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These are the descriptions and requirements of the the Spanish Graduate Programs for students who began their studies in 2014 or earlier.

Comprehensive Exam

The M.A. written examinations are taken beginning on the second Monday of the Spring semester of the second year. In addition to taking courses, all candidates prepare for the written exams by reading the works on the M.A. reading list for Hispanic Literature. The periods tested are:

  1. Middle Ages.
  2. Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. (Spain)
  3. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. (Spain)
  4. Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries. (Spain)
  5. Colonial Spanish America to Independence.
  6. Spanish America from Independence to Modernismo.
  7. Spanish American Modernismo to 1940.
  8. Spanish America since 1940


By the time of the written exams, you should have read all of the works on the M.A. reading list, either as coursework or on your own, and be familiar with the major critical issues and relevant contexts associated with them. The M.A. Exam will consist of eight separate sections, each covering one of the eight areas of the reading list. It will be taken in a week, two sections per day (with the exception of Wednesday, which will be a study day). All examinees are given two questions in each section, from which they choose one. The first set of questions of the day will be emailed to the student at 9am and the student is required to send back his/her answer by 11am. The second set will be emailed at 1pm and needs to be returned by 3pm. Exam questions are designed to be answered without help from external sources, since the objective of the M.A. Exam is to gauge students’ general understanding of the themes and forms of literary and cultural issues as they manifest over geographical areas and historical moments. While responses to questions should demonstrate the student’s “big picture” understanding of whatever movement/issue/genre/theme is framed in the question and should illustrate his/her perspective with analyses of a few works on the exam list, students are nonetheless encouraged to answer the questions as they are posed. The time limitations of the M.A. Exams (2 hours for each section) make it extremely inadvisable to consult secondary sources, online resources, or other materials during the examination period. Whenever possible, the questions are prepared by different faculty experts on the period. Question preparers are also responsible for grading the question (see Grading Guidelines in the FAQ). However, all grades will be reviewed by an Exam Committee conformed by three members of the faculty. Half of the questions must be answered in English, the other half in Spanish, at the student’s discretion.

Grades are S (Satisfactory) or U (Unsatisfactory) but, in exceptional cases, graders may award an H (High Pass).

Students who fail only one to two questions can retake them after 90 days. Those who receive more than two U’s will repeat the questions in the failed area(s) at the next scheduled exam period. A third and final try for retaking any area(s) requires a petition submitted to the DGS and the Graduate School. Students may not petition to take the written exams at times other than the assigned ones. Registration in the university is required during the semester(s) in which the written exams are taken.


Oral Examination

The oral examination is taken only after all eight sections of the written exam have been satisfactorily passed. It is conducted by an examination committee composed of three members of the Spanish faculty chosen by the Graduate Advisor. These members may or may not be those chosen for the research paper or written examination. The oral exam lasts for about an hour and a half and includes further questions on the reading list as well as questions arising from the written examinations.

The oral examination is an event open to the public. Other graduate students can attend the examination of their peers if the examinee invites them to do so.


Research Paper (Thesis Substitute)

The research paper should be 5,000-7,000 words of text exclusive of endnotes and works cited. All research papers must follow MLA style and conform to the Graduate School’ s “Guide to Theses and Dissertations”. The student should also consult the Graduate School Handbook to ensure that he or she has met all of the requirements for the degree prior to working on and submitting the research paper.

By no later than January 15of the M.A. candidate’s second year, he or she should approach a member of the faculty to serve as the M.A. Research Paper advisor. The candidate, in consultation with the advisor, selects two additional members of the Romance Languages faculty to serve on the Research Paper Committee (RPC). Once they have agreed, all three names must be submitted by the candidate to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will officially appoint the committee and notify all involved, including the Graduate Student Services Manager. The M.A. advisor and then the readers will approve the research paper. A formal meeting between the M.A. candidate and the Research Paper Committee may be scheduled if the advisor considers it necessary. The research paper is normally finished in the Spring semester of the second year. The approved version of the research paper should be submitted in accordance with the deadlines posted on the Graduate School website. An approved research paper, together with the satisfactory completion of both the written and oral exams, are necessary in order to obtain the M.A. degree.


While our MA is designed to give students a broad knowledge of the literatures and cultures studied, the PhD is a specialized degree that builds upon that basic foundation to provide further focus and competence.  The PhD degree consists of a minimum of 6 courses (18 credit hrs.) and a dissertation (6 credit hrs.) beyond the MA.  One course in historical linguistics (either Span 721: Old Spanish or Span 722: History of Spanish) is required if not previously taken for the MA degree.  Specific course work is chosen in consultation with the Graduate Advisor for Spanish.  The Graduate School’s residency requirement of four semesters of full-time registration must be met. Beyond the course work, doctoral students may want to take additional courses to strengthen their preparation for the written comprehensive examination, to lay the groundwork for the dissertation, or to develop a wider range of teaching fields.  As interdisciplinary studies may be appropriate to some research projects and career plans, a supporting program of 3 courses (9 credit hrs.) in addition to the 24-hour program described above may be warranted.  Students may consult the availability of appropriate courses in other departments via the Graduate Record.

Written Exam

Upon completion of coursework, the student will identify a primary area of specialization (one that encompasses and is closely identified with, though not necessarily identical to, the topic of the dissertation), a secondary area (one separate from but complementary to the area of specialization), and a complementary area (one dealing with the Iberian Peninsula or the Americas, whichever is not represented by the area of specialization).  The student will prepare a bibliography that addresses the current state of research in these areas, and will also include appropriate criticism and theory.  The student will justify, in no more than one page at the beginning of the list, how the areas are related.  An examination committee for the student will be composed of one representative for each of the areas chosen, and the committee’s responsibility will be to guide the student in his or her selections.  Once all members agree that the bibliography is ready they will indicate their approval by signing and dating the document.  The student shall then have a minimum of three months from that date to take the take-home written doctoral examination based on the bibliography.

The examination will consist of an oral part, during which the examination committee will test the candidate’s knowledge of the texts in the bibliography and, if completed satisfactorily, the student will be administered the written part to be completed at home.   For this part each member of the examination committee will write two questions based on the area of the bibliography he or she represents. The written examination will take place over a weekend (exam emailed to student by 3:00 pm on Friday and returned to Graduate Student Services Manager by 9:00 am on Monday) and the student will answer one question per area. The student is encouraged to spend one day on the question from the Area of Specialization, and one day divided between the questions from the Secondary Area and the Complementary Area.  Exams are not given over holiday weekends.


For the dissertation, the student will first choose a dissertation committee composed of a director and four readers (this is composed of the exam committee plus 2 others) , and then write a prospectus that outlines the original research that he or she intends to conduct. Once completed, the members of the committee and the student convene for the oral defense of the prospectus. If approved, the student proceeds to write the dissertation, whose oral defense upon completion is the final step to receiving the PhD.