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 “Home” 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.

*Effective Fall 2023, as an alternative to C203, students may take a literature or culture course in a Romance language at the graduate or undergraduate upper-division level, guided by the student’s interest.

SECTION 2: Elective Courses
Beyond the aforementioned RLL Core Course (C201/202), 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 Home 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 lower-division 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:

SECTION 3: 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

SECTION 4: 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 7 semesters of coursework, with milestones as listed in the following timetable:

RLL Core Language Requirements

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 7. 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: 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. 


RLL Program Milestones

SECTION A: Semester 1: RLL Orientation
Effective for students admitted during and after fall 2023, during the first five weeks of the fall semester, at least one member of the RLL Executive Committee will lead the compulsory RLL Orientation for students who enter the program, covering general and track-specific pathways toward success in graduate school. Topics include but are not limited to: program overview; course selection; graduate school etiquette and expectations; goal setting; and connecting with peer and faculty scholars.

SECTION B: Semester 1: First-Semester (Screening) Review
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 four semesters (two years). The Committee will then prepare a brief record of the interview for delivery to the Head Graduate Advisor of the student’s Home department (or to the faculty member designated by the Home 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 under the Resources/Files tab.

SECTION C: Semester 2: Professionalization Planning Session
During the first five weeks of the spring semester, at least one member of the RLL Executive Committee will lead the Professionalization Planning Session that all second-semester students are required to attend. Topics that will be discussed include but are not limited to: approaches to connect and collaborate with scholars; best practices and expectations in research development; short- and long-term preparation for career pathways. Though first-year students are required to attend this session, all RLL students are welcome to attend each year.

SECTION D: Semester 5: Fifth-Semester (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 under the Resources/Files tab.

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 E: Semester 5: Article Presentation (AP)
Effective for students admitted during and after fall 2022, RLL will Home an Article Presentation open (minimally) to all students and faculty of RLL in the final weeks of a student’s 5th semester. These 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 Home department and/or RLL-affiliated advisor.

SECTION F: Semester 6: Qualifying Exam Committee Selection
Following the 5th Semester Progress Review, students should consult with their Home 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 Home 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 Home department will inform the Director of the RLL Executive Committee of the composition of the QE Committee.

SECTION G: 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

**SECTIONS H-L refer to Qualifying Examinations for students starting in Fall 2024. Students in earlier cohorts can choose to opt-in to this system starting in Fall 2023.**

SECTION H: Semester 6: Qualifying Exam Reading Lists and Field/Topic Statements
In the fifth-semester review, students introduce their tentative QE topics and five potential QE committee members. No later than the Friday of Week 12 of Semester 6, students submit their three field statements, reading lists, and names of committee members to the Executive Committee (CCing the Graduate Student Services Advisor in their Home department). QE reading lists should include a total of 90-120 items across the 3 lists (i.e., 30-40 items per list on average), making sure to include at least 8 items not in English, per each of the three lists. The Executive Committee Director, or their Home department representative, will respond to the student with feedback within two weeks.

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. 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 I: Semester 7: Written Qualifying Examination
The Oral QE will be conducted according to all current Graduate Division policies. The Oral QE is scheduled to take place no later than week 12 of semester 7. One month before the Oral QE, students must submit their mandatory Written QE to the members of the QE committee. The Written QE consists of 3 essays written by the student (1 essay per list) of no less than 3,500 and no more than 4,000 words each (excluding only the bibliography; footnotes/endnotes do count toward the word limit). There are no explicit prompts to follow nor is the student expected to write about any texts or data which are not in their reading lists. The primary goal of the Written QE is to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate how they have engaged with the materials on their QE lists and formulate their own essays to target areas of interest within each topic. One month prior to the date of the scheduled Oral QE, the student will submit these 3 essays will to the QE Committee (CCing the student’s RLL Graduate Student Advisor in their Home department) who shall not formally evaluate them (i.e., there is no grade assigned); instead, the student shall engage in discussions with individual QE Committee members during which faculty will provide feedback. Faculty feedback on the Written QE should be specifically oriented toward facilitating a successful outcome of the upcoming Oral QE.

SECTION J: Semester 7: Oral Qualifying Examination
The Chair of the Qualifying Examination (QE) Committee is responsible for making sure that the committee members administer 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. Both are administered by no later than week 12 of the 7th semester.  The oral examination alone constitutes the official Qualifying Examination as defined and recognized by Graduate Division. The oral component of the QE will be administered at least one month after the submission of the written QE, and no later than week 12 of the semester.

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). The QE Chair must be physically present on campus if the Oral QE is conducted in a hybrid format.

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 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 K: Semester 8: Dissertation Committee Selection and Prospectus
Once the Oral Qualifying Examination (QE) is successfully passed, the student will arrange with a faculty member to serve as Dissertation Chair; after consultation with this faculty member, the student proposes the remaining two members. Crucially, note that the Chair of the QE Committee cannot serve the Dissertation Chair (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 Home department, and at least one of whom must hail from the student’s Home 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.

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 L: 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 must follow the guidelines as outlined by the Graduate Division, 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 M: 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.

“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 QE).

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

Obligatory Milestone Progress Timeline