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Doctoral (Ph.D.) Programs

The Ph.D. prepares the student for a career in academia. Ph.D. recipients may also pursue alternative careers in research, publishing, journalism, grant writing, government service, international development, educational administration or any other profession in which critical thinking, research and analysis, and cultural knowledge are valuable. After completing required coursework and passing the Qualifying Examination, the student writes a dissertation under the guidance of faculty. The doctoral dissertation constitutes an original contribution to scholarship in the field. The Department has an excellent placement record for its alumni at colleges and universities both locally and across the nation.

Financial Support

Top candidates for admission to the Ph.D. Program compete for Teaching Assistantships that cover tuition, health insurance, plus a stipend of approximately $14,000 per academic year. Students with especially stellar records and high GRE scores may qualify for the Presidential Fellowship and the Dean’s Fellowship, which enhance the Teaching Assistantship with additional monies based on merit. The department supports graduate student travel to present papers or chair sessions at conferences with a stipend of $200 per year. For work on the dissertation, qualified doctoral candidates may apply for fellowships from the Graduate Student Association, the Humanities Institute, and the Gender Institute.

To be considered for the Teaching Assistantship and enhanced fellowships, apply for the Ph.D. program directly if that is your ultimate goal, even if you do not possess a Masters Degree yet.

PhD requirements

Students are not required to have an M.A. prior to their admission to the Ph.D. program. An M.A. is normally awarded after completing the Qualifying Examinations. Unlike the M.A. Program, the Doctoral Program is one of progressive specialization that will culminate in a dissertation.  The Ph.D. program has three major components that have different but overlapping and complementary goals: graduate exams based on reading lists, graduate course work, and a dissertation. The graduate reading lists are designed to give students a broad overview of a field (the history of a literary tradition or the general field of linguistics) and more in-depth knowledge of a specialized period, area, or topic leading up to the dissertation. Some graduate courses from the core curriculum offer surveys of a particular period, genre, or linguistic discipline, and students are encouraged to take advantage of such courses when they are offered. However, many graduate courses are more specialized classes designed to give students research experience with non-canonical texts, new ideas, and innovative approaches that may later inform directly or indirectly the direction taken in the dissertation. These various components along with the language requirement prepare students to conduct research and contribute to their fields.

Course Requirements

Students must complete at least 20 graduate courses (60 credits). A total of 10 courses (30 credits) of relevant coursework may be transferred from another institution. Graduate courses are designed to introduce students to a particular topic and to prepare them to do research in the field. Assessment is based primarily on a major research project and associated assignments leading up to it. The Ph.D. program allows students the flexibility to design their own program of study in consultation with their advisor, but they must take at least one course in each general area of their field:

French Spanish
French literature Peninsular literature
Francophone literature Spanish American literature
French linguistics Spanish linguistics

Minor specialization

Candidates for the Ph.D. are encouraged to choose a field of lesser concentration. Students coming into the French or Spanish Ph.D. program with a Master’s Degree in a related field could offer the latter as their minor.

Language Requirement

For the Ph.D., students must demonstrate proficiency in two languages other than English and the language of specialization. These should be languages that allow the student to read primary works and/or secondary criticism related to their research interests or program of study. Students must satisfy this requirement before the completion of the Preliminary Exam. While the Program does not prescribe specific languages, it is strongly recommended that the candidate select at least one other Romance language. Proficiency may be demonstrated (a) by successful completion of an advanced-level course taught in the target language, or (b) by passing an examination administered each semester by the department.


  • Qualifying Exam: During the 4th semester (3rd semester for post-MA students) students take a fifty-minute oral exam in their field (literature or linguistics) designed to test their knowledge of either literary history or linguistics, plus critical analysis skills, based on a reading list of representative works. The linguistics examination also includes a research paper that must be approved by faculty.
  • Preliminary Exam:  This exam tests the student’s specialized knowledge and expertise in a chosen subfield.  During the 6th semester (5th for students who enter the program with an M.A. from another institution) students take a one-hour oral exam based on a reading list prepared by the student in consultation with his or her adviser. The list may cover a period, a genre, or a linguistic subfield, and should include relevant theoretical works and studies that reflect the current state of the field. The exam begins with a discussion of a question posed by an examining committee two days prior to the exam, but also covers the works on the reading list and mastery of relevant issues in the subfield. The graduate committee recommends that the reading list be pertinent to the student’s dissertation, and that students submit a dissertation proposal before or soon after the Prelim. After passing the preliminary exam, receiving approval for a dissertation topic from the major adviser, and completing all other departmental requirements, the candidate may submit an Application to Candidacy to the Graduate School. This confers A.B.D. status.


At the beginning of the 7th semester (6th semester for students entering the program with an M.A. from another institution) the student will submit to his or her committee an initial dissertation chapter of 20 to 50 pages.  Within one month after submitting this chapter, the student and the committee will meet for a colloquium in which the student will field the committee’s questions concerning the chapter and the general direction of the dissertation.  The objective of this meeting will be to evaluate progress and offer guidance in the writing of the dissertation.