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, literature, and linguistics
• to combine language study with linguistics and/or literature and culture
• 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 in pursuit of careers in academic departments (Romance, single language or linguistics) or professional industries.

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)

SECTION 1: Core Courses
All RLL students must pass, with a grade of B or better, two core courses:

• Linguistic History of Romance Languages (C201/C202); and
• Comparative Studies in Romance Literatures and Cultures (C203).

These courses can only be offered every two or three years, so students must take them as soon as they are offered in order to make sure that they are able to satisfy the core course requirement by the time that they take their Qualifying Examinations (semester 8).

SECTION 2: Elective Courses
Beyond the 2 RLL Core Courses (C201/202 and C203), a minimum of 8 additional graduate-level courses must be passed, with a grade of B or better, in order to advance to candidacy (by the end of semester 8). Students should be in touch with their host department and/or RLL-affiliated advisor in order to select coursework that will be best suited for their professionalization and development as scholars. Note that language courses do not count toward these 8 graduate-level electives. Though electives for the most part have no other restrictions, do note the following Linguistics-track-specific requirement:

RLL Program Elective Courses

SECTION 3: RLL Core Language Requirements
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 4, below). In particular, the RLL Core Language Requirement consists of demonstrating competence in the student’s 3 RLL languages (primary, secondary, and tertiary [varied by track, see below]) through language and/or linguistics/literature coursework. All courses taken to fulfill the RLL Core Language Requirement must be taken for a letter grade and be passed with a B or higher, and notably, C201, C202, and C203 do not count toward this requirement. Progress toward the RLL Core Language Requirement is tracked during the first 8 semesters of coursework, with milestones as listed in the following timetable:

RLL Core Language Requirements

Graduate Division Foreign Language Requirements
Separate from the RLL Core Language Requirement, the Graduate Division institutes a Foreign Language Requirement that must be completed by the end of semester 6 and involves one or two languages beyond the student’s primary language. RLL students may choose which one or two non-primary languages they would like to use to complete this requirement. Though most simply use their secondary and/or tertiary language, the option to complete this requirement through yet (an) additional language(s) is available. The Graduate Division Foreign Language Requirement can be completed through either OPTION 1 or OPTION 2 described below, and is recommended to be completed as early as possible in the student’s program:

Option I requires students to demonstrate reading knowledge of two non-primary 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.

SECTION 5: RLL Latin Requirement
Beyond the RLL Core Language Requirements and the Graduate Division Foreign Language Requirement, the RLL program requires all students to complete the basic language sequence in Latin by the end of semester 8. Most students complete this requirement by either taking Latin 1 and Latin 2 (each usually offered every semester), or by completing the Latin Workshop (Latin 15) over a summer-semester term.

SECTION 6: Proseminar Requirement
In the 1st semester of study, all RLL students are required to complete Proseminar coursework that serves to familiarize new students with faculty, one another, and the expectations for their field(s) of study, as described below:

RLL Proseminar Requirement

RLL Program Milestones

SECTION A: Semester 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. In preparation for this Screening Interview, RLL students should complete the First Semester Checklist, found HERE.

SECTION B: Semester 3: Professionalization Workshop
RLL Faculty will lead a Professionalization Workshop in Fall semesters, which covers general and track-specific pathways toward success in graduate school, the job market, and research/scholarship. 3rd-semester RLL students are required to attend the Professionalization Workshop, though all RLL students are welcome to attend each year.

SECTION C: Semester 5: Progress Review
Early in the fifth semester, the Executive Committee will evaluate the student’s progress and advise them regarding any remaining coursework requirements, preparation for the Qualifying Exam (7th semester), and possible composition of the Qualifying Exam Committee. Students prepare the following for the Progress Review meeting:

     a) A three-page scholarly introspective (how you situate yourself as a
          scholar with respect to research interests and coursework, academic
          highlights in the first two years of the program [conferences,
          publications or papers in progress, participation in working groups,
          coursework of significant impact on your scholarly trajectory,
          grants/awards/fellowships either earned or applied for, etc.],
          research in progress, ideas/coursework for the future, etc.)

     b) The 5th semester review checklist, found HERE.

     c) A major research or term paper, preferably written in English, that
          showcases your strongest, most relevant contribution to your field of
          interest, especially as relevant to the Article Presentation at the end
          of the 5th semester (see section D below).

     d) An e-mail invitation to formally invite a non-RLL-Executive-Board
          faculty member of your choice (usually most relevant to your
          research and coursework) to attend the 5th semester Review.

SECTION D: Semester 5: Article Presentation (AP)
In the final weeks of a student’s 5th semester, RLL will host an Article Presentation open (minimally) to all students and faculty of RLL. 5th-semester students will offer a public, conference-style presentation (following the customary format of either Literature-style or Linguistics-style conference venues) of their own independent, completed research. Each AP will last approximately 20 minutes, with 10-minutes for audience Q&A. Though APs can be derived from papers written for graduate coursework, the work presented must constitute a research paper/project that has not been formally used for coursework, that is, one that has been significantly expanded upon or modified since its inception in a given graduate seminar. The AP provides students a concrete milestone by which to have completed professional research, while also serving as an ideal venue for community-building amongst the program. Students preparing for the AP, early in the 5th semester, should consult with their host department and/or RLL-affiliated advisor.

SECTION E: Semester 6: Qualifying Exam Committee Selection
Following the 5th Semester Progress Review, students should consult with their host department and/or RLL-affiliated advisor in order to determine the members of their Qualifying Exam (QE) Committee. QE Committees consist of a total of 5 faculty members, one of which serves as the Chair of the QE Committee. The following positions must be filled, with additional guidelines appearing further below:

     a) Primary Language Member (1): This Berkeley faculty member must
          represent expertise (literary and/or linguistic) in the student’s
          primary language, though they may not necessarily hail from an RLL

     b) Primary Language Member (2): This Berkeley faculty member must 
          represent expertise (literary and/or linguistic) in the student’s
          primary language, though they may not necessarily hail from an RLL

     c) Secondary and/or Tertiary Language Member: This Berkeley faculty
          member must represent expertise (literary and/or linguistic) in the
          student’s secondary and/or tertiary language, though they may not
          necessarily hail from an RLL department.

     d) Outside Department Member (Academic Senate Representative
          [ASR)]: This Berkeley faculty member must not hail from the
          student’s host department.

     e) Additional Member: This faculty member has no restrictions, and
          notably may hail from a non-Berkeley institution (as approved by
          student’s RLL Advisor).

Additional Guidelines:

  1. The QE Committee must have a minimum of 3 Berkeley faculty members hailing from RLL departments (i.e., French, Italian Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese).
  2. The Chair of the Q.E. Committee must hail from an RLL department, cannot also serve as the ASR, and cannot subsequently serve as the student’s Dissertation Chair. Care must be taken to ensure that the future Dissertation Chair does not serve as QE Chair.

Selection of QE Committee members is primarily up to the discretion of the student, often the result of linking individual members with a specific QE area or set of QE areas (see section F, below). Students are responsible for contacting prospective QE Committee members and asking them to serve, most often accomplished via an email that details the QE areas of relevance for that prospective faculty member (section F below outlines guidelines for QE areas). Once the QE Committee is selected, the Head (or designated) Graduate Advisor and the Graduate Student Services Advisor of the Host department will inform the Director of the RLL Executive Committee of the composition of the QE Committee.

SECTION F: Semesters 6: Qualifying Exam Areas
Following the 5th Semester Progress Review and selection of Qualifying Exam (QE) Chair, students should consult with their QE Chair and RLL Advisor in order to determine the three Qualifying Exam (QE) areas. Guidelines for QE Areas depend on track, as illustrated below, though QE areas for both tracks should fit together coherently:

RLL Qualifying Exam Areas

SECTION G: Semester 6: Qualifying Exam Reading Lists and Field/Topic Statements
Following the selection of Qualifying Exam (QE) Areas, students should meet with their QE Committee to develop their reading lists and field/topic statements for each exam area. While there is no minimum requirement of readings for each list, students should aim to incorporate at least 8 non-English-language readings for each list.

For each reading list, a field/topic statement (no more than 3 pages) should be written that defines or describes the QE area and justifies the entries and organization of the reading list. For example, if a particular reading list is broken down into 5 subsections (general theory, specific theory, case studies for language 1, case studies for language 2, case studies for language 3), the field/topic statement should explain these divisions and, more generally, why select readings were chosen. The reading lists and accompanying field/topic statements must be submitted for approval by the RLL Executive Committee no later than the 12th week of the 6th semester. Commonly, the field/topic statement prose appears at the beginning of the same document as the relevant reading list, though students may opt to construct the field/topic statements and reading lists in separate documents.

SECTION H: Semester 8: Written Qualifying Examination
The Chair of the Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee is responsible for making sure that the committee administers the exam fairly and according to Graduate Division procedures. The QE in Romance Languages and Literatures has two component parts: one written and one oral. The written component consists of three timed writings, one based on each of the field/topic statements and their associated reading-lists, and all normally administered during Week 10 of the 8th semester, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In each of these written 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. Most often, based on each QE faculty member’s expertise as regards the 3 exam areas, individual members will only contribute a question or two based on the exam area(s) to which they are most related. Depending on the composition of the QE Committee, not all faculty members may contribute a question, though it customary that faculty members share their questions for feedback amongst one another before they are finalized and relayed to the student.

Students will be allowed 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 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 written portion of the QE is holistically evaluated as either PASS or NO PASS (that is, rather than each essay receiving a separate evaluation, all three combined receive a single PASS or NO PASS verdict) by each QE Committee member. If the QE Committee deems the student’s performance in the written component to constitute a PASS, the student then is permitted to proceed to the oral component of the QE. The QE Committee Chair will notify the student of the outcome of the written component within 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 the QE Committee as soon as possible after receiving the chair’s notification.

In the event that the student earns a NO PASS verdict on the written component of the QE, they will not be able to proceed to the oral component of the QE. Both parts of the examination will need to be rescheduled, in consultation with the members of the QE Committee and the Executive Director of the Romance Languages and Literatures program.

SECTION I: Semester 8: Oral Qualifying Examination
The Chair of the Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee is responsible for making sure that the committee administers the exam fairly and according to Graduate Division procedures. The QE in Romance Languages and Literatures has two component parts: one written and one oral. The oral examination alone constitutes the official Qualifying Examination as defined and recognized by Graduate Division. It will normally (i.e., following the written component of the QE being administered during Week 10 of the 8th 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.

The oral examination lasts no more than three hours’ duration, at which all members of the QE Committee, as well as the student, must be present either physically or via long-distance communication (e.g. Zoom).

During the oral component of the QE, the student will be asked a series of questions by each member of the QE Committee as related to the QE Reading Lists and Field/Topic Statements, though questions may also pertain to what was recently submitted in the written component of the QE. Often all 5 QE Committee members each offer questions to the student for 20-30 minutes, though the ASR member need not necessarily lead a round of questioning if the other faculty members wish to individually engage with the student for a longer allotted round of time. It is customary for the QE Chair, at the beginning of the Oral QE, to establish with the QE Committee and the student what specific questioning protocol the student feels comfortable taking place (for example, if while one faculty member is presenting questions to the student, other faculty members may contribute select related questions of their own, or if instead each QE faculty member will be uninterrupted by other members during their round of questioning). Additionally, the student is typically permitted to choose in what order, with respect to the QE Reading List / Field/Topic Statement areas and/or QE Committee members, they would like to orally field questions. Lastly, the student is also typically permitted to select a point for a short recess during the exam (for example, between the 3rd and 4th rounds of questioning, or between the 2nd and 3rd, etc.), established at the beginning of the Oral QE. Once all questioning is complete, the student is asked to leave the room in order for the QE Committee to confer with one another regarding the outcome of the Oral QE.

The Oral QE is evaluated by each of the 5 QE Committee members individually. All 5 members of the Qualifying Examination committee must be present and voting at the Oral QE. Each faculty member, based on the round of questioning they led (or in the case of the ASR, should no questioning round be led, based on the entire exam overall), must choose an evaluation between the options of PASS, CONDITIONAL PASS, and FAIL. Should any faculty member designate an outcome of FAIL, then the student does not pass the Oral QE and must retake those rounds of questioning for which a PASS was not achieved. It is up to the discretion of the QE Committee, led by the Chair, to determine if outcomes of CONDITIONAL PASS warrant that the Oral QE is not passed and require that the student need re-take those rounds of questioning of the exam. Note that if the student does not pass the Oral QE, they need not retake the written component of the QE.

In the event that a student does not pass the Oral QE, the Oral QE will need to be rescheduled, in consultation with the members of the Qualifying Examination Committee and the Executive Director of the Romance Languages and Literatures program.

SECTION J: Semester 9: Dissertation Committee Selection and Prospectus
Once the Oral Qualifying Examination (QE) is successfully passed, the student will arrange with a faculty member to direct the dissertation and chair the dissertation committee; after consultation with them, the student proposes the remaining members. Crucially, note that the Dissertation Chair cannot be the Chair of the QE Committee (though the QE Committee Chair can serve as a regular member of the dissertation committee). The dissertation committee consists of minimally 3 Berkeley Academic Senate faculty members, at least one of whom must hail from a department other than the student’s host department, and at least one of whom must hail from the student’s host department. Additional (i.e., beyond 3) members of the dissertation committee (usually no more than 1, for a total of 4 members) may be appointed by the student in consultation with the Dissertation Chair, and notably may include up to 1 faculty member from a non-Berkeley institution.

Upon constituting the dissertation committee, the student applies for Advancement to Candidacy by completing the Application for Doctoral Candidacy, found on CalCentral on the Higher Degree Committee eForm, 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. As of fall 2021 once the student’s form to advance to candidacy, the student must e-mail the French Graduate Student Advisor ( regarding the opportunity to cover the fee associated with their advancement.

Students advanced to candidacy (or All But Dissertation – ABD) are required to complete a Dissertation Prospectus, which consists of roughly 15-20 pages of prose (including an obligatory bibliography or references section) that offers a preliminary description of the dissertation project, including: the primary materials and/or research questions to be investigated; the descriptive or analytical approach to be undertaken; and the project’s relation to existing scholarly work. The Dissertation Prospectus must be presented to the student’s Dissertation Committee by the end of Week 12 of the semester following that in which the QE is passed.

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. Instead, its function is to allow the student to organize their dissertation plans and promote practical discussion amongst with Dissertation Committee with respect to how appropriate/feasible that project is as regards a successful filing within normative time.

SECTION K: Semesters 9-12: Dissertation
Once dialogue with the Dissertation Committee regarding the Dissertation Prospectus is convened, the student will spend their remaining semesters completing their dissertation, culminating in its filing with the Graduate Division.

Note that regarding dissertations written in a language other than English, special approval from the Graduate Division, acting for the Graduate Council, is required. If approval is given, an abstract in English must be included with the finished work.

Though formatting requirements for the dissertation appear HERE, note that the organization of content in the dissertation is left to the student’s discretion, at the approval of the Dissertation Chair and Committee.

SECTION L:  Academic Progress
The timetable for completion of degree requirements is as follows: By the end of the 6th semester, students will have submitted field/topic statements and reading lists for Qualifying Exam (QE). Over the course of the next two semesters, students prepare for and take the QE 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 QE is 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.

Obligatory Milestone Progress Timeline

RLL Obligatory Milestone Progress