Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies PhD Requirements

Language Requirements
Dissertation Proposal
Program of Study Summary

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.


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 (see Qualifying Paper section below). 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.


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 any one of the ways listed below. Please note that language courses do not count towards the PhD course requirements:

  • 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 Reading Comprehension Examination administered by the Chicago Language Center. There is a $70 fee for taking this exam; see http://languages.uchicago.edu/ARCA/arca_exams.php for more information..


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.

Qualifying Paper

In the spring quarter of their second year students should enroll in an independent study (SPAN 42100), preferably under the guidance of his or her prospective dissertation adviser. The aim of this independent study is to further research and revise one of the term papers written during previous quarters in a seminar related to the student's area of specialization and with the goal of transforming it into a publishable article. This paper will be evaluated by an HLBS faculty member, in addition to the prospective adviser, who will provide a "peer-reviewed" styled report of the final version of the essay by the end of the quarter. Exceptions to the topic of the paper (e.g., if a student wants to write on a theme outside his or her proposed area of specialty) will be considered only by petition. This petition should be submitted by the end of the winter quarter of their second year. The paper is to be written in Spanish or Portuguese and  for a regular grade, and will appear in the student’s university transcript.

Comprehensive Exam
Students are expected to take their PhD exams in the fall of their third year over the course of three days. The exams take place during the second week in October. This exercise has a written and an oral component distributed in the following way:

Monday: Three-hour-long written exam based on an established Diachronic List representing different periods in the historical trajectory of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures (Medieval, Golden Age, Renaissance/Baroque, 18th to 21st centuries) plus around five texts chosen by the students from any area. The questions for this part of the exam will be comparative in nature. Students will be asked to establish relations between the literatures of different historical periods both in terms of aesthetics and thematics. A dictionary may be used, and students should use a computer to write the exam. Preparation for this exam should begin no later than the summer of a student's first year in the program.

Wednesday: Three-hour-long written exam based on a Research List comprised of 30 texts related to the student's proposed field of specialty and crafted in consultation with the prospective dissertation adviser. A dictionary may be used, and students should use a computer to write the exam. Students should prepare for this part of the exam in the summer of their second year.

Friday: A one-hour-long oral exam in which the student is expected to elaborate on both written exams and to answer questions related to any of the texts from either of the two lists.

By no later than the end of the spring quarter of their second year, students are expected to submit for the approval of HLBS faculty the following: 1) The list of five additional texts to supplement the Diachronic List and their selection of works in the cases where they were asked to make a choice, and 2) the Research List comprised of 30 texts. The student's prospective adviser chairs the exams. Once the lists have been approved, the student will submit a signed Comprehensive Examination Chair Form to the Department Coordinator, and at least three weeks prior to the date of the exam, she or he will make the necessary arrangements to determine the time and communicate with the Department Assistant to reserve a room and finalize other logistics.

The grading criteria are High Pass, Pass or Fail, and the grade will be added to their department record but will not appear on their university transcript.


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; during summer, preparation for comprehensive exams.
  • Year 2: Complete coursework, including qualifying paper; fulfill first language requirement; get comprehensive exam lists approved.
  • Year 3: Complete comprehensive exams in second week of October; fulfill second language requirement; present dissertation proposal/colloquium by the end of the winter quarter.
  • 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.