Hispanic Languages and Literatures

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers the PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures (HLL) with two possible tracks: Hispanic and Latin American Literatures and Cultures, and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Cultures. All graduate students are required to develop broad expertise across a number of programmatic fields (literary genres, historical periods, cultural and social geographies) that ensure their ability to interact with colleagues and their competitiveness in the academic job market. The research specializations of our faculty and graduate students span all of these areas, and furthermore reflect most of the trends in contemporary scholarship, from philology, history of the book, and intersections of literature with material culture, through to aesthetics, the relationship of literature to visual culture, and performance studies. All students are required to study both Spanish and Portuguese as well as another language relevant to the student's research program, to study literature and culture from both sides of the Atlantic. As students progress through our graduate program, they are expected to formulate their own theoretical approaches to research questions regarding an individually defined area of expertise.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

Applicants for admissions to the PhD program in Hispanic Languages and Literatures must hold a BA degree with studies in Spanish, Spanish-American, Portuguese, or Luso -Brazilian literatures; or another field with demonstrable bearing on Hispanic and/or Luso-Brazilian studies.  Native or near-native proficiency in a primary language (either Spanish or Portuguese) is required.

The program requires a statement of purpose, a personal statement, and critical writing samples (Spanish, Portuguese, or English). Writing samples should be in the form of thesis or research paper on a topic relevant to the fields of Romance and/or Hispanic languages and literature (about 10-15 pages).

Applications are accepted for fall term only.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

In close consultation with faculty, the student will develop a specialization in one of two tracks:

  1. Hispanic and Spanish American literature and culture,
  2. Luso-Brazilian literature and culture

Each track will be organized around student areas of interest. Course preparation will lead to the Qualifying Examination, followed by the completion of a dissertation in the field. Students interested in Linguistics are encouraged to apply through Romance Languages and Literatures program.

Normative Time Requirements

  • Normative time to advancement: Four years
  • Normative time in candidacy: Two years
  • Total normative time: Six years

Program Description

(Tracks 1 & 2)

Upon arrival in Berkeley, students in these two tracks will meet with a designated First-Year Mentor, who will assess their preparation and advise them on appropriate coursework for their first four semesters. Advising after the first year will be done by the Department’s Head Graduate Adviser (HGA) or a designated assistant adviser. Although students during those first four semesters will naturally want to take courses in their main areas of interest and also look to fulfilling requirements for the Ph.D., they are also expected to concentrate on coursework in areas that they have not studied before, in order to prepare themselves for the general examination.

The immediate goal of the new graduate student is the General Examination, scheduled for their fourth semester. This exam is based on a standard reading list of Spanish and Latin American literature that first-year students will receive when they enter the program. The reading list represents literature from all of the traditional sub-fields. A three-person committee appointed by the Chair will conduct the exam. A Pass is required in order to continue in the program. Students who come to Berkeley with an M.A. or otherwise have a strong preparation may petition to take the exam before the fourth semester.

After passing the General Examination, students will submit a Statement of Purpose that reflects greater intellectual maturity after two years of graduate study, as well as possible changes in primary area of interest, greater understanding of research areas, and other changes in a student’s conception of his/her role in the field. The Statement, together with the results of the General Examination and the student’s performance in coursework, will be considered by the faculty of the Department as a whole, who will then vote whether to allow the student to continue in the program.

Students invited to continue in the program will concentrate their coursework on remaining Ph.D. requirements including any Designated Emphases (Film, Gender Studies, Critical Theory, etc.) they may have chosen. Formal advising will continue to be carried out by the HGA or an assistant. In addition, the specialist in the student’s chosen field will increasingly mentor the student.

The Qualifying Examination will normally take place in the student’s eighth semester but may be moved forward in instances of adequate preparation. Early in the semester in which students plan to take the Oral Ph.D. Exam (QE), they will write three field statements, with accompanying bibliographies. Each statement will focus on a pressing topic or problematic, a “deep dive” within the student’s intended field of specialization. The intended fields of specialization should generally track the common areas of specialization in the academic job market. After submitting the three field statements and bibliography, the student will take a 2-day written exam based on questions related to them. The field-statements and the written exam will be assessed by the student’s examination committee in order to determine whether or not the student is prepared to proceed to the oral examination. After passing the Qualifying Examination, students will have two years to research and write a dissertation, embodying the results of original research on a subject chosen by the student. The degree should be completed within the program’s normative time of six years.


All incoming students will be assigned to a First-year Mentor (1 faculty member) responsible for assessing their preparation and helping the incoming students during their transition into the program. Curricular advising in years 2, 3, and 4 will be carried out by the Head Graduate Adviser or designate in consultation with appropriate faculty, according to students’ interests.

Mentoring for advanced students (years 3 and 4) continues to come from faculty likely to be part of the students Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

General Examination

(Tracks 1 & 2)

All second-year students will take a written General Examination. The exam will be based on a reading list of Spanish and Latin American literature that first-year students will receive when they enter the program. The General Examination will be administered in the 4th semester, so normally in the spring, although students will be able to petition for accelerated progress and an early exam. 

After completing the General Examination, students will submit a Statement of Purpose. The Statement should reflect greater intellectual maturity after two years of graduate study, as well as changes in primary area of interest, greater understanding of research areas, and other changes in a student’s conception of his/her role in the field. 

Permission to Continue in the Ph.D.

The faculty of the department as a whole will decide if a student should continue in the program, based on performance on the General Examination, experience of the student in coursework, and the student’s Statement of Purpose.

Course Requirements

A minimum of twelve courses are required for the Ph.D. (approximately 48 units). This includes eleven courses in the department, and at least one course outside. Up to two Upper-Division courses would be allowed with permission of the graduate adviser. In addition to the 11, students will take courses for Designated Emphases, language study, etc. Courses numbered 298, 601, 602 would remain as options but do not count towards course requirements.

The following must be included within the 11-courses within the department:

  • One graduate seminar in Portuguese (track 1), Spanish (track 2)
  • One graduate seminar outside of the historical period and geographic area of student’s major emphasis
  • One graduate seminar in literary theory or containing a strong theoretical component
  • One course in Spanish and/or Portuguese language pedagogy (Spanish 375)
  • Two courses related to field of interest, approved by adviser

Foreign Language Requirement

For students in Literature two foreign languages pertinent to the specialization. Of these, Spanish for students of Luso-Brazilian studies and Portuguese for students of Hispanic literatures are required and must be fulfilled through graduate course work taught in the pertinent language (not English). The second language requirement must be satisfied by passing the Language Reading Examinations administered by the respective language department. The requirement should be satisfied as early as possible in the student’s doctoral career and must be completed prior to Admission to the Qualifying Examination.

Qualifying Examination

The student must satisfactorily pass the preliminary examination in order to proceed to the QE examination. The examination committee consists of five members, at least one from outside the department. This is a three-hour oral examination that will allow the examination committee to evaluate the students’ ability to: establish a coherent bibliography; demonstrate a solid knowledge of the most relevant critical literature; identify a set of questions or problems to be examined; frame an argument, and analyze individual texts.


The student will submit a dissertation prospectus, with a selected bibliography, to the dissertation committee before the end of the first semester following the qualifying examination. It is expected that the proposal will describe the intended research, establish the textual corpus to be examined, provide a basic bibliography and, if possible, set the project within current research in the field. After examining this material, the dissertation committee will meet with the student to discuss the proposal, to set up a timetable, and to give final approval to the dissertation project. 


Once the qualifying examination has been passed and formal advancement to candidacy is approved by the Graduate Division, the student will write a doctoral dissertation under the guidance of a director and faculty committee (selected by the student and his/her graduate advisor), embodying the results of original research on a subject chosen by the student in consultation with the dissertation director. The doctoral dissertation represents the final demonstration of a student’s research and scholarly abilities, and constitutes an original contribution to the field of studies. Normally a student will be expected to complete the dissertation within two years after advancement to candidacy.

Teaching Opportunities

The department provides every student with an opportunity to gain teaching experience as part of our graduate training. We are committed to training students in the most recent methods of language pedagogy and to providing them with diverse teaching opportunities. There are opportunities for teaching during the summer as well as during the regular academic year.

Applications for graduate student instructorships for the teaching of Spanish, Portuguese, and/or Catalan are accepted from applicants newly seeking admission to our graduate program. Formal appointments cannot be processed until official confirmation of admission is received.


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Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Anthony J. Cascardi, Dean of Arts & Humanities. English, comparative literature, literature, Spanish, Portuguese, philosophy, aesthetics, early modern literature, French, Spanish Baroque.
Research Profile

Justin Davidson, Assistant Professor. Spanish linguistics, romance linguistics, contact linguistics, bilingualism, Catalan, sociophonetics, language variation and change, quantitative methods.
Research Profile

Ivonne Del Valle, Associate Professor. Colonial period in Mexico, internal colonialism in Mexico, Jesuits (Loyola, Acosta, Baegert), Baroque and Enlightenment from a colonial perspective, technology and environment, drainage of Mexico City lakes, Christianity and Pre-Hispanic religions .
Research Profile

Daylet Dominguez, Assistant Professor. Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures.
Research Profile

Michael Iarocci, Professor. Spanish, literature.
Research Profile

Tom McEnaney, Associate Professor. Connections between Argentine, Cuban, and U S literature, the history of media and technology, sound studies, linguistic anthropology, computational (digital) humanities and new media studies.
Research Profile

Nasser Meerkhan, Assistant Professor. Transcultural, transtemporal and translinguistic texts, Medieval Iberia.
Research Profile

Ignacio Navarrete, Professor. Spanish literature: poetry, poetic theory, narrative and culture, history of the book, Cervantes, Don Quixote, Medieval and Early Modern Spanish literature Modern Spain .
Research Profile

Alexandra Saum Pascual, Assistant Professor. Spain, electronic literature, contemporary literature, digital humanities, new media.
Research Profile

Candace Slater, Professor. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Estelle Tarica, Associate Professor. Latin America, Mexico, race, nationalism, Spanish, mestizo, Indians, Andes, Bolivia, Peru, Holocaust, Quechua.
Research Profile

Nathaniel Wolfson, Assistant Professor. Avant-garde poetry and aesthetics, media studies, literature and philosophy, comparative modernisms and the history of science and technology.
Research Profile


Amelia R. Barili, Lecturer.

Jhonni Carr, Lecturer.

Agnes Dimitriou, Lecturer.

Clelia Francesca Donovan, Lecturer.

Miriam Hernandez-Rodriguez, Lecturer.

Elena B. Olsen, Lecturer.

Duarte Carvalho Pinheiro, Lecturer.

Ana Belen Redondo Campillos, Lecturer.

Victoria Martinez Robertson, Lecturer.

Donna A. Southard, Lecturer.

Tanya Varela, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Arthur L. Askins, Professor Emeritus. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Milton M. Azevedo, Professor Emeritus. Linguistics, Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Emilie L. Bergmann, Professor Emeritus. Early modern Spain, colonial Spanish America, Spanish literature, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, visual studies, gender and sexuality studies.
Research Profile

Jerry R. Craddock, Professor Emeritus. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Dru Dougherty, Professor Emeritus. Poetry, stage history, Valle-Inclan, Spanish poetics, war and literature.
Research Profile

Charles Faulhaber, Professor Emeritus. Medieval Spanish literature, medieval rhetoric, codicology, paleography, computerization of scholarly methodology.
Research Profile

+ Francine R. Masiello, Professor Emerita. Gender theory, culture, globalization, comparative literature, Spanish, Latin American literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, comparative North and South literatures.
Research Profile

John H. R. Polt, Professor Emeritus. Spanish literature, 18th century, 19th century.
Research Profile

Jose Rabasa, Professor Emeritus. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Julio Ramos, Professor Emeritus. Spanish, Portuguese.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Spanish and Portuguese

5319 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-0471

Fax: 510-642-6957


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Department Chair

Michael Iarocci, PhD

5210 Dwinelle

Phone: 510-642-0471


Head Graduate Advisor

Ivonne Del Valle, PhD

5226 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-0471


Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Verónica López

5309 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-8037


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