Purpose of the MA degree: both a broad knowledge of world art and a basic sampling of the diverse theory and methods employed by our faculty in the discipline of art history.

The Master’s program in art history is designed to be completed in four semesters.


Total of 12 courses, 36 credits.

3 required courses: Advanced Readings: Methods (ARTH 850) in the first semester; Thesis Writing Seminar (ARTH 992) and Masters Thesis (ARTH 993) in the fourth semester.

9 courses of which 5 should be graduate seminars (900 level).

In order to develop a breadth of knowledge, both in terms of content and method, students must take at least 2 courses whose topics cover the time period before 1700 C.E. and two covering the period after 1700 C.E. Additionally, students must take courses with 5 different members of the graduate faculty.

Graduate Courses:

Students are advised to audit 2 survey courses over the course of their first two semesters in order to develop some breadth of knowledge.


As the MA program emphasizes and facilitates breadth of art-historical knowledge, MA students should not register for a reading course in lieu of a regularly scheduled class to fulfill a program requirement.  Occasionally, however, an MA student may have a compelling academic reason to substitute a reading course for a program requirement.  In such a case, the student and his/her assigned faculty advisor may petition, in writing, the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to make the substitution.

Language Requirement

By the end of the third semester, all M.A. students are required to have met the language requirement of one language, other than English, appropriate to the area of study. The language will be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the graduate committee. The student can demonstrate competency by obtaining a passing grade on the UNC-CH Foreign Language Proficiency Exam (FLPE), offered for German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and French.

Foreign Language Proficiency Assessment: The Graduate School administers Foreign Language Proficiency Assessments for enrolled, degree-seeking graduate students who have a foreign language proficiency requirement as part of their degree program. The assessments are offered as an alternative to coursework (601/602 language courses) for those students who have proficiency in a language but may not have a documented means of showing it.The assessments are reading proficiency exams equivalent to a final exam in a 602 course. Principally, the exams include the translation of a prescribed general interest text and a section focused on reading comprehension skills.

Registration information for the Spring 2018 FLPE available here.

Alternatively, the language requirement may be fulfilled by earning a “B” (or a graduate “P”) or better in a fourth semester or higher language course, or by earning a “B” (or graduate “P”) in a literature course in that language at UNC-CH. Graduate-level reading courses are also possibilities for fulfilling this requirement. These are offered at UNC with increasingly less frequency, so students are encouraged to consider the language proficiency exam as their primary means by which to meet this requirement. A German reading course is offered through Duke every fall (501); French 602x is offered at UNC but not on a yearly basis.

Students may petition to fulfill the language requirement through graduate-level reading courses taken at other institutions by submitting a request, final transcript, and supporting course materials to the DGS.

Note: No credit toward the MA coursework requirements is given for language courses

Master’s Exam

The MA exam, taken just before or during the first full week of the student’s third semester, is composed of questions drawn from all graduate-level courses and seminars offered in the department between the time of the exam and the time the examinees entered into graduate coursework.  Typically questions are drawn from courses and seminars taught in the previous academic year, but questions can be drawn from earlier courses and seminars if a student among the examinees was enrolled as a graduate student in those courses or seminars.  There will not be questions drawn from courses taken in other departments or at other institutions nor will questions be drawn from the Methods course.

There will be a minimum of six questions on the exam and students will choose to answer two of them.  Questions will relate to the material in courses and seminars, and responses will be in essay form.  Questions may or may not include specific images to be discussed or compared; questions may or may not include powerpoint slides that illustrate specific images.  Essays should address the art historical issues raised by the question and, whenever possible, should discuss relevant bibliography.

Four hours will be allotted to the MA exam, which will be taken on the student’s laptop computer.  At the conclusion of the four hours, students will have an additional 15 minutes to proofread and to submit their questions electronically to the designated office staff member who will collect and circulate them to the faculty.

The length of the essays will vary according to the question, but typically students produce four double-spaced pages.  Students should, however, be advised to apportion the time allotted for the exam so that both questions are answered adequately.

Essays will be graded:  H, H-, P+, P, P-, L and F

The entire exam will be graded Pass/Fail

Students may consult the comments of the faculty, which will be available from the DGS or from the Student Services Administrator.

Master’s Thesis

The MA Thesis is completed by the end of the fourth semester of enrollment. Details on the Master’s Thesis Committee composition and thesis procedures can be found here. The completed Thesis must be signed by the members of the Thesis Committee and submitted to the Graduate School in time for May graduation.

Preparing to Write the Thesis: Advance Timeline

The MA thesis should be a well researched, well organized and well-written essay of about 25- 40 pages. Students may find it helpful to consult previous theses (information on locating UNC theses and dissertations can be found here). The topic of the thesis should be geared to an essay of that length which the student can complete in the course of one semester. It is helpful if the thesis is based on work the student has begun in a graduate seminar.

While not required, keeping the following general timetable in mind will ensure students are  adequately prepared for the intensive MA Thesis Writing Seminar:

Year 1 – Spring Semester

April-Research Questions/Abstract

May-Bibliography of sources


June-Begin reading through bibliography, including annotating sources, outlining literature review (continue reading through Summer and Fall 2017)

July-Initiate necessary connections/interviews (sooner if possible)

Year 2 – Fall Semester

Aug/Sept-Research visits, interviews (if applicable)

October-Complete bulk of research.

November -Complete Prospectus, including thesis statement, outline of arguments and evidence, and literature overview

December-Draft of introduction