Learning the field of Political Theory requires successful completion of a number of substantive courses as well as significant additional reading outside of these courses. Under ordinary circumstances, students majoring in Political Theory should complete at least four courses in the field during their first four semesters; students minoring in the field should complete at least three courses during this time. Students will then sit for their Qualifying Exams in the August following their second year in the program.

Students who are pursuing advanced language training that is pertinent to their field of study may request modifications of this schedule. Changes for this or any other reason must be approved in writing by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Course Work

Recent courses in Political Theory include: 

  • PSC 600: Citizenship – Theory, Law, and Practice
  • PSC 700: Classical Social Theory
  • PSC 700: Ethics in International Relations
  • PSC 716: Foundations of American Political Thought
  • PSC 795: Gramsci & Cultural Marxism
  • PSC 797: Contemporary Normative Theory
  • PSC 800: Democratic Theory
  • PSC 800: Global Justice
  • PHI 575: Philosophy of Social Science
  • PHI 687: Contemporary Epistemology
  • PHI 693: Moral Philosophy
  • PHI 750: Feminist Epistemologies 

Qualifying Examinations

Two faculty members in each field coordinate the written examination by contributing questions themselves and soliciting questions from other faculty. Faculty in other departments may be asked for questions if a student has listed their course(s) as relevant to either of their major or minor field concentrations. All relevant faculty will receive a copy of students’ answers and are encouraged to submit written comments. Students take the written exams over two days in one week. The exams are taken in a department-specified computer lab and is closed note/book (no books, computer files, internet, etc.) except for one note sheet.

For Political Theory, major students will answer two general questions and one specific question. Minor students will answer one general and one specific question. There is no reading list. 

Following the written exam is the oral exam – which includes field coordinators from students’ major and minor fields as well as a student-selected chair. Oral exams are generally scheduled within 30 days of students’ completion of both written exams and typically last 2 hours. Upon completion of the oral exam, the advisor will notify the Graduate Director in writing that the student has passed with distinction, passed, or failed. In the latter case, the student may retake the exam during the following semester. This option may only be exercised once. Students attain ABD (All But Dissertation) status after passing their qualifying exams, completing all coursework, and defending their dissertation proposal.

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