Department of Classics to launch new doctorate

Interdisciplinary emphasis on music, theater, history and philosophy

Timothy Moore, PhD (second from right), chair of classics, discusses the exhibition “Picturing Narrative: Greek Mythology in the Visual Arts,” which he curated for the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum this fall. The show remains on view through Jan. 4, 2015. (Credit: Mary Butkus/WUSTL Photo)

A play is not a book. Yet our understanding of ancient Greek and Roman theater is largely shaped by surviving texts. Fundamental questions of stagecraft — of sets and costumes, of how words were delivered and how they were received — remain mysterious.

For contemporary scholars, deciphering the nature of ancient theater, or virtually any aspect of classical Greece and Rome, requires not only deep knowledge and specific skills but also a wide-ranging, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach.

Next fall, the Department of Classics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis will launch a new Doctor of Philosophy in classics. The program builds not only on the department’s nationally recognized Master of Arts but also draws on the resources and expertise of faculty from across Arts & Sciences.

“This is not a generic classics program,” said Timothy Moore, PhD, the John and Penelope Biggs Distinguished Professor and chair of classics. “We have constructed four specialized tracks that take advantage of particular faculty strengths, both within and beyond the classics department.

“In many cases, we have unique resources that no other doctoral program can offer,” Moore said.

Kensington Painter (Greek, Attic, active c.450-420 BC), Stamnos, 460–450 BC. Earthenware, 10 1/8 x 11 3/8 x 8 3/4″. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. Gift of Robert Brookings and Charles Parsons, 1904.

Theater, history, philosophy and music

The four specialized tracks are: ancient performance, ancient history, ancient philosophy and Greek and Roman music.

“In a sense, we’re not starting from scratch,” Moore said of the doctoral program. “The first two years will largely recreate our master’s program, which provides a rigorous grounding in the languages and literature of ancient Greece and Rome.”

But as students advance, they will build on that foundation with additional training in their areas of focus. For example, students in the ancient performance track — led by Moore and Cathy Keane, PhD, associate professor of classics and author of “Figuring Genre in Roman Satire” (2006) — will study dramaturgy and performance theory with faculty in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences.

Similarly, students in the ancient philosophy and ancient history tracks will work not only with classics faculty but also with faculty from the Department of Philosophy in Arts & Sciences and the Department of History in Arts & Sciences.

Students in the Greek and Roman music track will work with Moore — author of “Music in Roman Comedy” (2012) and one of the world’s experts in the field — as well as with faculty in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences.

“To understand Greek and Roman music, one must have an appreciation for music beyond the modern western tradition,” Moore said. “In many ways, it’s more similar to the music of the Middle East. To do good work, students need solid training in classics but also in musicology, ethnomusicology and other disciplines.”

Moore also points out that Washington University boasts some unique physical resources. These include a significant collection of ancient papyri, housed at the Washington University Libraries; and the John Max Wulfing Coin Collection — one of the largest collections of ancient Greek and Roman coins in the United States — which is curated by William Bubelis, PhD, associate professor of classics.

“Classics has been a central part of Washington University from its very beginning,” Moore said. But by drawing on the expertise of other disciplines, “we are able to emphasize subjects and approaches that other classics programs aren’t able to match.”

Deadlines and application

The Department of Classics is currently accepting applications for the 2015-16 academic year. Accepted doctoral students will receive full tuition remission and a substantial stipend for up to six years of study. Deadline for application is Jan. 15, 2015.

For more information, visit, or contact Cathy Keane, director of graduate studies, at