholar. Sample examinations may be requested from the DGS.
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of completing the language requirements at the earliest possible date. Most crucially, an early competence in the language has a decisive impact on a student’s ability to do coursework that is, in the spirit of the program, truly rigorous, comparative, and cross-disciplinary. Secondly, early completion enables a student to concentrate fully on coursework during the semester. Students should not hesitate to try the examinations as early as possible, if only for diagnostic purposes. There is no penalty for failing to pass an exam, and taking it, in addition to providing valuable experience, may help a student, with the advice of the DGS and/or examiner, to form a realistic plan for further preparation. Any student who fails to pass an examination should make it a point to confer with the examiner about the improvements needed.
In cases where a student already has substantial training, further preparation may be obtained through daily practice or through the auditing of language courses at Yale. In the past, several students from the program and other departments have formed study groups and sometimes pooled resources to hire a tutor. With conscientious application, any of these methods can yield good results, but a large number of students, probably the majority, find it difficult to make substantial progress while simultaneously enrolled in a full semester’s work of courses.
The best way to prepare for languages, especially those in which considerable further work is needed, is through intensive summer study. There are, for example, notably effective intensive summer programs in Latin at NYU and the University of California at Berkeley. The Summer Greek and Latin Institute at CUNY offers tuition and some expenses scholarships for its intensive 14-week courses. Similar programs in modern languages may be found around the country and, occasionally, abroad. Courses at the introductory level are usually available in Yale’s Summer School, but these are not always adequately advanced for the needs of graduate students. On occasion, there are more appropriate courses available, such as the French Department’s summer reading course for graduate students and the Divinity School’s summer program in medieval Latin.
Funding for Summer Language Study
The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences provides tuition fellowships for one summer of language study in New Haven, through the Yale Summer Session. All students enrolled in a Ph.D. program are eligible for this award.
In summer 2017, the Graduate School is offering the following summer language study opportunities:
GSAS Summer Language Reading Courses
Summer reading courses in French, German, Italian, and Spanish provided free to doctoral students in all fields of study to assist them in satisfying degree requirements or pursuing dissertation research in these languages. Minimum enrollment is four for a course to be held. Preference is given to applicants satisfying degree requirements. For applications, please visit the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Services.
Deadline: April 1, 2017 by 1 pm (EST)
Summer Language Institute Fellowship (Yale Summer Session Programs)
A limited number of full and partial tuition Yale Summer Session fellowships for doctoral students in all fields of study who wish to pursue language studies. Preference is given to applicants wishing to studying languages not offered as summer reading courses and which are required in order to satisfy degree requirements or pursue dissertation research.
deadline: April 1, 2017 by 1 pm (EST)
Please note: 2017 will be the last summer this fellowship will be offered. GSAS Summer Language Reading Courses will be expanded in the coming years.
Summer Language Institute Fellowship (Non-Yale Summer Session Programs)
Up to $1,800 toward tuition cost for doctoral students in all fields of study who wish to pursue studying languages. Preference is given to applicants wishing to studying languages not taught at Yale in order to satisfy degree requirements or pursue dissertation research.
deadline: April 1, 2017 by 1 pm (EST)
For more information on application procedures please see: Summer Language Institute Fellowships (Non-Yale Summer Session Programs)
III. The Third Year
In many ways the third year in the program is the most crucial, strenuous, and ultimately rewarding. It is a year of transition in which the cross-disciplinary training of the student comes to fruition with a more concentrated focus on a specialty and advanced research.
The Oral Examination is an important culmination that tests the comprehensiveness and depth of a student’s preparation for the profession, i.e., factual knowledge and the ability to interpret, analyze, and synthesize. Students preparing for the examination quite naturally regard this as the most decisive event of the third year.
It is important for students to realize, however, that an even more decisive event – one that effects all of a student’s remaining time at Yale, the student’s success in competing for fellowships and professional appointments, the early years in faculty ranks and sometimes even the shape of whole careers – is the defining of a dissertation topic.
So important is the dissertation that the writing of the dissertation prospectus should not only take precedence amid all the other challenges of the third year (first-time teaching, orals preparation, and the like) but also be the landmark in terms of which students measure their progress from the time they arrive at Yale.
Even in the choice of courses and paper topics within them, when students must be exploring broadly and taking intellectual chances, they should also be looking for those coherences and convergences in their own interests that may be pointing toward the third year and possible dissertation topics.
The Oral Examination
When course and language requirements have been met, the oral examination may be scheduled. In order to allow sufficient time for the preparation and approval of the dissertation prospectus by the end of the third year, students should plan to take the oral examination by the end of the fifth semester, i.e. December of the third year. For students still completing coursework in the fifth semester and also teaching for the first time, it may be necessary to postpone the oral examination until the sixth semester, but in no case should the examination be postponed later than February or early March. Delay beyond these dates can seriously impede a student’s further progress (see under “Dissertation Prospectus,” below).
The oral examination in Renaissance Studies is two hours long. It includes three twenty-minute questions (in the case of English two twenty-minute questions) in Renaissance topics outside the primary discipline. The remaining hour of the examination will be devoted to the primary discipline, including (except in the case of Classics) some further coverage of the Renaissance period. Some students take additional oral or written examinations as required by the primary departments. Specific details about each department’s exam format can be accessed through the links below:
In choosing examination topics, students should seek a balance between variety in the materials and approaches of the topics and coherence and convergence among at least some of them. To achieve variety, one type of question might be centered in the work of a single figure, such as Erasmus, Luther, Machiavelli, Leonardo, or Milton, while other types of questions might focus on a genre (such as four Petrachan sonnet sequences, three epics, 12-15 comedies or tragedies, early sixteenth-century Italian portraits), a school (Neoplatonism, a few Italian mannerists, a few English metaphysical poets), or a problem in history or historiography (Florentine civic humanists, the English reformation 1530-1580, the place of women in sixteenth-century French society).
In addition to aiming for variety in their exam topics, students should explore topics that might lead toward a dissertation. At least one, and perhaps as many as two or three of the orals topics should fall in areas where preparation is potentially relevant to the writing of the dissertation prospectus. Such preparation can provide important momentum that leads beyond the oral examination itself.
Preparation of topics should begin several months in advance of the examination, in a conference with the DGS, who will help the student refine his or her proposals and identify potential examiners. Ideally there should be no more than five examiners (including the DGS) on the orals board. It is up to the student to approach the examiners, invite them to participate, and discuss with them the further shaping of the topic. Together with each examiner the student should for each question develop a reading list about one page in length. These lists should be shown to the DGS and, when approved, distributed by the student to all of the examiners at least 10 days before the oral examination. Students may include with each list a short statement indicating the approaches to the topics they find most interesting; examiners are not bound, however, to restrict themselves to the matters mentioned in such statements.
The student is responsible for determining, as early as possible, a time for the examination agreeable to all the examiners (given busy faculty schedules, it is a good idea to see which days might be available several months in advance). To schedule a room for the examination, please consult the Renaissance Studies DGS. The student may determine the order in which the topics will be taken up. When the examination is over, the student will be asked to leave the room while the board decides whether he/she has passed and whether he/she has earned the ranking of “Distinction.” This ranking, awarded in about 10- 15% of the examinations, is included on the form sent to the registrar but does not appear on the diploma. It can be mentioned in letters of recommendation. Students whose examination is unsatisfactory may be asked to retake some or all of it at a later date.
The Dissertation Prospectus
The dissertation prospectus defines the project that will be the focus of the student’s advanced research at Yale and, in many cases, for years to come. Apart from the completion of the dissertation itself, it is the most important and decisive of the requirements in the program. It is impossible, of course, to describe the ideal dissertation topic, but there are some obvious parameters that include, but aren’t necessarily limited to:
- Originality: the quality that makes a dissertation a “new” contribution to its field, whether it is the discovery of facts, the identification of a new problem or area of inquiry or a new interpretation of old one, or an addition to the materials in the field in the form of an edition or collection
- Significance: i.e. the existence of the dissertation should not just be a novelty but one that makes a significant difference in the way people think about or study a subject.
- Rigor: a quality of scholarship and documentation such that the writer’s statements can be tested.
- Finitude: the scope and ambition should be of a kind that permit the dissertation to be written in two, or at most three, years. (A dissertation need not be a book, but should be a first or partial draft toward a book).
- Compelling Interest to the Writer: the ideal project should be one so fascinating or important to you that you can always enjoy working on it, even when such work proves difficult or frustrating.
It may be useful to know that the form currently in use in the Yale Graduate School asks dissertation readers to assess “the strengths and weaknesses of the work and the way in which it makes an original contribution to its field,” and it asks for ratings of 1) command of literature of the subject; 2) originality; 3) insights and judgement; 4) clearness; 5) style; 6) mastery of the method used in research.
Some of these considerations are more relevant than others at the dissertation prospectus stage. The key ones have to do with achieving a sufficient degree of conceptual distinctiveness to put your work on the map, i.e. the way to get yourself on the map and thereby make a contribution to your field is from the very start to make every effort to envision where your topic and approach stand in relation to others and to anticipate how they will make a difference to the way the field is constituted. In writing a dissertation, you address yourself not only to a topic but also to a readership; you should not only find your topic interesting but be able to explain why it matters to you and why it should matter to others.
As you sort these questions out, avail yourself of advice from faculty. Moreover, in all of your reading, you should be thinking about what makes some scholarly books appealing to you as “model dissertations” and others not. And you will find it helpful to avail yourself of the opportunities discussed under “Professional Development,” below. But your choice of a topic is inseparable, finally, from your choice of an advisor. If you have been thinking in your coursework and talking with your instructors about possible topics, the choice of topic and advisor should be easier to make, but you may also consult with the DGS. Once you and your advisor have identified a dissertation topic, you should begin to work together on the writing of the dissertation prospectus.
Because of the considerations discussed above, a dissertation prospectus should not only identify the “topic” or area of inquiry but also propose a “thesis,” an argument or an angle of attack that is going to define and organize your approach to the topic. It should furthermore include a statement about the possible implications or significance of the project – about its relation to existing scholarship and the goals you hope to achieve. These general matters should be followed by a brief chapter-by-chapter sketch explaining how you will deploy your materials and methods. Your prospectus, about 8-10 pages of prose, should be accompanied by three or four pages of bibliography identifying the sources, primary and secondary, that will be most essential to your project. In lieu of full annotation, which is not necessary, you should indicate your mastery of the bibliography by breaking it down under conceptual headings.
Finally, there are two related caveats about the writing of the prospectus: 1) It almost always takes longer and proves more difficult than students anticipate, but often this is because students have underestimated its importance throughout the first two and a half years. A student who has been thinking about dissertation topics while choosing courses, writing papers, and preparing for the oral examination will find it much easier to complete the prospectus than one who has not. 2) Aspects of the prospectus genre, in which you must anticipate the results of research not yet completed, are intrinsically frustrating (this is only your first taste of writing grant proposals!). While you want your prospectus to be sufficiently researched and conceptualized to carry you unimpeded into work on the dissertation itself, remember that is an carefully constructed hypothesis and not the finished experiment. An element of provisionality is always to be assumed.
Upon completion of the prospectus, the student, the advisor, and the DGS should identify the three additional faculty members who will become the dissertation’s eventual readers. All of these parties will meet jointly for a “Dissertation Prospectus Defense,” at which the student will discuss the proposed dissertation and take suggestions for modifications to the project. Upon successful completion of the Defense, the prospectus is approved, the student is “Admitted to Candidacy” for the Ph.D., and the writing of the dissertation may commence. It should now be apparent why students should give priority to the prospectus and complete it by the end of the third year. Students who must complete coursework in the fifth semester should schedule the oral examination early in the sixth semester, so they can begin, if not finish, the writing of the prospectus in the third year. In no case should a student postpone the Prospectus Defense beyond the first week of the fourth year; doing so will put the student nearly a year behind schedule and at a great disadvantage from that point on in the competition for fellowships, teaching, and eventual employment.
By provision in their letters of admission, students generally begin teaching in the fall semester of the third year. Initial appointments are typically at the Teaching Fellow 3 or TF 3.5 level. Such appointments usually involve leading once weekly a 50-minute discussion section attached to a lecture course and grading the assignments of the students in the section. Students obtain appointment by applying to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the appropriate department. Departments such as English, History, and History of Art each spring post a list of the following year’s needs for teaching Fellows and ask applicants to indicate their preferences. In some departments, faculty lecturers themselves have considerable input into the appointment process, so it is worthwhile to speak to them about assignments in their courses. Final decisions about appointments are usually made, however, by the DUS, and must take account of factors like eligibility and qualification for various assignments. Appointment to Teaching Fellowships are always conditional upon undergraduate enrollments, and because Yale’s so-called “shopping period” sometimes makes such enrollments unpredictable and unstable, Teaching Fellows must be prepared to show a degree of flexibility in their willingness to accept changes of assignment.
In this somewhat difficult and dicey situation it is well to bear in mind that:
- Every effort is made, not only in the departments but at the Graduate School’s Teaching Fellow program, to ensure that every eligible applicant receives a teaching position; a special effort is made to ensure equity for graduate students from departments and programs that do not themselves have appointments to offer.
- Flexibility about assignments not only improves the likelihood of successful placement but can also improve the professional credentials of the Teaching Fellow.
- Your DGS, kept properly informed of your search for an appointment, can offer considerable support.
- In the history of the Renaissance Studies Program, there has been only one eligible student, in one semester, who requested but did not receive a Teaching Fellow appointment.
Renaissance Studies students typically teach for four semesters at the TF 3 or 3.5 level. Then, either before or after a year on Dissertation Fellowship, under special circumstances, some undertake a semster or a year of teaching at TF 4.0, serving as instructors, for example, in one of the English Department’s freshman courses or in one of the History Department’s junior seminars. Such appointments are not guaranteed to be available, and the competition for them is always stiff. On balance, however, Renaissance Studies students have done remarkably well in obtaining appointments.
As an alternative departmental employment, advanced graduate students sometimes propose a seminar on a special topic to be offered through the Residential College Seminar Program. Proposals are submitted (early in September for spring-term seminars, and early in the spring for fall-term seminars) to the College Seminar Program (in the office of the Council of Masters); student-faculty committees in each of the Residential Colleges then determine, through a process that includes interviews, which seminars will be offered. Advanced students also occasionally find part-time teaching available at area institutions such as Albertus Magnus College, Southern Connecticut State University, The University of New Haven, or Quinnipiac University. Some students find interesting research or editorial appointments at places like the Yale Center for Parliamentary History, The British Arts Center, the James Boswell, Benjamin Franklin, or Jonathan Edwards papers projects, or the Yale University and Beinecke Libraries.
IV. The Fourth Year and Beyond
Finishing the Dissertation
In many cases, some or all of the three readers designated at the time of the Prospectus Defense may be called upon to read chapters or offer suggestions while the dissertation is in progress, but the primary advisor at all times is the dissertation director. Students should meet frequently with their directors during the writing of the dissertation.
Each year, in the spring, dissertation students are asked by the Graduate School to report on the progress of the dissertation, and these reports are reviewed and supplemented by the dissertation director and DGS before forwarding to the Graduate School. These reports are considered when students compete for dissertation fellowships like the Whiting and the Lurcy (for which nominations are usually made in February) or when they apply for University Dissertation Fellowships, Teaching Fellowships, and other awards. Advisors and administrators are sensitive to the highly individualized terms in which progress on the dissertation must be measured, but students should be mindful of six-year limit (extendable to seven years upon petition) for enrollment in the graduate school. In the present, highly competitive job market, moreover, candidates must have completed or be very near to completing the dissertation in order to be successful.
Dissertations being submitted in fulfillment of the Ph.D. requirement must be turned in to the Graduate School by the dates specified in the Yale Graduate School Programs and Policies. They are then distributed to the designated readers, whose reports are in turn submitted to the Renaissance Studies Executive Committee and the Graduate School before final approval for the Ph.D.
A formal curriculum can only contribute so much to a student’s professional development, which includes an understanding of, and ability to perform according to, the standards, practices, responsibilities, and current interests of the professional disciplines. Much depends upon the student’s initiative in participating in the activities of the profession outside the classroom. Students are expected at attend guest lecturers and seminars sponsored by the Renaissance Studies Program, but they should also attend, whenever possible, lectures sponsored by the affiliated departments. They should strongly consider joining the Renaissance Society of America as well as the main professional organization in their area of concentration, such as the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, the College Art Association, the American Philological Association, the Society for Reformation Studies, and so forth. Membership in these organizations (which is relatively inexpensive for graduate students) provides subscriptions to the organizations’ journals, access to announcements about conferences, calls for papers, and job openings, and eligibility to to attend the organizations’ annual conferences. Reading the journals, attending conferences, proposing and delivering papers are all part of the professional development that takes place outside the classroom. Students should join the Medieval/Renaissance Colloquium at Yale and participate in its activities. At various times in the history of the Renaissance Studies Program, students have joined together to form reading groups and colloquia. Those who did so would probably say they often learned as much from each other as from their classes. But again, to be successful, such groups depend upon student initiative.
In the job placement process, the candidate’s primary advisors are the Director of Graduate Studies, the dissertation director, and the departmental placement officer in the discipline in which the candidate is seeking placement. Notice of available openings is published by the primary professional organization in each discipline. Each organization also provides guidelines for candidates. Departmental placement officers advise candidates in the preparation of their application materials and sometimes serve as a liaison with the departments seeking suitable candidates. Some Yale departments offer prospective candidates mock interviews and other forms of preparation and support. As at earlier stages in their program, in taking courses, seeking advice, and planning the oral examination and dissertation, students from the Renaissance Studies Program can be expected to be treated on parity with students from the individual departments in their use of placement services.
At present, the procedures for submitting one’s credentials to potential employers is in flux, due to the fact that many colleges and universities are developing their own systems for collecting information from job applicants. Candidates normally maintain a dossier on file with. Interfolio, an online dossier service. The nature of the dossier will vary somewhat from discipline to discipline, but in general it will contain a vita, an official transcript of courses taken, and letters of recommendation (the number of letters varies with disciplines and individuals, but it will normally be a minimum of three, including one by the dissertation director); in some cases it will contain supporting materials describing the dissertation and the candidate’s professional qualifications. At present, many potential employers no longer avail themselves of the letters of recommendation filed with Interfolio, and will instead ask the job candidate to request their letter-writers to submit their recommendations electronically via an internet link set up by the hiring institution. The process of candidature normally begins with a letter of application in response to advertised openings, which is accompanied by whatever supporting information the hiring institution requests. A copy of the dossier may be requested at the time of application or a later stage when the hiring institution has narrowed its fields of candidates. A request for a writing sample or samples, usually taken from the dissertation, is typically the next stage in the process. After this, candidates still of interest to the hiring institution are usually invited to an interview. At present, many institutions carry out brief preliminary interviews by telephone or video connections. Other institutions carry out these preliminary interviews at the annual meetings of the professional organizations between December and February. Finalists will often then be invited for a campus visit, during which they may be expected to present a portion of the dissertation, teach a class, and meet with department members. Job-seekers should keep an eye out for any additional openings, extended searches, or part-time or non-ladder replacement positions that may crop up throughout the winter and spring.
It is impossible to summarize the qualities of a successful candidate, but at the bare minimum they will include the ability to summarize the results of a nearly complete dissertation and to demonstrate its scholarly significance as well as the ability to demonstrate persuasively both professional qualifications (including teaching experience) and personal strengths. The matters discussed under “Professional Development” above are all relevant.