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Medieval Art History Graduate Programs

Jan 25, 2019

Prospective students of medieval art history graduate programs may want to learn more about these programs before committing themselves to several years of study. In this article, students can learn some key information about the coursework and admission requirements.

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Individuals who are interested in studying medieval art history at the graduate level have a few options to choose from. This article will briefly provide information about these options, as well as more generalized information about commonly required courses and admissions standards.

Information About Graduate Programs in Medieval Art History

Medieval art history programs are typically not offered as standalone master's degree or Ph.D. programs. Instead, this field is often available as a concentration or specialization area of study within a broader art history program. Students who enroll in these programs can expect to take one to two years of coursework, both in medieval art history and more general art history-oriented courses, and pursue independent research towards a doctoral dissertation or master's thesis, if they are in a thesis-track Master of Arts (M.A.) program. Below, we will learn about five courses that may be a component of a medieval art history program's curriculum.

Introduction to Medieval Art

Students in graduate programs in medieval art history may take an introductory course near the beginning of the program. This course will provide them with a survey of the different types of artwork that were produced during the medieval period, as well as a survey of the different civilizations where this artwork was produced. The course will likely cover artwork produced both in the Mediterranean region as well as in more western parts of Europe. Students will explore themes of medieval art, including religious imagery, life and death, and politics.

Early Medieval Art

It is also common that students will take a course that focuses on artwork produced during a more specific time period within the medieval period, like early medieval artwork. In such a course, students will likely study the time period from the end of the rule of the Romans until the Late Byzantine Empire. Students will gain insight into how the Christian tradition influenced artwork of this time period.

Art Theory

Given that many medieval art history programs require that students take additional art-related coursework, these programs may offer a course that focuses on some aspect of art theory. Theory-based courses may explore theory in a broader context, asking students to think about the role that theory plays in the art world and the field of art history today and how these ideas have changed over times. Some theory-based courses may focus on a particular type of theory, like critical theory and its various sub-theories, as well as the pioneering critics who wrote about these ideas to make them available for the public.

Methods in Art History

While the titles of these courses may vary, students in medieval art history programs will likely be required to take at least one course that focuses on methods that have been used over the decades and centuries in the field of art history to analyze, interpret, and critique art. In order to understand current methodology, students will likely be required to complete different readings about the development of the methods used in the field of art history by some of the notable figures. Some methods that may be discussed include iconography, biography, and post-colonialism.

Seminar or Topics in Medieval Art

Graduate programs in medieval art history will often require that students attend rotating seminar courses or topical courses in medieval art in which the subject changes from session to session or depending on the year. The description of such a course would obviously change depending on the subject at hand, but some possible seminar topics may include a discussion on common methodologies that are primarily used in medieval art critique, as well as common problems encountered in this field. Other topics may include a discussion on how various parts of the world were connected during the medieval period and the resulting cultural exchange that took place, or an overview of the significance of religious relics during the medieval times.

Admissions Standards for Graduate Programs in Medieval Art History

Students who apply to medieval art history graduate programs are typically expected to have at least some background in art history during their undergraduate studies. This can be proven by having obtained a bachelor's degree in art history or a related field, or by having taken a number of art history courses while an undergraduate student. When applying to these programs, students will need to submit a complete application file. This entails an application form, letters of recommendation, all past undergraduate and graduate transcripts, a resume or CV, a personal statement, and results from the GRE. In addition, some programs may require you to submit an academic writing sample.

To summarize, students can study the field of medieval art history at the graduate level by finding general art history graduate programs that offer concentrations in this subfield. Both master's degree and Ph.D. programs are offered with a focus on medieval art history.

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