Tracks and Requirements

There are three tracks of study within the department, all leading to the Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literature:

  • Latin American and Iberian Literature and Culture
  • Afro-Luso-Brazilian Literature, Creative Writing, and Visual Culture
  • Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics

Dissertation topics may be drawn from any field in Iberian and Afro-Luso-Brazilian language, literature, and culture. Possible fields include Spanish linguistics; Portuguese linguistics; diachronic Hispanic linguistics and philology; medieval Iberian Literature; early modern Iberian literature; 18th-and 19th-century Iberian literature; 20th-century Iberian literature; colonial Latin American literature; 19th-century Latin American literature; 20th-century Latin American literature; Chicano literature; early Portuguese literature; modern Portuguese literature; early Afro-Luso-Brazilian literature; modern Afro-Luso-Brazilian literature; Spanish and Afro-Luso-Brazilian folklore.

Foreign Language Requirement

In addition to proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese, students must have a reading knowledge of one other foreign language, selected in consultation with their Advisor. Students fulfill this requirement by (1) passing the University reading examination in the language; (2) successful completion of a University course of at least level 3; or (3) successful completion of two upper division literature courses in the foreign language. Students must fulfill the requirement no later than the eighth quarter of graduate study.

Course Requirements

A minimum of 16 graduate courses is required, including directed research as appropriate. In addition, Spanish 495 (4 units), and Proseminar I and II (2 units each), all offered in the department, are required and may not replace the graduate courses. 

In the first year of the PhD program, students take Proseminar I and regularly scheduled graduate courses (200-series). In the second year, students take Spanish 495 and may take a combination of regularly scheduled graduate courses and directed research (596) courses. In the third year, students take Proseminar II and continue taking regularly scheduled graduate courses and directed research to complete the program requirements.

For the track in the Latin American and Iberian Literature and Culture: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be a theory course. Within the department, two courses must be pre-1700s, two courses must be post-1700s, and three courses must be outside the main field of expertise (i.e., Latin Americanists take courses on Iberian and vice-versa). A total of three courses (the theory course may be one of them) may be taken in other departments with the approval of the Advisor. A maximum of two courses (8 units) of directed research is permitted.

For the track in Afro-Luso-Brazilian Literature, Creative Writing and Visual Culture: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be a theory course, one course must be pre-1900s, one course must be creative writing and/or translation studies, and one course must be on visual culture. A total of six courses (24 units) may be taken in other departments and/or as directed research (596).

For the track in Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics: of the 16 graduate courses, one must be phonology, one must be syntax, one must be historical linguistics, and one must be in literature. A total of four (16 units) may be taken in other departments. A maximum of four courses (16 units) of direct research (596) is permitted.

Students who hold an MA degree in Spanish or Portuguese from another university may petition for up to six graduate courses to count toward the PhD degree.

First Stage: Capstone Plan

The examination for the first stage of the program consists of submission of two revised papers written for courses taken during the first five quarters and an oral examination on course work and seminar papers completed while in graduate study. With the assistance of the SAO and the Director of Graduate Studies, by the end of the 4th quarter of the program, students must demonstrate that they are on track to complete the course work (11 required courses) and the Spanish and Portuguese language requirement for this first stage of the program. 

Additionally, by the end of the 4th quarter, students must nominate a review committee of three faculty members from the department: the Director of Graduate Studies, the faculty member who will serve as the student’s adviser, and a third faculty member. These requirements must be completed by the 5th quarter of the program for a student to maintain satisfactory degree progress.

In consultation with the review committee, students are required to submit two of their strongest seminar papers, 20-25 pages each (with revisions) in different areas of study of the PhD Program. For literature students, one paper must be written in English and one in Spanish or Portuguese. Students must submit the papers to the review committee during the 6th quarter of the program and at least two weeks in advance of the oral exam.

The oral exam is two hours in length and consists of a review of the papers submitted and questions addressed to the student. Questions are aimed at reviewing and synthesizing what the student has learned in graduate seminars, focusing on methodology and research questions, as expressed in their papers.

The outcome and recommendation of the exams is made by the review committee as follows: (1) Pass with permission to continue in the PhD, (2) Pass with reservations and specific recommendations for improvement, or (3) Fail without permission to continue in the PhD program.

The examinations for the first stage of the program are administered only in spring quarter (6th quarter). Students are awarded the Master of Arts (MA) degree upon successful completion of the examination. 

First Stage: Thesis Plan

In lieu of taking the examination, students in any of the three tracks may seek permission to present a thesis. Students must first complete five graduate courses. In order to endorse the petition, the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Committee of Graduate Affairs must find evidence of exceptional ability and promise in term papers and course work. Every master’s degree thesis plan requires the completion of an approved thesis that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research.

Students are awarded the Master of Arts (MA) degree upon successful completion of the Thesis Plan. 

Teaching Experience

Although Teaching Experience is not required, virtually all students acquire teaching experience as part of their support package. 

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

All committee nominations and reconstitutions adhere to the new Minimum Standards for Doctoral Committee Constitution.

The qualifying examinations consist of (1) presentation of a 40-60 page paper related to the specific dissertation area; (2) a three-hour written examination in the student’s field of specialization; 3) a two-hour University Oral Qualifying Examination at which the above research paper, written examination, and a dissertation prospectus are discussed. The written examination is based on a reading list approved by the doctoral committee. The doctoral committee also prepares the questions for the written examination. The examinations are normally taken no later than nine quarters after admission into the graduate program. Only students who pass the qualifying examinations are advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy and awarded the Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.) degree upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.

Doctoral Dissertation

Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

Required for all students in the program.


For a full-time student taking three courses per quarter, the following figures are optimal: (a) from graduate admission to completion of the first stage of the program: six quarters; (b) from completion of the first stage to authorization to form a doctoral committee: one quarter; (c) from formation of a doctoral committee to qualifying examinations: two quarters; (d) from passage of qualifying examinations (advancement to candidacy) to presentation of the dissertation: three to six quarters; (e) from graduate admission to award of the PhD degree (or normative time-to-degree): five years (15 quarters).

Requirement Standard Time to Completion
Course work By the 9th quarter in residence
Completion of first stage By the 6th quarter in residence
Selection of Faculty Adviser By the 7th quarter in residence
Oral Qualifying Examination (Advancement to Candidacy) By the 9th quarter
Dissertation Filed By the 15th quarter