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GISRAM Purpose and Requirements

Questions?  Email Sarah Iles Johnston.


In itself, the study of religion is interdisciplinary. In its most elementary form, it combines the study of a single culture and the study of the specific forms and theories that the academic field of history of religions has developed. Over the last half century, the study of the ancient Mediterranean world has also become increasingly interdisciplinary: the leading scholars who have worked on the single cultures have come to realize that these cultures were interconnected in complex ways and therefore must be studied through an approach that transcends the framework of any single culture or discipline.

The Interdisciplinary Specialization:

  • Facilitates the access of graduate students to this interdisciplinary study of ancient Mediterranean religions, and provides formal recognition of such study on the student's transcript.
  • Aims at training graduate students in an interdisciplinary manner, taking religion as one of the cultural fields where this approach is most necessary.
  • Does not necessarily turn each participant into an historian of ancient religions: rather, it strengthens other fields of research in which the students choose to specialize (history and art history, Greek, Latin, Near Eastern cultures). Upon completion of the specialization, students will be competent to conduct research and teach courses in ancient religions, if they so desire.


The Specialization will be awarded in addition to the master's or doctoral degree conferred by the department in which a given student is formally enrolled. Students thus are expected to fulfill their department's regular doctoral degree requirements.

The student must receive a grade of B or better or S in each course comprising the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization (Graduate School Handbook sect. II.7.9.5, letter b.)

In addition to the regular departmental requirements, a student must enroll in one mandatory and three elective courses (minimally). These four courses together have to add up to a minimum of twelve credit hours (Graduate School Handbook II.7.9.5, letter a).

  • The mandatory course is the methodology course on religion taught as Classics, CLAS 5401 - Methodologies for the Study of Ancient Religions. The student may substitute for this a graduate course in methodology taught by the Department of Comparative Studies, with the GISRAM director's permission.
  • The elective courses should be at the 6000-, 7000- or 8000- or (with permission of the advisor) 5000-level and should address some aspect of ancient Mediterranean religions, and should be offered by one of the participating graduate programs or, after consultation with the student's advisor, by another department. At least one of these seminars should be taken outside of the student's home department.

A list of eligible courses for every semester will be published on the Specialization's Web site. Note that the language requirements of each course will be applicable for Specialization students as they are for graduate students.

Students may compensate for the additional coursework, if necessary, in one of two ways:

  • The student may apply to her or his home department for a reduction of a course from among those required by the home graduate program. If such a reduction is granted by the home department, the student's advisor and the home department's graduate director determine the exact nature of this reduction, in accordance with the student's individual needs. In the Department of Classics, this is now formalized as followed: the expectations for students enrolled in GISRAM are reduced by two seminars in Greek and/or Latin.
  • The student may use the extra course to fulfill an elective requirement within the program of his or her home department.