PhD: Film Studies

The PhD in Film Studies with English as the Associated Department is an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental degree that stresses the history, theory, and aesthetics of international cinema, video, television, and new media. While the student will earn a PhD in Film Studies (granted by the Film Studies Program), he or she will also be a full member of one of six associated departments (in this case, English) and will fulfill its requirements (many of which will overlap with those of Film Studies). English will appear as the official Area of Concentration on the student’s transcript. Thus, the student graduating with a PhD in Film Studies will be doubly qualified: in film studies as well as in a secondary area.

How to Apply

Students apply for the Film Studies PhD with English as the associated department through the Film Studies program. Use the Arts and Sciences web site's ApplyYourself® service. Select "Film Studies-PHD" then choose English as your area of specialization on another pull-down menu.

Contact Film Studies with questions: or 412-624-6564.

The requirements for the degree are below.


During the first three years in the program, students take 13 graduate seminars.

Of those, the required courses are as follows:

  • English:
    • Seminar in Pedagogy
    • Introduction to Graduate Studies (1 cr.)
    • Core courses from two of the departmental programs that are part of the PhD (Composition, Film, and Literature)
  • Film Studies:
    • Film History/Theory I ENGFLM 2451
    • Film History/Theory II ENGFLM 2452
    • 4 Elective Film Studies Courses
    • Film Studies Proseminar ENGFLM 2905 (1 credit and not counted as a seminar)

Of the total six required seminars, the student must take at least two courses taught by a member of the faculty outside of the student’s associated department or listed in such a department. These courses can include the two required core courses.

Language Requirement

PhD candidates must demonstrate significant acquaintance with one or more languages other than English.

Normally this requirement is fulfilled through reading knowledge of two languages, undertaking further study of one language, or by beginning a new language. Language requirements must be fulfilled before a student takes the PhD project examinations, described below.

PhD Project

At the end of the third year, students develop a critical project in Film Studies (e.g., film, television, photography, video, or new media) that functions as the comprehensive examination required to achieve doctoral candidacy. This project defines an area of study sufficiently broad in scope to suggest a range of long-term intellectual goals that build on previous coursework and prepare them for more focused dissertation work. At least one member of a student’s three-member project committee) must be a member of the Film Studies graduate faculty in English (generally, the committee chair). Additionally, more film faculty from English may comprise the student’s two other committee members.

Between the end of the third year and the end of the fall term of the fourth year, students write a 30-page project paper or papers that explore some of the problems and issues laid out in the proposal and developed in the course of their research. The final phase of the PhD project is a written and oral exam, which takes place before the second term of the fourth year. The exam phase of the project builds on the proposal, the bibliography, the Project Forum, and the project paper.

The overarching goals of the PhD project are to prepare students for the broadly informed yet in-depth inquiry required of a dissertation, and to facilitate participation in the critical intellectual activity of Film Studies.

Dissertation Prospectus

After students have passed their project examinations, they will register for Independent Study credits (normally during the spring term of the fourth year in the program) in order to write a prospectus for the dissertation.

The student should choose a dissertation director (a member of the Film Studies graduate faculty in English) and a committee at this time (which entails two additional members from English, and a fourth from the Film Studies graduate faculty in one of five other departments (French, German, Hispanic, History of Art and Architecture, Slavic).

Once a dissertation committee has been formed, the student submits a formal dissertation prospectus to the committee for approval.


Once students have had their dissertation prospectus passed and have been admitted to doctoral candidacy, they should begin the work of researching and writing the dissertation. Normally students will complete the dissertation during the fifth and sixth years in the program. Review Pitt's Graduate Studies web site for more information.


All Film Studies PhD students must teach at least one film-related course during their time at Pitt (Introduction to Film). Actually, students whose associated department is English teach numerous such courses during their course of study (e.g. Seminar in Composition/Film, Introduction to Film, and possibly Film Analysis, World Film History, Introduction to Film Genres, etc.)


PhD students in Film Studies with English as their Associate Department will receive funding through the Department of English. See the funding page for more information.

Competitive Fellowships

There will be one Film Studies Fellowship awarded each year to an advanced student at the dissertation stage. For other opportunities, see the competitive fellowships page.


Students will receive teaching assistantships through their associated department of English, which offers numerous opportunities (after the first year of teaching) to teach courses in Film Studies (e.g., Seminar in Composition/Film, Introduction to Film, and possibly Film Analysis, World Film History, Introduction to Film Genres, etc.).

All Film Studies PhD students must teach at least one film-related course during their time at Pitt (Introduction to Film). Students whose associated department is English routinely teach this class.