The doctoral program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies aims to provide students with a wide-ranging knowledge of its literary and cultural traditions, a command of critical tools, an understanding of both the history and current state of the discipline, and the pedagogical training that will allow them to become effective teachers and productive scholars who can make a significant contribution to the field. The program consists of a combination of courses, independent research projects, exams, language requirements, workshops and lectures, and also provides pedagogical training and teaching experience. It is designed to be completed within five or six years of full-time study. The DGS for 2015-2016 is Frederick de Armas.


Students in the program are expected to complete a total of 18 graduate courses. These courses must be taken for a letter grade (B or better) and are normally spread over six quarters. The courses should be distributed as follows:

3 required seminars:

  • Foreign Language Acquisition and Teaching (RLLT 38800)
  • Critical Issues in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies (SPAN 38800)
  • One course on literary and cultural theory, which may be taken in another department with the approval of the DGS

At least 11 courses taken within the program, including one in each of the following periods in Hispanic literatures:

  • Medieval
  • Early Modern - Golden Age
  • Modern - Contemporary (18th to 21st Centuries) Peninsular
  • Colonial
  • 19th Century Latin America
  • 20th to 21st Century Latin America

2 to 3 elective courses outside the program, to be selected in consultation with the DGS, and intended to provide students with the interdisciplinary knowledge appropriate to their area of specialization

1 independent study: In the winter or spring quarter of their second year, each student will register for SPAN 42100 (Reading & Research) and work with a faculty member to develop an independent research project and write a qualifying essay; once the essay is completed and approved by the faculty adviser, a second reader will provide a written evaluation. Students may request permission from the section to take an additional independent study course on special occasions, but never in their first year

Most, if not all, courses should be completed during the first two years in the program, and before students can proceed to take the oral exam.

Students who enter the program with a completed MA from another institution may petition, at the end of their first year, to receive credit for up to four courses taken outside of the program. In order to request credit, students will have to provide the DGS with a syllabus for each course by seventh week of spring quarter. Faculty will review all such petitions at the spring progress meeting and the DGS will inform the student of the results of their petition.

Beyond the required 18 courses, students are encouraged to take any additional courses—in this or other departments— that may be useful in their program of study; these may be audited, taken for a grade or taken Pass/Fail.


First-year Exam
During seventh week of spring quarter of their first year, students will take a written exam meant to evaluate their critical skills in analyzing and commenting on a literary text. Students will be asked to give a detailed analysis and articulate an interpretation of a short passage taken from a book belonging to a list of four texts that will be announced at the beginning of each academic year. A dictionary may be used, and students can use a computer or handwrite the exam. The duration of the exam shall not exceed three hours. Students will receive a grade of High Pass, Pass, or Fail, which will be added to their department record but will not appear on their university transcript. For students who have entered the program without a previous graduate degree, an MA will be awarded upon successful completion of this exam and all required courses. Students with a completed MA from another institution may petition to receive an MA if they did not receive credit for any courses taken outside the program.

Comprehensive Exam
By the end of winter quarter of their third year, students will take an oral exam based on two reading lists (each of about 30 books) compiled by the student in consultation with  a faculty member (who may or may not be the DGS) chosen by the student to serve as chair of the examination committee. The first list should represent the student’s field of specialization (which may be defined by period or genre, or according to another criteria established by the student in consultation with the exam chair), and it will be designed to give a comprehensive command of that field (major works, critical approaches and debates, socio-historical and cultural context, etc.). For the second list, the student will identify a topic or a critical question (presumably the intended topic or question to be addressed in the dissertation project) and compile a list of works selected from the PhD reading list drawn from all periods and genres that will serve to provide a diachronic understanding of the literary tradition as it relates to the selected topic. This second list must include at least three works from each of the following periods: Medieval; Early Modern - Golden Age; Modern - Contemporary (18th to 21st Centuries) Peninsular; Colonial; 19th Century Latin America; 20th to 21st Century Latin America.

The exam will consist of brief presentations of the issues addressed in the two 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.

The faculty adviser chairing the examination will advise the student in the compilation of the lists and coordinate the process of consultation with the rest of the faculty. Once the lists have been compiled and approved, a signed Comprehensive Examination Chair Form has been submitted to the Department Coordinator, and at least three weeks prior to the anticipated date of the examination, the exam chair will make the necessary arrangements to determine the date and communicate with the Department Assistant to reserve a room and finalize other logistics.


Besides competency in English and their language of specialization, students must demonstrate 1) a basic command (equivalent to one year of college-level instruction) of a second Romance language, and 2) reading knowledge of a research language. Both of these languages should be relevant to the student’s field of study, and will be selected in consultation with the DGS.

The language requirements may be fulfilled 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 more information.


By the time a student has completed his/her comprehensive examinations s/he should have chosen a dissertation adviser, and obtained the agreement of that person to direct the dissertation. In consultation with the dissertation adviser, the student will constitute a dissertation committee who will guide and advise the student’s research.

Students should plan to have their proposal approved by their committee no more than one quarter after the completion of their comprehensive exams.


  • Year 1: Take nine courses (three per quarter); first-year exam.
  • Year 2: Complete coursework, including independent study; fulfill first language requirement; get comprehensive exam lists approved.
  • Year 3: Comprehensive exam by end of winter quarter; fulfill second language requirement; present dissertation proposal/colloquium.
  • Year 4: Dissertation reading, and writing; completion and approval of at least one chapter.
  • Year 5: Complete and defend dissertation; job applications.

Although funding is not guaranteed past the fifth year, many dissertation fellowships, both internal and external, are available for students who require an additional year to complete their dissertation writing. In addition, students who are making satisfactory progress in the program may apply to teach language or Core courses to support themselves for an additional year and to gain additional pedagogical experience while completing the dissertation.