Romance Languages and Literatures

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The PhD program in Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) is offered jointly by the Departments of French, Italian Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese, and administered by a director and executive committee who are faculty members in those departments. The program affords students the opportunity to undertake more detailed comparative studies among the Romance languages and their linguistic and literary/cultural products than they normally would in any single department’s program. It is founded upon the belief that a truly comprehensive understanding of Romance linguistics and/or Romance literature and culture must be nourished by a substantial degree of familiarity with multiple Romance varieties.

Students opt for a program track in either Literature or Linguistics. They choose one language from among those taught in the three participating departments as their main emphasis (linguistics or literature pertaining to their primary language), but must also complete substantial coursework in other departments, and their eventual dissertation must deal with more than one Romance variety. The RLL program's admissions process, funding, requirements, and administration are separate from those of the three participating departments, but RLL students are normally affiliated with the department of their primary language (the host department) for social and employment purposes, and receive program-related advising from a designated faculty member (the head graduate adviser for RLL students) in that department.

Visit Department Website


Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Students must apply to RLL, not to one of the single-language PhD programs in the three participating departments. The program’s executive committee, on which all three departments are represented, acts as its admissions committee.

Choice of Emphasis

One language/literature taught in the Departments of French, Italian Studies, or Spanish and Portuguese must be chosen as the student's primary language/literature; the department teaching it will become his/her host department upon admission to the program.

Writing Samples

At least two writing samples (no more than 10 pages) are required: one in English and one in the student’s proposed primary language. A third writing sample, in a romance language other than the proposed primary language, may be provided but is not required. Writing samples may include research papers or excerpts from honors theses; they should deal with a topic relevant to the field of Romance Languages and/or Literatures, and should represent what the applicant feels to be his or her best work to date.

GRE Scores

GRE Scores are not required for admission to RLL. 

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

The normative time allowance for the program is set at six years or twelve semesters. The normative time for advancement to candidacy (time to qualifying examination) is four years or eight semesters.

Time to Advancement

All RLL students follow an individual program plan tailored to their own interests and goals, which is worked out in close collaboration with the faculty member serving as head graduate adviser for RLL in their host department and with the RLL executive committee. Students meet with the executive committee early in their first semester for a screening Interview at which the broad outline of their first two years in the program is sketched out. Their progress is then monitored throughout this period by their faculty adviser. They meet with the executive committee again in their fifth semester, for a progress review at which they are advised on preparation for the qualifying examination, normally taken in the seventh or eighth semester.

Before taking the qualifying examination, students must have satisfied the following requirements (the details of how and when these requirements are to be satisfied will vary from student to student, according to the individual program plan):

  • Achieve and demonstrate advanced competency in at least one Romance language taught in each of the three participating departments.
  • Achieve and demonstrate competency in Latin.

A typical timeline is as follows:

Semester Requirement (Completed by end of semester)
1 Screening Interview
2 (Advanced competency in 1st Romance language demonstrated)
3 (Advanced competency in 2nd Romance language demonstrated)
4 (Advanced competency in 3rd Romance language demonstrated)
5 Progress Review. (Competency in Latin demonstrated)
6 Core courses completed. Statements and reading-lists for Qualifying Examination submitted.
7 or 8 Qualifying Examination. Advancement to Candidacy

Time in Candidacy

After passing the qualifying examination, students:

  1. Advance to candidacy;
  2. Write a dissertation prospectus, which must be submitted within three months of the date of the QE (during the eighth or ninth semester); and,
  3. Upon approval of the prospectus, write a doctoral dissertation. The dissertation is expected (but not required) to be filed by the end of the twelfth semester since the student entered the program.

Required Professional Development

Students are required to teach for at least part of their time in the program: they normally begin by teaching a section of a language course in their host department, but opportunities to teach either in other departments, or other types of course, or both, usually become available in later semesters, according to each individual student's aptitudes and qualifications.

Students are encouraged to attend and present at relevant scholarly meetings and conferences and are mentored for this by program faculty according to the details of their individual program plan.

Graduate Program Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the program will have made a significant contribution to scholarship, by writing a doctoral dissertation in the field of romance linguistic and/or literary studies, and will have received individualized training that equips them to accept academic positions either in departments teaching one or more romance languages and literatures, or in departments of linguistics.


Select a subject to view courses


Italian Studies


Contact Information

Romance Languages and Literatures

4125 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-2714

Visit Department Website


Justin Davidson

Graduate Student Services Advisor: French Emphasis

Pichaya Kositsawat

Graduate Student Services Advisor: Italian Emphasis

Seth Arnopole

Graduate Student Services Advisor: Spanish Emphasis

Sebastiao Edson Macedo

Back to Top