Ph. D. Degree in Romance Languages and Literatures

The Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) is a doctorate in three Romance languages and literatures taught in the Departments of French, Italian Studies, and Spanish & Portuguese, prepared with emphasis in one of the languages (hereafter referred to as the “Primary” language).  While RLL is an independent program, students are normally affiliated with the department of their Primary language, hereafter referred to as the “Host” department.  Students may opt for either the Literature track or the Linguistics track.

The mission of the RLL program is:

• To take a multilingual approach to language and literature.
• To combine literary and philological/linguistic study.
• To offer flexibility in the design of students’ programs: the unity of a common heritage and common evolution of the Romance family allows diversity in topics and approaches.
• To train Romance scholars of linguistics, literature and culture who can take jobs in Romance language departments, single language departments, or Linguistics departments.

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General Requirements
Foreign Language Requirements
Core Courses
Progress Review
Qualifying Examination
Academic Progress
Progress Schedule

Overview of Course of Study

Students present a combination of courses and personal study to satisfy the requirements of the particular track to which they have been admitted. Although there are some explicit requirements (see below), there is no minimum number of courses required to sit for the Qualifying Examination. Instead, each student’s precise course of study is developed in close consultation with the Head Graduate Advisor of his/her Host department (or with the faculty member designated by the Host department as Graduate Advisor for RLL students).  As outlined below, each student is officially tracked through the program up to the Qualifying Examination by the Executive Committee, which meets with each student in a Screening Interview (first semester) and a Progress Review (fifth semester); as part of the Progress Review, a preliminary time-line is set up for Qualifying Examination planning, including preparation of reading lists and constitution of an Examination Committee.

In the Literature track, students will gain a detailed knowledge of the literature of their Primary language. They will also develop a familiarity with two other Romance literatures sufficient to allow them to do the focused comparative work necessary for the preparation of the Qualifying Examination. Moreover, students will develop both historical and practical expertise in both Latin and in the three Romance languages.

In the Linguistics track, students will gain in-depth knowledge of the structure and history (internal and external) of their Primary language. They will also develop expertise in the linguistics of two other Romance languages and specialize in an area of general or applied linguistics. This, together with some basic training in Latin, will prepare them for the comparative Romance linguistic work that is required for the Qualifying Examination.

General Requirements and Study Program (both tracks)

1.  Screening Interview. The RLL Executive Committee will meet with students early in their first semester of enrollment to evaluate their previous preparation, to familiarize them with the program, and to determine an appropriate plan of study for completion of the degree requirements during the first two years. The Committee will then prepare a brief record of the interview for delivery to the Head Graduate Advisor of the student’s Host department (or to the faculty member designated by the Host department as Graduate Advisor for RLL students), indicating any special provisions or studies that must be completed before the student’s admission to the Qualifying Examination.

2.  Advanced Language Competency Timetable. Because of the nature of the RLL program, students are required to achieve language competency above and beyond that attested by passing the standard Graduate Division language requirements (see section 3, below).  All language courses taken to fulfill a language requirement must be taken for a letter grade.  The following timetables will assure that students will be able to do advanced work in the three RLL departments.

Literature track:

• By the end of semester 5 the student will have finished one year of Latin and will have the necessary competency to participate fully in graduate seminars taught not only in their Primary language, but in a second Romance language offered by one of the two remaining departments. The student will also have made substantial progress towards acquiring a modern Romance language associated with the third participating department. This will be established by the 5th semester review (see section 5 below).

• By the end of semester 7, the student will either have taken two upper division undergraduate courses in that third language, or will have taken a graduate seminar covering literature that the student reads in the original language (although the seminar does not need to be taught in the language in question.)

Linguistics track:

• By the end of semester 5 the student will have finished one year of Latin and will have the necessary competency to participate fully in graduate seminars taught in their Primary language and in Linguistics. In addition, the student will have made good progress in another Romance language and begun study of a third. Again, the second and third languages can be any member of the wider family of Romance languages including, for example, Occitan, Sardinian or Neo-Latin. By “good progress” we mean good reading knowledge; this is to be established at the 5th semester review (see section 5 below).

• By semester 7, the student will have acquired sufficient knowledge of the second Romance language in order to use it for graduate-level linguistic analysis. This may be done as part of a graduate seminar in a language department, as an independent study with a faculty member, or by making significant use of the language in a Linguistics seminar. (Please note that analyzing the language in the RLL C201/202 seminar will not be considered sufficient.) The student will also have attained good reading knowledge in the third Romance language by this point, that is, sufficient for graduate-level linguistic analysis by the time of the Qualifying Exam.

3.  Foreign Language Requirements. The Graduate Division requires that foreign language skills be demonstrated in one of two ways. (RLL students may choose which of their languages they would like to use for the completion of this requirement). The requirements should be satisfied as early as possible in the student’s doctoral career, following first registration, and must be completed prior to the term proposed for the Qualifying Examination.

Option I  requires students to demonstrate reading knowledge of two languages. This can be done either by passing a translation exam in both languages or by passing a translation exam in one language and completing coursework in the second language.  Option I translation exams consist of at least a 300-word passage translated into English with the use of a dictionary. Students who choose to demonstrate reading knowledge of their second language through coursework may either (a) complete a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence with an average grade of B or better or (b) complete (with a grade of B or better) an upper division foreign language course that requires a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence as a prerequisite.

Option II – The student is expected to demonstrate an exceptionally thorough reading knowledge and an adequate knowledge of the grammatical structure of one language. Knowledge is tested by a written examination consisting of a translation of a passage of about 1,000 words on a subject appropriate to the student’s major field of interest. The examination is limited to three hours and the translation is to be made without the aid of a dictionary. The translation must show an accurate comprehension of the meaning of the language text, and since the language text is in the student’s discipline, the translation should use the correct English technical terms.

4.  Core Courses. All RLL students must pass, with a grade of B or better, two core courses:

  • Linguistic History of Romance Languages (201/C202).
  • Comparative Studies in Romance Literatures and Cultures (C203).

Students should satisfy these requirements as early as possible in their doctoral career, bearing in mind that the core courses are unlikely to be offered every year.

5.  Progress Review. Early in the fifth semester, the Executive Committee will evaluate the student’s progress and advise him/her regarding future courses, preparation for the Qualifying Exam, and possible composition of the Qualifying Exam Committee. Students will prepare the following for the Progress Review meeting:

  • a) A three-page self-review of the first two years (courses taken, requirements completed, papers written, new areas explored, etc.)
  • b) A statement of developing research interests.
  • c) A major research paper, preferably written in English.

6.  Qualifying Examination Fields, Topics, and Reading Lists. Following the 5th semester review, students should start meeting with the anticipated members of the Qualifying Examination Committee in order to define the fields and topics they wish to cover on their Exam. In the course of these meetings, students will develop field and topic statements and reading lists, which must be submitted to the Executive Committee for their review and approval no later than the twelfth week of the sixth semester.

7.  Qualifying Examination. When the student and his/her advisor (either the Head Graduate Advisor of the Host department or the faculty member designated by the Host department as Graduate Advisor for RLL students) agree that preparation is sufficient for the Qualifying Examination, the Head (or designated) Graduate Advisor and the Graduate Student Services Advisor of the Host department, with suggestions from the student, will determine the Qualifying Examination Committee, appoint one of the members as Chair of the committee, and inform the Director of the RLL Executive Committee of its formation.  The Chair of the Qualifying Examination Committee is responsible for making sure that the committee administers the exam fairly and according to Graduate Division procedures.

The Qualifying Examination committee is composed of five members: three representing the Primary language, a designated “outside” member who will represent a department other than that of the Primary language (which may include another RLL department), and one other member appropriate to the topics on the exam.  All professors on the QE committee may be (but are not required to be) members of the RLL program.  All five members of the Qualifying Examination committee must be present and voting at the oral examination. All members of the committee, including the Chair and “outside” member (the person who represents the Graduate Dean and Graduate Council) must be Academic Senate members.  Regulations of the Graduate Division stipulate that the Chair of the Qualifying Examination Committee cannot serve as the Chair of the Dissertation Committee (that is, dissertation director) for the same student.

The Qualifying Examination (QE) in Romance Languages and Literatures has two component parts: one written and one oral. The written component consists of three examinations, one based on each of the field and topic statements and their associated reading-lists, and all normally administered during Week 10 of the semester, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  In each of these examinations, students will have a choice between two questions, composed by members of the QE committee, collected by the QE committee chair, and e-mailed by the Graduate Student Services Advisor of the Host department.  Students will be allowed eight (8) hours from the time at which the questions are e-mailed in which to prepare and write an essay (approximately 3000-4000 words of standard academic prose) in response to one of them.  They may consult notes, reference works, and reading-list texts during the preparation of their essays, and should therefore observe appropriate citation practices when writing.  At the end of the allowed eight (8) hours they are responsible for e-mailing the essay immediately to all members of the QE committee and to the appropriate Graduate Student Services Advisor.

Please note:

a) students may arrange to have each day’s question e-mailed to them by the Host department’s GSSA at any time convenient to themselves and to the latter. The eight-hour period allowed for the exam will be considered to have begun at the time of mailing;

b) the eight-hour period is designed to allow students to produce their best essays, not necessarily their longest.   They should, therefore, take due notice of the suggested length of each day’s essay (3000-4000 words); remember that reading and thinking — both of which take time — should normally precede writing; and feel free to allocate as much time as they may desire, during each day’s labors, to relaxation and refreshment.

Essays in the written component of the QE should normally be in English.  Students wishing to write in another language (which must be one of the languages taught in RLL) may request permission to do so from the chair of their QE committee no later than the fifth week of the semester in which they intend to take the QE.  The chair will ascertain whether the committee as a whole (including the external member) is both competent and willing to read essays written in the requested language, and will inform the student accordingly no later than two weeks before the scheduled date of the first written exam.

The QE committee chair will notify the student of the outcome of the written component within ten (10) calendar days of the completion of the third and final written exam.  Whatever the outcome, the student is encouraged to discuss the written component individually with the members of his or her committee as soon as possible after receiving the chair’s notification.

If the QE committee deems the student’s performance in the written component satisfactory, s/he will proceed to the oral component, which consists of an oral examination of no more than three hours’ duration, at which all members of the committee, as well as the student, must be present either physically or via long-distance communication (e.g. Skype).

This oral examination alone constitutes the official Qualifying Examination as defined and recognized by Graduate Division.   It will normally (i.e. when the written exam is administered during Week 10 of the semester) be scheduled at some point toward the end of Week 12 or during Week 13; a comparable interval between written and oral exams will be maintained in the event of the written exam being administered during any other week.

Literature track: One exam will cover a major field in Romance Literatures and involve at least two languages. (Examples might be: the development of the novel; the lyric tradition; literary modernism; etc.) The other two exams should be on topics individually formulated by each student. The combined reading lists for these two topics should cover all three languages in the student’s program. This structure leaves open the possibility that one topic might be focused on a single literature. (Examples of topics might be the work of a single major author; literary relations between France and Latin America in the twentieth century; immigrant literature; baroque theater.) Historical coverage is highly recommended.

Linguistics track: One exam will cover a major field in Romance Linguistics and involve three languages. (Examples might be: word order in Romance, sound change in Romance, or the classification of the Romance languages). A second exam will cover an area in general linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics), applied linguistics (second language acquisition, the application of linguistics to literature, translation studies), or an appropriate topic in Romance philology. A third exam will cover a specialized topic involving one, two, or three languages (e.g., borrowing from Latin into one or more Romance languages in the late Middle Ages; the evolution of formal and informal first- and second-person forms of address in contemporary Spanish, Portuguese, and/or French; regional variation in contemporary Italian). The three examination fields and topics should fit together coherently, will display emphasis on the Primary language, and will very preferably contain a historical component.

8.  Dissertation. Once the Qualifying Examination is successfully completed, the student will arrange with a faculty member to direct the dissertation and chair the dissertation committee; after consultation with him/her, the student proposes the remaining members.  The dissertation committee consists of three members.  The Chair and designated “outside” member (representing a department outside the Primary language department, as for the Qualifying Examination) must be members of the Academic Senate. The dissertation will embody the results of original research on a subject chosen in consultation with the director. The Chair of the Qualifying Examination Committee cannot direct the dissertation.

Upon constituting the dissertation committee, the student applies for Advancement to Candidacy by completing the “Application for Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree,” for approval by the Graduate Division on behalf of the Graduate Council. Doctoral students should bear in mind that it is to their advantage to be “Advanced to Candidacy” as soon as possible following completion of the Qualifying Examination (see Normal Progress Schedule), preferably by the end of the semester in which the Qualifying Examination is passed.

Prospectus: Students are required to complete a fifteen- to twenty-page dissertation prospectus (including bibliography), to be presented to the student’s dissertation committee by the end of Week 12 of the semester following that in which the QE takes place.

It should be remembered that the prospectus is not intended to be a dissertation in miniature, so that there is normally no compelling reason why its completion should be delayed beyond the appointed deadline. Rather, it should be a concise (15-18 pages) preliminary description of the dissertation project, including: the primary materials to be investigated; the descriptive or analytical approach to be taken to those materials; the project’s relation to existing scholarly work. The prospectus should be accompanied by references and/or bibliography.

9. Dissertations in a Language other than English. Special approval from the Graduate Division, acting for the Graduate Council, is required to submit a dissertation in a language other than English. If approval is given, an abstract in English must be included with the finished work.

10.  Academic Progress (both tracks). The timetable for completion of degree requirements is as follows: By the end of the sixth semester, students will have submitted field and topic statements and reading lists for Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations. Over the course of the next two semesters, students prepare for and take the Qualifying Examinations and apply for advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree. (Note as well that all languages requirements must be fulfilled before the beginning of the semester in which the Qualifying Examinations are taken.) Doctoral candidacy lasts for two years after advancement, although students are eligible for an additional two-year grace period before candidacy lapses (see Length of Time in Advanced-to-Candidacy Status).

“Normative Time” (NT) allowance for the program is set at six (6) years. The Normative time to Advancement to Candidacy is 4 years (time to Q-E).

* Please Note: Foreign ABD students have a maximum of three-years (after passing Q-E) of waived Non-Resident Tuition (NRT) to file the dissertation. Any delay in filing will be at the student’s expense.

Suggested Progress Schedule:


1-Screening Interview.
2-One language requirement completed by the end of the second term.
3-A second language requirement completed by the end of the third term.
4-The third language requirement completed by the end of the fourth term.
5-One year of Latin completed. 5th semester Progress Review.
6-Core courses completed. Preliminary Q-E reading list and field statements due by 12th week of the semester.
8-Qualifying examination. Advancement to Candidacy.
12-Filing of finished dissertation by the end of the 12th term.