MA Program

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program offers a unique opportunity to study the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in a holistic manner. Students are able to structure the degree to fit their interests, whether they specialize in one field or take an interdisciplinary approach. Courses are offered from a wide range of university departments, and examine the medieval and early modern eras in almost any topic or geographic region. The degree is offered with both a full-time and part-time option.

At Columbia University, students will have access to the collections of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Its collection spans more than 4,000 years of history, and includes more than 500,000 printed books and 14 miles of manuscripts and personal papers. They will be able to attend lectures on campus with renowned scholars and guest speakers. As residents of New York, students will have access to exhibits, events, and internship opportunities at institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cloisters, the Morgan Library and Museum, the New York Public Library, the Frick Collection and Reference Library, and the Hispanic Society of America.

The degree is appropriate both for those students who wish only to complete an M.A., and those who wish to apply to Ph.D. programs with proven competence in graduate level work. Students will develop their knowledge of relevant languages, work with medieval manuscripts and incunabula, and complete a range of elective coursework. They will culminate their studies with a thesis that will be suitable for publication in an academic journal.

Program Structure

The four central elements of the program are:

  1. Language study tailored to the students’ needs and interests;
  2. Coursework in which students work with original manuscripts, documents, or early printed books;
  3. An original research project to be presented as an MA thesis;
  4. Elective coursework in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, to be chosen from a list approved by the Director each semester.
  • Students must complete two full Residence Units AND 30 points (credits) of the following coursework:
    1. Two semesters of a language relevant to the study of the medieval and/or Renaissance period at the 4000 level or higher, appropriate for the student’s particular needs and interests. The two semesters should be taken consecutively.
    2. One course with a focus on the study of original manuscripts, documents, or early printed books. Confirm eligible courses with the Program Director.
    3. At least four elective courses at the 4000 level or higher, selected from a list established each year by the Director of the MA program. One of these courses must fulfill the manuscript/book culture requirement (above, 3).
    4. MA Thesis I and II, and the completion of a thesis in keeping with the requirements below. The course is pursued as an independent study with an advisor or advisors.
  • Students must attend at least two of the extracurricular manuscript/printed book workshops, to be organized each semester by the Program Coordinator, during the course of their program.
  • Courses may be taken for R-credit or Pass/Fail, but these courses do not count toward the degree.
  • Students must maintain a 3.3. GPA each semester to remain in good standing.
  • No advanced standing or transfer credit is granted for courses taken outside of Columbia University.
  • All courses must be at the 4000 level and above.
  • Students must be continuously enrolled. If students must interrupt their studies for a compelling reason, such as a medical condition or personal matter requiring an extended absence from campus, they will be exempted from this requirement upon completing the paperwork for an official Leave of Absence.

Currently enrolled MA Students should complete the Degree Progress Form and submit it to the Program Coordinator at the beginning of each semester. The DPF is used by both program staff and students as a planning aid and analysis of the students' progress toward degree. The form is meant to be used as an advisement. The Program Director is the final authority on whether all degree requirements have been met.

Full-Time Enrollment
Matriculate: Fall 2023
Degree Conferral: October 2024

Students may need to take an additional elective in the Fall term to achieve 30 points total. It is recommended that students take no fewer than 14 points in the first term to evenly distribute the degree requirements.

Part Time Enrollment
Matriculate: Fall 2023
Degree Conferral: May 2025

Students may need to take an additional elective (in any term) in order to achieve 30 points total.


a. The required thesis for the MA in Medieval and Renaissance studies is an original work of scholarship based on independent research carried out under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Students should start thinking about a possible topic and begin discussions with possible faculty supervisors as early as possible in the program, although students do not need to settle on a subject immediately. An early start is especially important for students planning to complete the degree in twelve months.

b. Students writing a thesis register for two terms of the MA Thesis Course (GR6999) as part of the requirements for the degree. Students must identify a supervisor, who will work with them over both semesters. In the first semester the student prepares a formal thesis proposal with the guidance of their supervisor. In the second semester the student writes the thesis itself. A grade of YC (year credit) is assigned after the first semester of the thesis; the grade will be changed to a letter grade retroactively (matching the final grade for thesis) once the entire thesis has been submitted and evaluated at end of the second semester.

c. The scope of the thesis should approximate a substantial article for a scholarly journal. The length of the thesis should be in the range of 40–50 pages / 10,000–15,000 words including footnotes. A total length of 50 pages / 15,000 words should be considered a maximum, not to be exceeded without permission from the supervisor of the thesis. 

a. Students are responsible for finding their own faculty thesis supervisors, although the Director of the MA Program will assist students in this process. Theses also have “second readers” for evaluation purposes. A thesis may have co-supervisors, although for administrative purposes one of these must be designated as the primary supervisor with the other serving as the second reader. If a student does not identify co-supervisors, the Director of the MA Program will appoint a second reader for the thesis.

b. The primary supervisor must be current a Columbia/Barnard faculty member of a relevant department and must hold a Ph.D. or other comparable degree; these requirements do not apply to second readers. Most academic department websites list faculty profiles and research concentrations. Students are encouraged to review faculty information to identify possible supervisors and contact faculty early to discuss possible thesis topics.

c. Supervisors are expected to help the student formulate a topic and set of questions, guide the student through relevant literature, establish a work schedule for the project, and at a minimum provide written feedback on a complete draft in advance of final submission (although they are encouraged to provide such feedback at earlier stages, as well). Second readers are expected only to provide a written evaluation of the final thesis and confer with the supervisor to determine a grade, although they are also welcome to provide feedback at earlier stages in the process. 

a. Students must submit a written proposal and a Thesis Proposal Form to the faculty supervisor(s). By signing the form, supervisor(s) indicate that the proposed thesis is appropriate, of a manageable size, and likely to be completed within a further semester. Students should then deliver both the proposal and completed and signed form to the Program Coordinator.

b. The proposal should include a statement of no more than 5 pages (1,500 words) describing: 1) the question(s) to be investigated; 2) the sources to be employed; and 3) the methodology, or approach to be taken to the analysis of the sources so as to generate answers to the question(s) being investigated. The proposal should also include a bibliography of no more than 25 items, divided between primary and secondary sources, demonstrating familiarity with both the appropriate editions of sources to be used and the major scholarly interventions on the topic.

c. The Director of the MA Program will review and confirm all Thesis Proposal Forms.

d. Proposal deadlines are below. Deadlines are at 2:00 PM. If any of the deadlines fall on a weekend, the Friday immediately preceding shall be considered the deadline. 

a. Students should confirm their schedule with the Program Coordinator, especially if they are not planning to take the two semesters of the thesis course consecutively (as may be the case with part-time students).

b. While the thesis course is an independent study, if there are a sufficient number of students writing a thesis in any given term, the director may organize a thesis workshop, if appropriate.

c. Students and their supervisors should determine a schedule for the submission of preliminary drafts over the course of the semester. A complete draft should be submitted at a minimum two weeks before the deadline for submission of the final thesis to allow time for final supervisor comments and student revisions. Supervisors are expected to return the complete draft, with comments, to the student within a week of receipt. 

a. By the submission deadline, students must submit a copy of the final version of the thesis to the primary supervisor and the second reader in whatever format (electronic or physical) the readers prefer, and an electronic copy (.pdf) to the Program Coordinator. The student must also submit a copy of the Thesis Evaluation Form to the primary supervisor.

b. The supervisor and second reader are expected to confer and agree on a grade, and to return the Thesis Evaluation Form to the Program Coordinator by the relevant deadline. The primary supervisor is responsible for submitting the signed and graded form to the Program Coordinator. Students cannot submit their own evaluation forms; an evaluation form submitted by a student will not be accepted.

c. Evaluation of the thesis is solely in the hands of the primary supervisor and the second reader, who must reach consensus on a grade. Students must receive at least a C to pass the thesis and to be recommended for the degree.

d. If the thesis is deemed to require major revisions that make it ineligible for a passing grade, the student is given a grade of incomplete (IN). The primary supervisor should deliver the Thesis Evaluation Form along with a description of the revisions required to the Program Coordinator and the Director of the MA Program. The primary supervisor should also communicate clearly to the student, in writing (copying the Program Coordinator and the Director of the MA Program), the nature of the revisions requested. Students have one year to complete the work in order to receive a letter grade. The student must submit the revised thesis, along with a new Thesis Evaluation Form, within one year of the original date of submission to the primary supervisor, who will in consultation with the second reader, determine a final grade and submit a revised Thesis Evaluation Form.

e. Students receiving grades of D or F on the revised thesis will not be recommended for the degree or permitted to revise the original thesis. Students may, however, submit for consideration a new thesis proposal.

f. If the primary supervisor and the second reader cannot agree on a grade, they should consult with the Director of the MA Program, who will make a final determination.

g. Deadlines are below. Deadlines are at 2:00 PM. If any of the deadlines fall on a weekend, the Friday immediately preceding shall be considered the deadline.