April 2,1998

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PhD in Humanities: The crossover degree

by Phil Moscovitch

Concordia's PhD in Humanities is about to celebrate 25 years of interdisciplinary studies in society and culture.

The program will hold a special 25th anniversary colloquium next fall. All Humanities graduates are being invited to the event, which will take place during Homecoming, September 24 to 26.

Not housed within any of the University's departments, the PhD in Humanities is a flexible, creative, and truly interdisciplinary program. Students choose one major field of study (from the humanities, social sciences or fine arts) and two minor disciplines, and they can work with advisors not only from Concordia, but from other Montreal universities as well.

Program Director Sherry Simon said students attracted to the program tend to be self-directed and mature: "Our student is autonomous and is someone who has a burning desire to investigate a topic which is at the boundary of several disciplines."

PhD in Humanities students are nothing if not diverse. They include, for example, Grayson Cooke's explorations of the blurry line between human and machine; artist Katja Macleod's reflective work on Jewish and Gentile survivors of the Third Reich (her family includes both); Trevor Gould's art and research on the colonial pillaging of Africa by Europeans for their own amusement; and Craig Morrison's work on the history of rock 'n' roll.

Morrison, a guitarist and expert on rock music, is using '60s West Coast rock to develop a model for how musical styles evolve. He entered the PhD in Humanities program after 11 years as an independent scholar.

"I was looking at music programs and I didn't see anything I wanted. I was always fascinated by the social context around music, and a pure music program wouldn't offer an opportunity to study that," he said. "I think it's an excellent program; it's custom-fit."

Cooke, who came to Concordia from his native New Zealand after discovering the work of Political Science Professor Arthur Kroker, is perhaps typical of the program in that his interests are so broad. He's a drummer, a photographer, and a scholar who freely admits he wants "to keep moving on. I don't know if I'm going to stay within academia." Later this month, he travels to Canterbury to present a paper at an interdisciplinary conference on "ideas of the impossible."

Because the program attracts unique students with unique interests, it tends to produce theses that are out of the ordinary. When asked if Humanities has developed a somewhat flaky reputation, Simon said, "The short answer is no. Most of the theses are unusual, but they're not far out. If there is a difficulty," she added, "it's marketing an interdisciplinary degree within a university that's disciplinary."

"I think it's a great program," said Professor Rosemary Hale, Associate Dean, Appraisals and Interdisciplinary Studies at the School of Graduate Studies, and Director of Concordia's other interdisciplinary graduate program, the Special Individualized Program.

"People are hot on interdisciplinary degrees, and there are precious few of them in Canada. The PhD in Humanities is a very good one, and it is an important and integral part of the School of Graduate Studies."

This year, the deadline to apply for fall entry into the PhD in Humanities program has been extended to April 15. For an application form, or for more information, please call 848-2095.

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