Romance Languages and Literatures
The graduate program in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures offers students outstanding opportunities to pursue work in the French and Francophone, Italian, Portuguese and Lusophone, and Spanish and Latin American traditions, alone or in combination, leading to Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. After the first two years of graduate study, students receive practical training in teaching both language and literature courses.
The Romance Languages and Literatures faculty is committed to interdisciplinary work, including history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, film studies, gender studies, literary theory, literary history, and philology. Students are encouraged to situate literature in the broad context of cultural productions, ranging from the canonical to alternative modes. The Harvard program provides students with the opportunity to work in a range of periods, genres, and approaches, and to formulate individual study plans with the help of their advisors. While students take courses primarily with members of the department, they may also participate in courses and seminars with faculty working in related areas in other departments of the University.
Graduate students are required to teach beginning in the third year of the program. Possible assignments include teaching a section of an undergraduate language course or leading a discussion section of a literature course taught by a professor. Teaching opportunities in the Core Program and other departments are sometimes also available. Harvard provides its teaching fellows with state-of-the-art classroom resources, a training program, and feedback from permanent faculty members. Such ample teaching opportunities reflect a departmental philosophy of preparing strong candidates for the academic job market.
Master of Arts (AM)
The AM requirements are considered an integral part of the PhD program. Applicants who wish to pursue only the AM are not admitted. However, a terminal AM may be conferred on students who will not be completing requirements for the PhD.
All students are examined at the end of their second term of study in the department. The full section faculty will evaluate each student’s performance in the examination, as well as in courses taken during the first year. This evaluation determines whether further coursework will be required for the AM, and in exceptional cases, whether the student should continue in the program. The same evaluation determines what credit the department will approve for previous graduate work at other universities. Note: The ultimate decision regarding transfer of credit rests with the registrar of the Graduate School.
All course work for the AM must be completed by the end of the second year of graduate study. Successful completion of all AM requirements is a prerequisite for the PhD program.
General Requirements for the AM
- One year’s residence at Harvard and a program of eight courses, to include three 200-level half-courses.
- Proficiency in the oral and written use of the chosen Romance language, to be demonstrated either by examination upon entrance or by performance in course work during the period of residence.
Students specializing in literature before 1800 must demonstrate the ability to read Latin by successful completion (B- or better, or grade of "Satisfactory") of Harvard Latin A and Latin B, or their equivalents elsewhere. There will be no graduate credit given for these courses.
Students specializing in literature after 1800 may substitute another language for the elementary Latin requirement. Similarly, no graduate credit is granted for this course work. Note: This language cannot be identical to the second Romance language or its substitute, which is a requirement for the PhD (see 1b under General requirements for the PhD.
- Sound knowledge of the major aspects of one Romance literature, to be tested by the examination at the end of the first year of study.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
General Requirements for the PhD
- All students entering the PhD program should expect to take two full years of course work (16 half-courses), including course work done in fulfillment of the AM requirement. The 16 half-courses must include:
- One half-course in the history of the major Romance language, or course substitute as determined by the section.
- One half-course in a second Romance literature at the 100 or 200 level. Certain other options (e.g., German, Greek, Romance Studies) may be considered in place of this requirement by petition to the Curriculum Committee and with the approval of the student’s advisor.
- For students specializing in literature before 1800, an additional term of Latin beyond the requirement for the AM.
Romance Studies 201. RS 201 is a seminar on approaches to literary and cultural theory specifically designed for all the graduate students in RLL. It is taught collaboratively among the faculty in RLL. This course offers students an opportunity to discuss literary theory through a range of readings and perspectives, to get to know the faculty of the department, and to learn from their approaches to the study of literature.
Note: Students should consult with their advisors before registering for 320-level (Supervised Reading and Research) courses for credit. Only one such course is permitted for credit, unless an additional 320 course is taken in lieu of a specific requirement not otherwise being offered.
- Normally, all students teach for at least one year at Harvard as part of their graduate program. Those teaching courses lettered or numbered below 70 in the Harvard Language Program must take Linguistics 200, which includes a practicum on teaching techniques.This course does not count among the 16 required half-courses.
- The passing of a PhD general examination (see Examinations), which must be taken no later than the end of the third year of graduate studies.
- A dissertation on a subject chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor, to be completed by the end of the sixth year of graduate studies. Following the general examination (at the latest), the student chooses a dissertation director; together they select a committee to supervise the research and writing of the PhD dissertation. The committee, chaired by the dissertation director, is made up of three (exceptionally four) faculty members, chosen by the student in consultation with the dissertation director. Two of the three readers must be members of the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Visiting professors with renewable term appointments may serve on dissertation committees, but not chair them. Ordinarily, two members of the committee represent the student’s language and field; a third may come from another language or discipline. This committee approves the prospectus, establishes the schedule for dissertation completion, and reviews the student’s progress regularly. The dissertation may be written in English or in the appropriate Romance language. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described in The Form of the PhD Dissertation. After the committee’s formal acceptance of the dissertation, all PhD candidates make an oral presentation to faculty and students, followed by a question and answer period.
Specific Requirements for the PhD by Language Section
- French and Francophone, and Italian Literatures. Through a combination of course work, seminars, and individual study, candidates are expected to acquire a general familiarity with major figures, works, and trends in the history of French and Francophone, and Italian literature from the earliest texts to the present day. This competence will be tested at the PhD general examination.
Hispanic Literatures. All graduate students are expected to demonstrate basic knowledge in six different areas of Hispanic literary culture, understood amply: 1) Medieval Spanish; 2) Golden Age Spanish; 3) Modern Peninsular (18th-21st centuries); 4) Colonial Latin American; 5) 19th century Latin American; and 6) Contemporary Latin American. Students complete written and oral examinations in at least three areas (one major and at least two minor). Students may satisfy the three remaining areas by substituting pertinent graduate-level courses in Spanish for the exams. Any course in Spanish at the 200-level may be counted as a substitution, pending the instructor's written approval. The course needs to treat a subject in direct relation to the area in order to be deemed an appropriate substitute. In exceptional cases, and with the approval of the course head in consultation with the head of the Spanish section and the DGS, a course in Spanish at the 100-level may be counted as a substitution.
For each minor field exam, students prepare a reading list of no more than twenty works: a minimum of ten literary texts and up to ten more items, which could include works of criticism, theory, films, paintings, photographs, architecture, etc. For major field exams, the reading list should not exceed eighty works: a minimum of fifty literary works and up to thirty more items, which, again, could include works of criticism, theory, films, paintings, photographs, architecture, etc. While creating their reading lists for both the minor and major field exams, students, with guidance from their committee, will draft two or three questions. For the major field exam, one of the questions should be related to the dissertation topic. The written portions of the major and minor field exams are both to be completed on a take home basis within 48 hours of receipt.
- Hispanic Literature with a Minor in Portuguese
- Proven oral and written proficiency in the Portuguese language.
- A minimum of 18 courses (instead of the standard 16) distributed as follows:
- 14 courses in or related to Spanish literature, including the required course of History of the Language and literature of a second Romance Language.
- Four courses in Portuguese. At least two of those four should be graduate seminars (200 level); the other two may be advanced undergraduate courses (100 level).
- Students specialize in one of these fields.
- Competence in the chosen field of specialization and two other selected fields will be tested in the general examinations. Requirements for the fourth field can be met by taking one course in this field before the examinations.
- Students of Portuguese and Brazilian literatures are required to complete one half-course at the 100 or 200 level in Spanish. (Note: This does not fulfill the requirement for a graduate level literature course in a second language.)
Oral and Written Language Proficiency Examinations for Incoming Students (French and Spanish only). Proficiency exams for diagnostic purposes only are given to all non-native speaking students in the French and Spanish sections. These are scheduled during the department's graduate orientation activities just before the first day of fall classes. Incoming students will be notified during the summer prior to entrance specifying the exact time and place of these examinations.
First-year Examination. See the General Requirements for the AM section.
PhD General Examinations. The General Examinations are made up of written and oral parts; the precise format differs by section. The PhD General Exams are given during the week before classes begin in September, and during the May exam period. Students must take these exams by the end of the third year of graduate study.
In the case of unsatisfactory performance, the student may, if the examining board so recommends, take all or part of the PhD Examination a second time, within one year of the first. Failure to pass the PhD General Examination the second time will result in automatic withdrawal from the PhD program.
Students have six weeks following formal written notification of their General Exam grade in which to constitute their dissertation committees and formulate a general topic for the dissertation.
The prospectus, which should be approximately 15 pages in length, should include a statement or outline of the problem to be addressed, a preliminary indication of argument and method, and a representative bibliography. Students have six months from the date on which they receive a grade for their general exams (including the summer for those taking generals in May) in which to complete the prospectus, in consultation with members of their committee. The prospectus will then be reviewed by the committee for formal approval in a meeting at which the student is present.
The Dual Track in Romance Languages offers highly-qualified students a Ph.D. in two Romance languages and literatures, exploring the two fields more in depth than a major/minor program allows them to do. Students pursuing the Dual Track should have equal command of the two languages and literatures, and have a sufficiently clear idea of their fields of interest to design an appropriate, consistent, and feasible individualized course of study that explores various intellectual paths and establishes links across languages. There is no admission into the Dual Track prior to the first year of enrollment. Rather, students are accepted into it after completing one year of single-track graduate studies with outstanding academic performance. Candidates must explain to both of the relevant sections and to the Director of Graduate Studies their intellectual reasons for combining two languages and define the areas of interests they wish to explore in their course of study. Criteria for acceptance into the Dual Track include language proficiency, strong literary and cultural foundations in both literatures and languages, and intellectual focus. A Dual Track student may revert back to a single track if it appears that this is not the best plan of graduate study for him or her.
- Eighteen courses (that is, two more than in the single track), to be completed in two years. The course distribution between the two languages should be fairly balanced, e.g.: 9:9 or 8:10, and may include Romance Studies courses. (It must include Romance Studies 201.) Students may take a maximum of two courses outside of the Department.
- Students must satisfy mandatory course requirements in each of their two languages.
Each dual-track student has one faculty advisor in each language. Advisors are designated prior to enrollment, according to the student’s chosen field and stated interests. Students may change advisors later on after discussion with their respective section head. Advisors are in charge of supervising the plan of studies and of organizing the General Examinations.
1. Reading Lists
List A: Literary Canon. A list of major works from the whole historical range of each literature (approximately 100 works; 50 from each literature.) The list will be established following each section’s specifications and with the help of the advisors.
List B: Area of specialization. A list of approximately 50 texts that relate to the student’s specific area of interest (be it period, theme or genre) in both fields, plus 10 to 20 theoretical and critical works that are highly pertinent to this special area.
Lists A and B should not duplicate one another.
2. Structure and Timeline:
The exam will be carried out in two sessions and is to be completed no later than the end of exam period in the Spring of the 3rd year.
Session 1 General Knowledge (100 texts total)
Time: Students will take two separate examinations (one in each field), preferably during the fall term of their third year. If one exam is set in the spring term, it must be at least one month before the examination of session 2.
Content: The materials on List A. (Students should be able to deploy theoretical knowledge acquired from List B.)
Structure: Each section will structure its exam according to its own rules.
Session 2 Area of Specialization and Comparative Approach (120 texts total)
Time: To be taken at the end of the second semester of the 3rd year
Content: List B.
Committee: To include three professors, one from each of the two sections of the dual track. The third may come from within Romance languages and Literatures or from outside the department.
Structure: This will be an oral examination, to be completed in around 3 hours and with three parts (order to be determined). Two parts (30 – 45 mins/part) will be in each of the target languages, testing the readings of List B and the student’s (broad) area of specialization. The third part of the examination (1 hour) will be conducted in English. The student will prepare, based on the extensive bibliography of List B, a conference-style paper that will be delivered to the committee. The paper will bring together the two tracks and treat a topic that is related to a more specific area of interest within the student’s field of specialization (this could be related to the student’s dissertation topic, though is by no means limited to it). A discussion based on the paper as well as the books on list B will follow.
The dissertation should be deeply informed by issues pertinent to both literatures.
For further questions concerning the Dual-Track degree, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies or the graduate coordinator.
Double Doctorate in Italian Studies and Renaissance Culture
This program, introduced in 2009, allows students to complete both a doctorate in Italian Studies at Harvard University and a doctorate in Renaissance Culture at the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento (INSR) in Florence, Italy, within a period of 5 to 6 years. After successful dissertation defense, Harvard awards students a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures, while the INSR grants a "Diploma di perfezionamento in civiltà dell’Umanesimo e del Rinascimento." The INSR Diploma is legally equivalent to a doctorate awarded by an Italian university.
Important University and Departmental Regulations
- The Graduate School requires that students maintain a B average in order to remain in good standing.
- The departmental faculty strongly discourages students from taking an Incomplete in a course. The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures adheres strictly to the policies established by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences regarding unfinished coursework. Graduate students in Romance Languages and Literatures may commit to writing a maximum of three article-length research papers per term. Students assigned such papers in 100-level courses should petition for an alternate assignment, such as an exam, a series of smaller papers, etc. Students should consult the graduate coordinator regarding administrative procedures for this.
- Students must make up Incomplete grades before sitting for general examinations.
- Students must satisfy the Latin (or other language) requirement before taking general examinations.
- Students who have not met all the requirements for the AM degree may not hold appointments as teaching fellows.
- Detailed regulations concerning residence requirements and credit for work done elsewhere may be found in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook.
- All students are guaranteed five years of full funding plus an additional year of tuition. All students receive a summer research stipend following years one through four.
- Additional awards, should they be needed, may take the form of internal or external fellowships, , cash stipends, summer travel subsidies, teaching fellowships, loans, exchanges with universities abroad, etc., to be determined by the personal circumstances and academic progress of the individual graduate student.
To secure financial support during any non-funded years graduate students are encouraged to compete for traveling and research fellowships, sponsored by both the Graduate School and institutions and centers elsewhere. Information on these may be obtained through the GSAS Fellowships Office and the Department’s graduate coordinator.
For further details, see the Financial Aid section of the GSAS Guide to Admission and Financial Aid.
Applications for admission must be filed electronically. The online application for the coming year will be available at the GSAS website in late August. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. on December 15. Further information regarding courses and programs of study in Romance Languages and Literatures may be obtained by visiting the department’s website.
Recent Dissertations Completed
- Alba F. Aragón (Spanish): The Rhetoric of Fashion in Latin America. Advisor: Doris Sommer, [Diana Sorensen, Mariano Siskind, Regina Root (College of William & Mary)]
- Sonia Brighenti (Italian): La madre oscura. Trasgressione e letteratura nell’ Italia di oggi. Advisor: Francesco Erspamer, [Giuliana Minghelli, Stefania Lucamante (The Catholic University of America)]
- Javier Carlos De Taboada Amat y León (Spanish): Cineastas y escritores europeos en Latinoamérica: un estudio del contexto de producción. Advisor: Diana Sorensen, [Mariano Siskind, Doris Sommer]
- Stefanie Anne Goyette (French): Indiscriminate Bodies: The Old French Fabliaux in Relation to Thirteenth-Century Medical and Religious Cultures. Advisor: Virginie Greene, [Tom Conley, Stephen G. Nichols (Johns Hopkins University)].
- Brenton Kirk Hobart (French): L’Imaginaire de la peste dans la littérature française de la Renaissance. Advisor: Tom Conley, [Virginie Greene, Mary Gaylord, Frank Lestringant (Université Paris-Sorbonne)]
- Itziar Rodríguez de Rivera (Spanish): Mujeres de papel: figuras de la "lesbiana" en la literatura y cultura españolas, 1868-1936. Advisor: Brad Epps, [Luis Fernández Cifuentes, Maite Zubiaurre, University of California Los Angeles]
- Kyle Matthew Hall (Italian): Affecting Lives: The Politics of Biography in Modern Italy, 1850-1881. Advisor: Francesco Erspamer, [Giuliana Minghelli, Harald Hendrix (Universiteit Utrecht)]
- Néfer Muñoz Solano (Spanish): Novelando en el periódico y reporteando en la novela de América Latina. Advisor: Diana Sorensen, [Bradley Epps, George Yudice (University of Miami)]
- Cara Elizabeth Takakjian (Italian): The Italian Graphic Novel: Reading Ourselves, Reading History. Advisor: Francesco Erspamer, [Giuliana Minghelli, Scott Bukatman (Stanford University)]
- Jessica Tanner (French): Mapping Prostitution: Sex, Space, Taxonomy in the Fin-de-siècle French Novel. Advisor: Janet Beizer, [Tom Conley, Luis Fernández-Cifuentes]
- Loren Katherine Wolfe (French): Declining (the) Subject: Immunity and the Crisis of Masculine Selfhood in Modern France (1870-2000). Advisor: Alice Jardine, [Janet Beizer, Christie McDonald]
- Catherine Adoyo (Italian): "The Order of All Things: Mimetic Craft in Dante’s Commedia". Advisor: Jeffrey Schnapp [Richard Thomas, Jan Ziolkowski]
- Eric Stickley Calderwood (Spanish): "Writing the Hispano-Moroccan War of 1859-1860: Spanish and Moroccan Reflections on Spanish Colonialism in Morocco". Advisor: Bradley S. Epps [William Granara, Luis Girón Negrón]
- Luca Benedetto Cottini (Italian): A Culture of Objects: Italy's Quest for Modernity (1878-1922). Advisor: Giuliana Minghelli [Francesco Erspamer, Jeffrey Schnapp]
- Eduardo Ledesma (Spanish): The Historic Avant-garde, the Neo-Avant-garde and the Digital Age: Experimental Visual-Textual Forms in the Luso-Hispanic World. Advisor: Bradley S. Epps [Luis Fernández-Cifuentes, Joaquim-Francisco Coelho, David Rodowick]
- Séverine Meunier (French): Que reste-t-il de Proust ? À la Recherche du Temps Perdu comme Laboratoire de la Modernité Littéraire. Advisor: Susan R. Suleiman [Christie McDonald, Tom Conley]
- Esmeralda A. Ulloa (Spanish): Fashioning Sovereignty in Latin American Narrative. Advisor: Doris Sommer [Mariano Siskind, Regina Root (College of William and Mary)]
- Stephanie Grace Wooler (French): Performance Anxiety: Hysteria and the Actress in French Literature 1880-1910. Advisor: Janet Beizer [Alice Jardine, Patrice Higonnet]
- Jean Eudes Biem (French): Towards a Cosmopolitan Reconfiguration of Modernity, Epistemology and Polity: Foundational Perspectives in Francophone Character-writers' Inclusive Aesthetics. Advisor: Verena Conley, [Christie McDonald, Biola Irele]
- Stacy Giufre (Italian) Speaking Back: Women in the Works of Cesare Pavese. Advisor: Giuliana Minghelli, [Francesco Erspamer, Lino Pertile]
- Adriana Chimu Harley (French): Nerval, la parole à double tranchant. Le théâtre et le temple, ou l’ironie du littéraire. Advisor: Tom Conley [Janet Beizer, Evelyne Ender (Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center.)]
- Martin Gaspar (Spanish): La condición traductora. Sobre los nuevos protagonistas de la literatura latinoamericana. Advisor: Diana Sorensen, [Doris Sommer, Gonzalo Aguilar (Universidad de Buenos Aires)]
- Christopher Lewis (Portuguese): "When the Glass Slips: Building Bridges to Transmodern Identity in the Novels of Santiago Nazarian and Chico Buarque ". Advisor: Nicolau Sevcenko [Joaquim-Francisco Coelho, Sergio Delgado]
- Lauren Fortner Ravalico (French): Resonant Silence: Staël, Sand, and the Poetics of Listening. Advisor: Janet Beizer [Tom Conley, Christie McDonald]
- Daniele Turello (Italian): Facing and Interfacing: Technology in Jacopone, Dante, Cellini, Vico. Advisor: Lino Pertile [Francesco Erspamer, Verena Conley]
- Alexandra Vega-Merino (Spanish): Sara: chispazos reflexivos en la cinematografia de Tacabo Morales. Advisor: Doris Sommer [Tom Conley, José Rivera]
- Daniel Aguirre Oteiza (Spanish): Descripción de la mentira: contradicciones del testimonio en la poesía de Antonio Gamoneda. Advisor: Luis Fernández Cifuentes [Mary Gaylord, Christopher Maurer (Boston University)].
- José Falconi (Spanish): SECOND NATURE: An essay on the nature of landscape in Latin America. Advisor: Doris Sommer [Thomas Cummins, Nicolau Sevcenko].
- Caterina Mongiat Farina (Italian): La questione della lingua e i massimi sistemi della cultura. Advisor: Francesco Erspamer [Lino Pertile, Diego Zancani (Balliol College)].
- Manolo Núñez-Negrón (Spanish): Políticas del humor en América Latina Advisor: Diana Sorensen [Doris Sommer, Joaquim-Francisco Coelho].
- François Proulx (French): Victims of the Book: Reading Anxieties in the French Novel of Formation, 1880–1914. Advisor: Susan Suleiman [Christie McDonald, Judith Surkis].
- Juan de Dios Vázquez (Spanish): "Between Sentences: A Cultural History of "El Palacio de Lecumberri" from Penitentiary to Mexico’s National Archive." Advisor: Diana Sorensen [Doris Sommer, Hugo Hiriart].
- Bruno Carvalho (Portuguese): New City in a New World: Literary Spaces of an Afro-Jewish Brazilian Neihborhood. Advisor: Nicolau Sevcenko [Joaquim-Francisco Coelho, Tom Conley]
- Christian Claesson (Spanish): The Role of the Author in Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan José Saer. Advisor: Diana Sorensen [Brad Epps, Mariano Siskind, Julio Premat (Paris VIII)]
- Sara Kippur (French): Life-Writing across Languages in the Works of Hector Bianciotti, Jorge Semprun and Raymond Federman. Advisor: Susan Suleiman [Diana Sorensen, Christie McDonald]
- María Ospina (Spanish): Prácticas de memoria o cómo resistir el acabóse: Violencia y representación en la narrativa colombiana, 1985–2005. Advisor: Doris Sommer [Diana Sorensen, Francisco Ortega (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)]
- Felisa Reynolds (French): "Almost the same, but not quite/Almost the same but not white": The question of Literary Cannibalism. Advisor: Tom Conley [Abiola Irele, Odile Cazenave, Maryse Condé.]
- Joaquín Terrones (Spanish):American Baroques: The ethics of excess in Jorge Luis Borges, Wallace Stevens, José Lezama Lima, José Gorostiza, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1935–1940.) Advisor: Doris Sommer [Luis Girón, Arnaldo Cruz-Malave (Fordham U.)]
- Vickie Tillson (Italian): From Myth to Borgota: Rome in Postwar Italian Narrative. Advisor: Francesco Erspamer, [Giuliana Minghelli, and Antonio Vitti (Indiana University, Bloomington)].
- Julieta Victoria Múñoz (Spanish): La poética de la amistad en Los seis libros de la Galatea. Advisor: Mary Gaylord [Luis Girón-Negrón, Luce López-Baralt (University of Puerto Rico)].
- James McMenamin (Italian): The Sequence "Beginning-Middle-End", Dante and Petrarch. Advisor: Lino Pertile [Luis Girón-Negrón and Jan Ziolkowski]
- Antonio Morena (Italian): 1932. Advisor: Lino Pertile [Francesco Erspamer, Ruth Ben-Ghiat (NYU)]
- Jerónimo Pizarro (Spanish): La mediación editorial Sobre la vida póstuma de lo escrito. Advisor: Diana Sorensen, [Doris Sommer, Onésimo Almeida (Brown University)]