PhD Program Overview

The doctoral program in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature comprises 72 credits of coursework, taken during the first three years in the program, followed by the Comprehensive Examination, the defense of the dissertation proposal and the completion of the dissertation. 



Students must complete 72 credits (18 courses) as part of the program requirements.  Required courses include: Seminar in Theory; Dissertation Proposal Workshop (two semesters); and an Independent Study with the dissertation adviser.

Students typically take four courses each semester during their first year in the program (including Seminar in Theory, taken in the fall), three courses each semester during the second year (not including Foreign Language Teaching Methodology Workshop, taken in the fall and required for all teaching graduate students), three courses during the fall semester of their third year (including the Independent Study and Dissertation Proposal Workshop), and two courses in the spring of the third year (including the Dissertation Proposal Workshop).

On a case by case basis, the Department will accept transfer credit from previous coursework taken as part of a Master's degree.  Students will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies during their first year to discuss credit transfers.

Students are encouraged to take courses outside the Department of Spanish and Portuguese that will compliment their training in a meaningful way.  Up to three courses may be taken outside the Department, per consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.  Often, courses with other departments such as Comparative Literature, American Studies, and Performance Studies are cross-listed with Spanish and Portuguese, so these would not count as outside courses. 

Students also have the option to take courses at other schools in the area, such as Columbia, CUNY, Rutgers, and Princeton, as part of the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, per approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.


Comprehensive Examination

In December of their third year in the program, all students will take the Comprehensive Examination. The Examination will be administered by a committee of three faculty members, chosen by the student, and will consist of a written and an oral examination on three individualized reading lists. Each list will cover one of three "fields" and will be elaborated by the student in collaboration with the three advisors (one advisor per list).  The reading lists are to be organized as follows:


  1. “Dissertation Field”: a list of 20-25 titles covering a particular critical perspective and/or historical or theoretical issues that will provide the groundwork for the Dissertation Proposal. This includes "primary" and "secondary" readings of literary, critical, theoretical, historical materials that are directly relevant to the dissertation topic;
  2. "Theory Field”: a list of 20-25 titles referring to literary critical or theoretical areas that complement  and provide a larger context of debate for the issues discussed in the “Dissertation Field”;
  3. “Teaching Field”: a list of 40-50 titles based on the student’s teaching field.  This reading list entails a comprehensive approach to a field roughly corresponding to the broad designations found in the MLA job list, e.g., "Latin American Colonial Literature / Transatlantic Studies", or “Modern (19th-21st century) Peninsular Literature/Culture.” 


Students will take one Independent Study in the fall of their third year in order to elaborate and prepare the reading lists in collaboration with a member of the faculty who will serve as Chair of the Examination Committee, and two other faculty members, who will be the additional members of the committee.


Other Degree Requirements

In addition to completing 72 credits of coursework and passing the Comprehensive Examination, students must successfully defend a dissertation proposal and fulfill all language requirements.

Dissertation Proposal

Students are expected to defend their dissertation proposals in the spring of their third year in the program.  The dissertation proposal will be approved by a committee consisting of the student’s three advisors from the Comprehensive Examination.  In the summer following the successful defense of the dissertation proposal, students will receive a $5000 stipend from the department.

Language Requirements

Portuguese- All students are required to demonstrate advanced proficiency in both Spanish and Portuguese by the time of graduation.  For Spanish-speaking students, the Portuguese proficiency requirement can be satisfied by taking the zero-credit course “Portuguese for Spanish Speakers,” offered every spring.  This requirement may also be satisfied by prior coursework taken as part of an undergraduate or Master’s degree, or by completing an advanced undergraduate language course or graduate seminar conducted in Portuguese.

Additional Research Language- In addition to proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese, all students must demonstrate advanced reading knowledge of a third research language.  This requirement may be satisfied by completing an undergraduate language course at the Intermediate II level (or equivalent) or by passing the Graduate School’s Foreign Language Proficiency Exam, offered each year in March, August, and November.  On a case by case basis, language courses taken as part of an undergraduate degree may be accepted as proof of proficiency.  Common languages used to satisfy this requirement include French, Italian, and Latin.  Please note that advanced knowledge of English is a prerequisite for admission to NYU and will not satisfy this degree requirement. 


Doctoral Dissertation

Students are encouraged to maintain close contact with their dissertation advisors. Ideally, the dissertation should be submitted by the end of the second year following the successful presentation of the dissertation proposal.  Prior to the oral defense, the dissertation will be read and approved by the dissertation advisor and two readers from the faculty, who will submit written evaluations.  Two additional readers will also take part in the oral defense.

For further information about the structure of the Ph.D. program, please consult the Graduate School of Arts and Science Bulletin.






PhD Manual

The current PhD Program Student Manual is available here. 

This document contains a full description of the program’s academic structure, requirements, policies, and procedures.