Subfields

Designing a Subfield 

History & Literature concentrators may design their own subfields, which serve to redefine the boundaries of a field of study along geographic, temporal, thematic, or methodological lines. A subfield will consist of 2 or 3 courses that would not otherwise count toward the student's declared field of study. Courses for the subfield will ordinarily take the place of electives, though students are welcome to make the case for the use of subfield courses to satisfy their distribution requirements in the field. Students will be examined on their subfield during the senior oral exam, with at least one topic addressing the subfield.

Once a subfield is proposed and approved, all courses contained within that subfield proposal are also approved and will count towards concentration credit (when completed). The subfield approval is binding, so students must consider carefully their commitment to the subfield before moving ahead with the proposal. Because the College allows only one course to double-count for concentration credit and a secondary field in the College, the subfield cannot duplicate a secondary field that the student is pursuing outside their work in the concentration. Ideally, subfields should inform a major research project, such as the junior essay or senior thesis. Students develop subfield proposals in consultation with their tutors and other faculty as appropriate.

Proposing a Subfield

History & Literature concentrators may propose subfields at the start of one of three semesters: junior fall, junior spring, or senior fall. Students who study abroad and plan to use their coursework abroad as part of a subfield are encouraged not to propose the subfield until their return.

In their proposal, students will list the courses they will take (or have taken) for their subfield and will write approximately 300 words defining their subfield. In those 300 words, students must explain why they are interested in the subfield, establish its intellectual coherence, and discuss how it relates to their field of study. They must also make a case why the intellectual interests that the subfield explores cannot be met by coursework within the student’s field of study. Students will also submit a field worksheet with their subfield proposal to demonstrate how the subfield will fit into their work in the field.

Subfield Proposals are due at the same time as petitions, usually in the first week of classes. Check our Calendar for the specific deadline. In some cases, students may be encouraged to revise and resubmit the proposal. In the event that a course proposed for an approved subfield is no longer offered, or if a more appropriate course appears in the future, students in subsequent semesters may use the petition process to make changes to an approved subfield.