The Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard is the only one of its kind in North America. The department offers training in the languages and traditions of several Celtic languages and aims to provide PhD candidates with a broad knowledge of the field of Celtic studies. The department is committed to interdisciplinary study and encourages PhD students to do coursework outside the department. Many of our students complete secondary fields in other departments or programs. The typical time for completion of the PhD in our department is six years.
Our department is small and shares a strong sense of intellectual community. The annual Harvard Celtic Colloquium, organized by students, is a three-day international conference that brings scholars from all over the world to discuss their research in many different branches of Celtic studies. Our program is also enriched by the contribution of speakers in the Mahindra Humanities Center Seminar on Celtic Literatures and Culture.
Our graduates have gone on to academic careers in North America and abroad and to careers in academic administration, librarianship, independent school teaching, and data analysis, among other fields.
Please review GSAS admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program-specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures.
Typically, applicants will have an academic background, in English, history, classics, Celtic, or medieval studies.
A writing sample is required as part of the application and should be 15 to 20 pages in length. If you have not done formal work in Celtic studies, the writing sample should draw on your work in any field of literary or historical study. Should you wish to submit a writing sample in Irish, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic, please include a sample of writing in English as well.
Statement of Purpose
It is not necessary to identify a precise area of specialization at the time of application, and we certainly do not expect incoming students to have defined their dissertation research topic at that point, but it will be helpful for us to have an idea of the questions and interests that you foresee as being fundamental to your graduate work. Your statement of purpose should also describe your background in Celtic studies, the source of your interest in the field, and your sense of how our department is a suitable environment for pursuing your intellectual and professional goals.
The program requires students to demonstrate the ability to conduct research in medieval Irish and medieval Welsh sources; this is ordinarily acquired through coursework during the course of the PhD program. Students are expected to achieve speaking and listening competence in Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, or Breton. In addition, PhD candidates are required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of Latin and two other languages from among Modern Irish, Modern Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, and German (one of which must be Modern Irish or Modern Welsh). Because of these fairly extensive language requirements, an applicant with a background in one or more of the requisite languages will have an advantage over the applicant with none.