PhD Requirements

The Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (REMS) program was developed to increase the number of graduate-level courses co-taught by experts from different languages who are investigating topics that extend beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.

REMS is a PhD-only program and does NOT accept students without an MA completed before beginning the program. Students with a BA may apply to one of the RLL graduate language programs (French, Italian, or Hispanic and Luzo-Brazilian), and then petition upon completion of the MA for entry into the REMS program. Current RLL PhD students may also petition to join the program. To petition, students should write a brief statement that indicates why they wish to transfer to this program, and submit it to the following for approval at the next RLL faculty meeting: the graduate advisers in each of the two languages of specialization, the REMS adviser, and the Department Coordinator.

Program of Study Summary

  • Specialization in at least two different literatures and cultures (French, Italian, or Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian) of the Renaissance and Early Modern period
  • A minimum of 16 courses beyond the MA taken for a letter grade (B or better):
    • 12 courses on the two Romance literatures of specialization; 9 must be on Renaissance and Early Modern topics (with at least 4 in each of the 2 languages of specialization)
    • Foreign Language Acquisition and Teaching (RLLT 38800)
    • 1 course dedicated to critical theory or the history of literary criticism and aesthetics
    • 2 electives
  • Reading proficiency in a third Romance language or research language
  • First-year exam (during seventh week of spring quarter)
  • Comprehensive exam (during tenth week of spring quarter of second year or autumn quarter of third year)
  • Dissertation proposal and colloquium (during spring quarter of third year)
  • Dissertation and its defense

Coursework

Students in the REMS program are expected to take a minimum of 16 courses beyond the MA degree. During their first year, in consultation with the REMS adviser, they must select two Romance literatures and cultures of the Renaissance and Early Modern period (French, Italian or Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian) as their object of study. They must take 12 courses in the two selected Romance literatures; nine of these should be on Renaissance and Early Modern topics. To insure a balance of languages, students must take at least four of these nine REMS courses in each of the two languages of specialization (e.g., five REMS Spanish courses and four REMS French courses). They must also take Foreign Language Acquisition and Teaching (RLLT 38800), a course dedicated to critical theory or the history of literary criticism and aesthetics, and two electives selected in consultation with the REMS DGS. The theory and elective courses may include those offered not only in RLL, but also in Comparative Literature, English, Gender Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology, or other departments. If conducted in English, other RLLT courses must be approved by the REMS adviser if they are to count towards the 12 required literature courses.

Required courses must be taken for a letter grade (B or better) and are normally spread over six quarters. They should be completed before taking the oral exam. Students are encouraged to take additional courses—in this or other departments—that may be useful in their program of study; these may be audited or taken Pass/Fail.

Attendance at department lectures is a part of professional development and is required. Students must attend at least 10— five workshops and five department-sponsored events—and will be asked to account for their attendance in their progress reports. The Western Mediterranean Culture Workshop is an ideal venue for REMS students to present and discuss their ideas. 

Language Requirements

The language requirement in REMS consists of a third Romance language or a research language relevant to the student's field of study, to be selected in consultation with the REMS graduate adviser.

Students may fulfill the third Romance or research language requirement in any one of the following ways:

  • Passing a translation exam administered by an RLL faculty member who teaches the target language. In this case, the student will be given a passage of 500-600 words (selected from a text in the student’s area of research and chosen in consultation with the faculty member who will administer the exam) to be translated into English within two hours. A dictionary may be used, and students can use a computer or handwrite the exam. Students wishing to take this exam must e-mail, at least three weeks prior to the anticipated date of the examination, the Department Assistant to reserve a room and finalize other logistics;
  • Taking the first-year language sequence (or equivalent), and receiving a grade of B+ or better in all courses in the sequence;
  • Taking a Reading for Research Purposes course (e.g., GRMN 33300) in the target language, and receiving a grade of B+ or better;
  • Taking a course beyond 20300 in the target language and receiving a grade of B+ or better;
  • Passing the Graduate Student Foreign Language Reading Examination administered by the Chicago Language Center. There is a $70 fee for taking this exam; see http://languages.uchicago.edu/ReadingExams/reading_exams_main.html for more information.

Examinations

First-year Exam: During seventh week of spring quarter of their first PhD year, students will take a written examination (up to three hours long) meant to evaluate their critical skills. At the beginning of the academic year, students will be given a list of four texts that belong to the PhD book list (two from each of the languages, chosen by the faculty members in that language). In the spring, the faculty members will choose one of these texts and students will be asked to interpret a short passage of one or two pages taken from it. A dictionary may be used, and students can use a computer or handwrite the exam. Students will receive a grade of Pass, High Pass or Fail, which will be added to their department record but will not appear on their university transcript.

Comprehensive Exam: During tenth week of spring quarter of their second PhD year or, at the latest, in autumn quarter of their third PhD year, students will take an oral exam, based on the PhD reading lists of the student’s two languages of specialization. Students will select 25 to 40 books from each list, with the larger proportion coming from the major language of specialization. The selection from the major language will be chronologically comprehensive, but with a concentration on the Renaissance and Early Modern periods; the selection from the second language will be entirely from the Renaissance and Early Modern periods alone. The list must be made in consultation with, and receive final approval from, a faculty adviser in each of the two languages, as well as the REMS DGS. This exam will consist of brief presentations on two topics related to the reading lists, each followed by questions from the faculty. The duration of the exam should not exceed two hours. Students will receive a letter grade, which will be added to their department record but will not appear on their university transcript.

After obtaining their adviser’s approval, students should submit a signed Comprehensive Examination Chair Form to the Department Coordinator. They must also e-mail, at least three weeks prior to the anticipated date of the examination, the Department Assistant to reserve a room and finalize other logistics. It is the student’s responsibility to confirm the date and time of the exam with their graduate adviser.