The First Two Years

The First Year

Eight half-courses. Should include at least three 200-level half-courses, two of which must be in early Irish or early Welsh language (unless satisfied elsewhere). The ability to read Latin and either French or German. The ability to read these languages is to be demonstrated as follows:

For Latin, successful completion (B-grade or better) of Harvard Latin Aab; for French, successful completion (B- grade or better) of Harvard French Ax; for German, successful completion (B- grade or better) of Harvard German Ax. An equivalent qualification acquired at Harvard or elsewhere (and approved by the director of graduate studies or Celtic department chair) or a departmental examination may also demonstrate competence in any of the languages noted above.

Note: Any coursework offered in satisfaction of this requirement must normally be taken in addition to the eight half-course requirement. The demonstration of ability to read Latin and either French or German may be postponed until the second year.

A grade of Incomplete, whether in Celtic department courses or in courses in other departments, must be converted into a letter grade before the end of the next registration period, or it will become permanent unless the student has successfully petitioned the GSAS Dean’s office for an extension of time.

Students must make up incomplete grades in required courses before taking the general examination.

The Second Year

Students would normally be expected to take eight half-courses, two of which must be 200-level courses in early Irish or early Welsh, whichever has not been satisfied in the first year or elsewhere. This requirement is exclusive of the Latin, French, and German requirement as noted above. The remaining language requirement, namely the ability to read French or German, is to be demonstrated. Any language requirement deferred from the first year must also be met.

Master of Arts (AM)

Ordinarily, students are not admitted to the department to pursue a terminal AM degree.

For students matriculated in the Celtic department and working toward the PhD, and students matriculated in other departments of GSAS, the minimum requirements for the AM in Celtic are:

  • A minimum of six half-courses in the department, three of which must be introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses in early Irish or early Welsh (or their equivalents) and at least one additional half-course in another Celtic language.
  • Two additional half-courses related to the field of Celtic studies and approved by the department’s director of graduate studies.
  • The ability to read Latin, to be demonstrated by successful completion (B-grade or better) of Harvard Latin Aab (or its equivalent elsewhere) or departmental examination.
  • The ability to read French and/or German, to be demonstrated by successful completion (B- grade or better) of Harvard French Ax and/or German Ax (or equivalent elsewhere) or departmental examination.


Students will normally be eligible for teaching fellowships during their third and fourth years. Students holding the master’s degree may be eligible in their second year.

Students teaching in courses offered by members of the department faculty must participate in the teaching fellows (TF) orientation program at the beginning of the term in which they will teach, as well as attend course lectures and weekly TF meetings with the course head.

Students who are fluent in speaking, reading, and writing one of the modern Celtic languages may be eligible to teach introductory and intermediate courses in that language.

General Examination

The general examination is a two-hour oral examination in the general field of Celtic studies, augmented by the student’s special interests within Celtic or an allied field, normally structured for the purposes of the examination as reading lists of primary and secondary sources in four or five areas.

It is conducted by the student’s committee, normally comprising at least two members of the Celtic department and one additional faculty member.

It is expected that the examination will be taken in the third year of PhD residency, ordinarily in the fall. In exceptional circumstances, it may be taken in the spring of the third year.

In cases of unsatisfactory performance, the student may normally take the examination a second time. A student who does not pass on the second attempt must withdraw from the program. A student who has not passed the general examination by the end of the fourth year must withdraw.


As soon as possible after passing the general examination, and not later than the end of the term following successful completion of the examination, the candidate must identify a dissertation director and submit a prospectus of the proposed dissertation.

Early in the semester following the approval of the prospectus, the candidate, in consultation with the dissertation director, will invite two other readers, one of whom must be a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, to serve as additional readers and to offer guidance as the dissertation progresses. This procedure must have the approval of the chair of the Celtic department.

Two copies of the dissertation must be in the hands of the chair by August 10 for a degree in November, by November 30 for a degree in March, and by March 26 for a degree in May.

The final manuscript of the dissertation must conform to the requirements described in the booklet The Form of the PhD Dissertation, available from the Office of the Registrar or on the website.

Students are encouraged to complete the PhD before the end of the sixth year.

Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation, the candidate will be required to defend it before an audience comprising members of the dissertation committee together with an invited audience of faculty and students. Once the dissertation has been successfully defended, the members of the dissertation committee will sign the dissertation acceptance certificate.

Ad Hoc Degrees

Interested parties should consult the Celtic department’s director of graduate studies and review the GSAS Ad hoc Program requirements described earlier in this handbook.

PhD Secondary Fields

The Celtic Department encourages students who have a background and interest in a subject closely related to the field of Celtic studies (e.g., Classics, Comparative Literature, Historical Linguistics, Medieval Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures) to consider completing a Secondary Field in that area. Please see the list of Secondary Fields in PhD Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs of Study.