PhD students interested in pursuing a secondary field take four or five graduate courses in a discipline, interdisciplinary area, or intellectually coherent subfield. The program offering the secondary field provides an intellectual rationale and outlines the package of courses required.

See GSAS Policies for information and application instructions

Secondary Fields Offered

Students may pursue secondary fields in:

A secondary field in African and African American Studies allows students to explore a variety of social, cultural, economic, political and historical processes from the perspectives, experiences and intellectual contributions of Africans and their diasporas, particularly in the Americas. The field provides analytical tools and critical understandings for the study of race, racism, inequality, slavery, colonialism and postcolonialism.

Harvard’s American Studies program is devoted to the multidisciplinary study of the culture and history of the U.S., set within a hemispheric and global context. A secondary field may include focus on the interplay of political and economic structures, the formation and transformation of subcultures and identities, and/or the dynamics, of race, class, gender, sexuality, and empire. Recent students taking secondary fields in American Studies have come from English, Music, and the joint program with the Graduate School of Design on Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning; others are welcome.

Archaeology embraces all aspects of the human past through study of its material physical remains. It is a capacious discipline that welcomes, incorporates, and reinforces the approaches of all fields involved in the        study of the past. From the investigation of ritual and sacred spaces to biomolecular research on human health and disease, there are few forms of investigation of the human past that do not find new insights through the application of archaeological approaches. Precisely because of its great interdisciplinarity and the broad spectrum of its potential contributions to advanced research and distinguished teaching, graduate students working in fields as diverse as Classics, History, Chemistry, History of Art and Architecture, Human Evolutionary Biology, after Classics, History, Chemistry, etc. may find it advantageous intellectually and academically to gain serious exposure to the methods and materials of archaeological research. To that end, the Standing Committee has developed a secondary PhD field in Archaeology.

Classics is a field that covers every aspect of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome—language, literature, art, law, and science, to name a few—and the methods employed to conduct research into those civilizations and their heritage. Students in other departments may demonstrate interdisciplinary interests with a secondary field in one of the following programs offered in the department: classical archaeology; classical philology; classical philosophy; Greek and Roman history.

The Department of Comparative Literature offers Comparative Literature as a secondary field in GSAS to enrich the education of PhD students in other departments who seek to do research and teach across the institutional boundaries of national languages and literatures. As faculty members, students specializing in a national literature may be called on to teach comparative courses or courses in general or world literature. The secondary field in Comparative Literature prepares them to do so by introducing them to basic issues in the field. Although the department recognizes that literatures in a single language constitute a coherent tradition, Comparative Literature seeks to develop an awareness of how literary works move across language borders, both in the original language and in translation. The department calls attention to theoretical issues shared not only across the boundaries of languages but also across very different traditions.

Critical Media Practice (CMP) is for Harvard PhD students who wish to work with media in tandem with their written scholarship. The CMP secondary field reflects changing patterns of knowledge production; in particular, it recognizes that knowledge is increasingly incorporated into multi-media configurations in which written language plays only a part. Students are required to take studio art, film, and media production courses, to discuss their work twice a year in CMP-wide critiques, and to produce a capstone project in still or moving images, sound, installation, performance, web-based applications, or other media.

The Graduate Secondary Field in German offers a coherent program of literary and cultural study designed to complement and further a student’s primary course of graduate study. The plan of study is developed in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students enrolled in a GSAS PhD program may earn formal recognition for completing a secondary field in the history of science. Central to the intellectual mission of the department is endeavoring to understand the sciences, technology, and medicine in their historical, cultural, and current contexts. We employ historical as well as sociological, anthropological, and other methodologies to illuminate how knowledge of various kinds has come to be configured as it is today. Our approach is broadly interdisciplinary, explicitly connecting the sciences, social sciences, and humanities—globally and across time periods.

A secondary field in Historical Linguistics presents students with the knowledge of how languages change over time, along with both the general study of language change and the history of specific languages and language families. Students enrolled in this program will become familiar with linguistic theory and the areas traditionally known as 'philology'

The Department of Linguistics offers a secondary field in linguistic theory for PhD students enrolled in other departments at Harvard. Linguistic theory, the core of the modern field of linguistics, seeks to characterize the linguistic knowledge that normal human beings acquire in the course of mastering their native language between the ages of one and five. Studied as an internalized formal system, language is a source of insight into a wide range of human pursuits and abilities, some of them traditionally approached through the humanities, others through the social sciences, and others through the behavioral and natural sciences. The major divisions of linguistic theory are syntax, the study of sentence structure; phonology, the study of sounds and sound systems; morphology, the study of word structure; and semantics; the study of meaning. Courses in these areas regularly draw students from other Harvard departments, especially psychology, philosophy, and other departments associated with the Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative. The secondary field in linguistic theory allows such students to receive official recognition for their linguistics coursework.

The secondary field in Medieval Studies provides students with a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the medieval world, encompassing the history, literature, music, and visual cultures of Europe, the Mediterranean, western and central Asia, and Africa in the millennium from c. 500 to 1600 CE.

Students may complete a secondary field in musicology or ethnomusicology. Students will be able to explore wide-ranging geographies, subjects, and grasp historical and cultural approaches to the study of music.

This secondary field provides grounding in how science and technology interact with and are shaped by their social and political contexts. Through a structured program of study and a capstone experience, students will develop critical analytic skills that will serve a wide range of career plans in academia and in professional fields such as science policy, science communication, and bioethics.