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Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. in Performance Studies at NYU is an intensive, highly competitive five-year program that trains students to conduct advanced research and scholarship.

The first of its kind (and still one of a very few) as a stand-alone doctoral program in performance studies, NYU Performance Studies was ranked #1 by the National Research Council in its survey of doctoral programs in theater and performance studies.  Many of our graduates have gone on to academic positions in leading research institutions worldwide, publish award-winning books and articles, and shape the future of the field. 

We accept 4 students per year, all of whom receive intensive and highly individualized mentoring and training, as well as 5 years of tuition/fee remission, health insurance, and a stipend.  

The M.A. and Ph.D. Programs in Performance Studies are administered by the Tisch School of the Arts and degrees are conferred by the Graduate School of Arts and Science at NYU.

Degree Requirements

Doctoral students must complete 70 points of coursework with a “B” grade or better, pass their comprehensive examinations, and write and successfully defend a scholarly dissertation.  Students who have an M.A. (from this department or elsewhere) may transfer up to 34 points from that degree upon approval by the Chair and the TSOA Director of Graduate Admissions.  All applications for credit transfers must be made no later than during the student’s first semester in Performance Studies.

There are three required courses for the Ph.D. for (12 total points) (see below for descriptions) and the remainder 24 points are selected from the department (or other department- and advisor-approved) seminars.

Doctoral students may participate in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium consisting of NYU, Columbia University, The New School, Fordham, CUNY Graduate Center, and Princeton.  The number of courses taken outside of the department that are applicable to the Ph.D. is limited and subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the student’s advisor.

Required Ph.D. Courses

Advanced Readings in Performance Studies

(PERF-GT 2201)

Readings are balanced between foundational texts in the field of performance studies as well as new interventions that propel the discourse forward.  Readings examine the performance studies project’s intersections with different lines of thought that include anthropology, philosophy, feminism, critical race theory, legal theory, Marxism, and queer critique.  Students are expected to assemble an annotated bibliography on some aspect of the field as well as writing a final research paper.  This course is offered every other year alternating with Methods in Performance Studies.

Methods in Performance Studies

(PERF-GT 2616)

The development of performance studies methodologies based on interdisciplinary research paradigms (movement analysis, ethnomusicology, ethnography, history, oral history, orature, visual studies, among others) and the close reading and analysis of exemplary studies.  Considers the conceptualization and design of research projects in the context of theoretical and ethnical issues and in relation to particular research methods and writing strategies.  Develops practical skills related to archival and library research; ethnographic approaches, including participant observation and interviewing; documentation and analysis of live performance; and analysis of documents of various kinds, including visual material.  Assignments include weekly readings, written responses to the readings, and in-class exercises.  This course is offered every other year alternating with Advanced Readings in Performance Studies.

Dissertation Proposal Advising

(PERF-GT 2301)

A workshop focusing on students’ preparation of their dissertation proposals for commitee appraisal at the end of that semester.

Other Requirements

Foreign Language Requirement

The department requires that all candidates for the doctorate demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language integral to their academic research. Proficiency in the department is only fulfilled by one of the following ways: 1) taking and passing a Foreign Language Exam administered by GSAS, or 2) taking a department approved foreign language course and receiving a B or higher on the final exam and course, or 3) showing documentation that they have met the language requirement in another graduate degree program not more than two years prior to matriculation.

International students can submit a Non-English Native Language Waiver to the department during their first year for an exemption to the FLP requirement. 

Comprehensive Examinations

Following completion of coursework and prior to enrolling in Dissertation Proposal Advising (PERF-GT 2301) doctoral students must pass 3 comprehensive written examinations with a committee comprised of 3 members of the Performance Studies core faculty.

Other Coursework

Ph.D. students in Performance Studies are permitted to take 3 courses outside the department subject to approval by the Department Chair and their dissertation advisor.  Incoming students are not permitted to take a course outside the department in their first semester in the program.   Ph.D. students may take Performance Composition (PERF-GT 2730) once for degree credit if approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the their dissertation advisor; Ph.D. students may petition to take that course a second time for degree credit where deemed relevant/necessary for their doctoral research, as determined by the Department chair and dissertation advisor.

Defense of the Dissertation

The dissertation must be submitted to the faculty readers at least one month ahead of the defense. Please consult the department for specific deadlines. The Graduate School of Arts and Science must approve any reader who is not a member of the New York University GSAS faculty in advance. All five members of the dissertation committee must be present when the student publicly defends the dissertation.

Publication of the Doctor’s Dissertation: Each candidate, prior to the recommendation for the degree, guarantees publication of his or her dissertation through University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Instructions for preparing dissertations for electronic submission are available at the Graduate School of Arts and Science, Office of Student Affairs and Academic Services, One-Half Fifth Avenue. The completed dissertation is submitted directly to GSAS Office of Student Affairs and Academic Services, and Ph.D. students are responsible for communicating directly with this office regarding requirements and deadlines. The Department of Performance Studies will schedule the student’s dissertation defense and requires a copy of the final dissertation, formatted following GSAS guidelines, submitted for the department’s archive.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS (Fall 2005-Fall 2016)

Doctoral students must complete 72 points of coursework with a “B” grade or better, pass their comprehensive examinations, and write and successfully defend a scholarly dissertation.  Students who have an M.A. (from this department or elsewhere) may transfer up to 36 points from that degree upon approval by the Chair and the TSOA Director of Graduate Admissions.  All applications for credit transfers must be made no later than during the student’s first semester in Performance Studies.

Requirements (pre-Fall 2004 matriculation)

Students who began the Ph.D. program in Performance Studies prior to Fall 2004 must complete 80 points of approved coursework with a grade of “B” or better.  Students who earned an M.A. prior to entering the Ph.D. program may be allowed to transfer up to 36 points from that degree (up to 44 points if the M.A. was from NYU Performance Studies). Please note: the maximum time to degree for doctoral students in GSAS is 10 years; for students who have exceeded that time limit you may not be permitted to complete your remaining requirements.  Please contact the department as soon as possible for more information.

"This department is a really exciting place to work. The students and faculty are so inventive in their pursuit of rigorous thought and expressive possibilities, their boldness, and the de-territorialization they undertake of the disciplines that influence the field. If there is a future, Performance Studies is a part of it. "

— Malik Gaines, Assistant Professor