The Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies draws on Berkeley’s exceptional faculty strength in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. It offers comprehensive training in a wide range of departments and disciplines. Students combine seminar work in intellectual and cultural history, material culture, and languages to supplement their traditional doctoral studies. The DE fosters cutting-edge research and close collaboration with faculty.

Application Process

Students are invited to apply for admission to the DE as early as the end of their first semester of graduate study at Berkeley if they have taken a course from someone in REMS and have a recommendation from that person.  Per Graduate Division policy, to qualify for the Designated Emphasis, students must have on the Qualifying Examination committee a representative of the DE and must be examined in that area of study. Students are consequently required to be admitted to the DE before taking the Qualifying Examination. The application consists of an application form (which can be downloaded from this site), a brief (two-page single-spaced) essay stating the student’s rationale for applying, any relevant coursework or other preparation for the DE, and the student’s projected pathway through the program; a writing sample (no more than 20 pages); and the name and email address of a UCB faculty member who knows your work well and will support your application to the DE. The admission deadlines are November 1 and April 1. Download REMS application.


The required course of study consists of five courses: two required “core” courses offered by the DE, and three approved electives, one of which may be used to satisfy the DE’s language requirement. The first of the core courses is “Critical Approaches and Methodology.” This course engages with diverse disciplines, interpretive traditions, bibliographical resources, and scholarly practices (such as paleography, iconology, history of the book, and philology) in order to provide students with essential intellectual tools for graduate-level interdisciplinary research in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. The second core course (although it may be taken first) is “Intellectual History.” This course focuses on major texts, artists, authors, and themes (such as humanism, the Reformation, the Baroque, Machiavellianism, courtliness, and colonialism) that provide crucial intellectual contexts for interdisciplinary research in the field.  These two core requirements might also be fulfilled by other courses offered through the D.E. depending on approval by Head Graduate Adviser. The three electives will be chosen in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser. At least one of these electives must be taken outside the student’s home department. This breadth requirement cannot be satisfied by a course that also fulfills the language requirement.  Students should take into consideration that the D.E. strongly encourages them to take courses outside their home department. The language requirement may be satisfied by an upper-division course in a language outside the student’s department, as approved by the Head Graduate Adviser. Students must demonstrate that the chosen language will be essential to their dissertation projects. For many students, this language will be Latin, the lingua franca of the early modern and Renaissance world. However, the language might also be Italian, or Dutch, or Classical Arabic, if the student’s dissertation project requires it. The language requirement may also be satisfied by previous coursework or by a translation exam, as approved by the Head Graduate Adviser.


The QE must include examination in an interdisciplinary field of knowledge within the DE; students must receive written approval of the field from the Head Graduate Adviser before taking the QE. At least one faculty member affiliated with the DE must participate in the QE. Satisfactory performance on the QE will be judged according to the established procedures of the student’s home department.


The dissertation must include research in an interdisciplinary field of knowledge within the DE. This research may take several forms, which will vary from student to student: for instance, students might analyze texts that are outside the normal purview of their home departments, or they might apply interdisciplinary knowledge that has been obtained through study within the DE. The dissertation committee must include at least one faculty member affiliated with the DE, and the committee should be formed in consultation with the Head Graduate Adviser.


The DE will be acknowledged solely in conjunction with the Ph.D. in an established Ph.D. program and will be signified by the transcript and diploma designation, “Ph.D. in __________________ with a Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.”

Contact Information

Director of the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies:
Diego Pirillo, Italian (

Head Graduate Advisor:
Kristin Primus, Philosophy (

Graduate Student Services Advisor:
April Sanders, English (