Program Requirements

I. Requirements for the Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies

1. Course work

Students must complete satisfactorily a total of 20 course units. Normally a student will take four courses per semester during the first year and three courses per semester during the second and third years. There are two required courses in Hispanic Studies (see number 2 below). No more than five courses may be taken outside the Hispanic Studies section, and those with the approval of the Graduate Chair.  Except for the introductory course in literary theory, students are not permitted to take courses outside the Hispanic Studies section during the student's first year in the graduate program, except under unusual circumstances.

The faculty is committed to working with students to improve their academic writing in both Spanish and English. To this effect, students may be required to submit a revised version of the papers they receive back from their professors that incorporates the grammatical and stylistic corrections noted in the original. This revised version should be handed back to the professor within two weeks of receipt of the corrected paper. Faculty members will also identify seminar papers that in their view could be revised for publication or for presentation at a conference.


2. Required Courses

Two courses are required of all graduate students:  a course in Literary Theory and SPAN606 ("Pedagogy Across the Spanish Curriculum"). Exemptions from these requirements will rarely be made and will be based on a student having taken an essentially similar course at the graduate level elsewhere. Spanish 606 is offered every fall semester. 


3. Language Requirements

It is essential that all graduates of the Hispanic Studies section have a strong command of both Spanish and English. All incoming students should be certain that their Spanish and English skills are satisfactory by the end of their first year in the program. The Faculty may recommend that students seek directed assistance in academic writing in English within the University, and may encourage students to improve their Spanish language skills in various contexts abroad.

In addition to Spanish, students are required to to have reading knowledge in two foreign languages appropriate to the student's prospective field of specialization. At least one language requirement should be completed by the end of the first year, and both by the end of the third year. Students will not be allowed to sit for their comprehensive examination until both language requirements have been met.

This requirement can be satisfied in one of three ways:

  1. A translation exam in a foreign languages appropriate to the students' prospective field of specialization. This determination will be made upon consultation with the Graduate Chair. Students will translate two passages of 30 lines each. The passages will either be prose from a literary text, modern criticism or selected readings from both genres. The exam is two hours long and students are allowed to use dictionaries. Reading exams are offered twice a year, once in October and once in March. The dates will be announced by the Graduate Coordinator. Students will be allowed to translate from one Romance language to another (i.e., from Spanish to French or Italian or from French to Spanish or Italian). *The University offers summer courses that will help students achieve the necessary degree of proficiency in some foreign languages (usually French, German, etc.) to prepare for the translation exams. A summer course for reading knowledge, offered tuition free by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, can be taken during the first summer session of each year by all current and matriculated students. After the completion of the course, the student still has to take the translation examination offered in October or March in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement.
  2. The language requirement for a modern language may also be fulfilled by passing a one-semester 300 level or higher undergraduate course or a 500 level or higher graduate course with the class work, readings, and discussions taught in the target language. A minimum grade of B+ at the University of Pennsylvania is required. Successful completion of a one-semester course means the student has fulfilled all course requirements such as tests, quizzes, and homework assignments. Undergraduate courses are taken as an audit and auditing the graduate course is optional; however, the student will need to produce a letter from his or her instructor that attests to satisfactory performance. The instructor must include a letter grade in this correspondence.  (Please note that any courses taken for credit and in addition to or instead of the summer course for reading knowledge offered by the Graduate School requires the payment of tuition which is the responsibility of the student.)
  3.  The language requirement may also be fulfilled by passing a one-semester 100 or 200 level undergraduate course in Quechua, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew only with a minimum grade of B+ at the University of Pennsylvania. Successful completion of a one-semester course means the student has fulfilled all course requirements such as tests, quizzes, and homework assignments.  This course may be taken as an audit; however, the student will need to produce a letter from his or her instructor that attests to satisfactory performance. The instructor must include a letter grade in this correspondence.  (Please note that any courses taken for credit and in addition to or instead of the summer course for reading knowledge offered by the Graduate School requires the payment of tuition which is the responsibility of the student.)


4. Qualifying Evaluation

In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must successfully pass a qualifying evaluation. At the beginning of a student's third semester the faculty will evaluate all aspects of the student's performance during his or her first year in the program, namely:

1.    all written assignments completed for courses (exams and papers)

2.    course grades

3.    contribution to class discussion

4.    grade received in the qualifying evaluation

After all the evidence is considered by the graduate faculty, the student will be informed that he or she has:

Passed the evaluation and is invited to continue studies toward the doctorate. If all Graduate School requirements have been met, the student will be awarded a Master's degree in December of his or her second year.

-Passed the evaluation and is eligible to receive a terminal Master's degree. A student who is judged eligible to vie for a terminal Master's degree will have the option of leaving the program in December or May of the second year. If the student completes course work successfully, he or she will be recommended to receive a terminal Master's degree either in December or May, as the case may be.

-Failed the evaluation and is asked to withdraw from the program at the end of the fall semester.


5. Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive exam, which all students must successfully pass before being granted ABD status, consists of 1) an oral exam and 2) a written exam. Students can register for SPAN800 in the fall of their third year to prepare and complete the written exam.

1.    The Oral Exam. All students must pass a two-hour oral Ph.D. exam during the beginning of the second year (September). The oral exam is based on the contents of a 50-book reading list. Students must construct the list in consultation with the graduate adviser and/or the future dissertation director. The required composition of the list includes 10 works from medieval and early modern Spain, 10 works from modern and contemporary Spain (1800-present), 20 works from Latin American Literature (colonial to present), and 10 additional works chosen by the graduate student in consultation with his or her future dissertation advisor. Students must submit their 50-book list to the graduate group chair by end of the first year (April) for approval. In consultation with the student, the Graduate Chair will organize a committee of three faculty members who will conduct the two-hour exam. Graduate students are encouraged to prepare for the exam in close consultation with all the members of his/her oral exam committee.

2.    The Written Exam. Students will be ask to write two essays (20-25 double-spaced pages each) on topics related to their proposed area of specialization. The written exam takes place over a two-month period during fall semester of the third year (mid-October through mid-December). The exam is intended to be not only a test of candidates' over-all comprehension of their fields of concentration, but also of their capacity to undertake independent research, to analyze critically, to synthesize cogently, to articulate ideas clearly, and to generate original thinking.  For this exam, the student should choose a primary examiner (usually the future dissertation supervisor) and a second reader from the graduate group to serve on the oral exam committee. These faculty members will also evaluate the completed exam and determine if the essays are of passing quality.  

Upon successful completion of the written examination, the student will choose a thesis advisor and at least two additional committee members (see below).


6. Dissertation proposal

Students will submit a dissertation proposal by June 1 of the third year. Students can register for SPAN800 in the spring of their third year to work on their proposal. The proposal is a 10-15-page document with an appended bibliography that explains in detail the proposed thesis topic, the critical instrument(s) chosen to approach it, existing scholarship on the subject, and an overarching plan for its development in the form of a chapter outline. The proposal is prepared in consultation with the dissertation committee, and the student submits the completed proposal to the Graduate Chair. The Graduate Chair circulates the prospectus to all members of the graduate faculty, and determines whether it is acceptable on the basis of written comments submitted by the members of the dissertation committee to him or her in a timely fashion. The student and the advisor will receive a copy of the comments forwarded to the Graduate Chair by the faculty.


7. Dissertation

Upon successful completion of the field examination, the student will choose a dissertation advisor and at least two committee members. Students are encouraged to consult with the Graduate Chair regarding this matter, but the ultimate decision is the student's prerogative. The student should approach a member of the graduate faculty with a tentative topic for the dissertation before proposing him or her as a dissertation committee member. The faculty member approached has the option of deciding whether or not to undertake the project.

The dissertation committee will consist of the dissertation supervisor and two readers. In total, at least 2 of the committee members must be from the graduate group. One member has to be outside of the graduate group, either from a different department or from outside the university. Only one outside member may be part of this committee.   Students should have identified the supervisor and at least one other member of their Ph.D. committee before they submit their prospectus for departmental approval. The outside reader may be chosen when the student is nearing completion of the dissertation, but no later than one month before the defense date. The composition of the reading committee should be reported to the Graduate Chair and the Graduate Coordinator as soon as possible. Students are encouraged to work closely and share their work regularly with all the departmental members of their committee while writing their dissertations, and should consult each faculty member about his/her preference and working style as a member of a dissertation committee.

At least one month before the defense date, the student should submit a completed dissertation to all the members of the dissertation committee. 

Doctoral Dissertation Manual is hosted by the Library and linked in the Catalog. Procedures for submitting a dissertation are covered


8. Dissertation defense

Once the final draft of the dissertation is completed, the student will communicate with the Graduate Coordinator about setting up the logistics of the defense. The dissertation defense is the final requirement for the Ph.D. degree. It is an academic exercise open to the general University public. Present at the defense will be: the student, the Graduate Chair, the thesis advisor, and the three members of the dissertation reading committee. The Graduate Chair will appoint beforehand from this group someone other than him or herself (and not the advisor) to serve as moderator for the proceedings. The defense will begin with a short (20-30 minutes) presentation by the student. Afterwards, the members of the committee in turn, and later anyone present, may direct questions or comments to the candidate. At the end of the exercise the student will step outside, and the members of the defense committee will vote formally on whether to recommend the dissertation to the Graduate School for approval. If the vote is positive, the student will proceed to prepare the final version for presentation to the Graduate School, making sure to incorporate any recommendations suggested by the members of the defense committee during the proceedings. If the vote is negative, the student will not be recommended to the Graduate School for receipt of the doctoral degree.


9. Typical Five-Year Time Frame:

Year 1- Educational Fellow

Fall Semester: 4 courses; no teaching assignment

Spring Semester: 4 courses; no teaching assignment

Foreign Language Requirement 1 Satisfied


Year 2- Teaching/Research Fellow

Fall Semester: 3 courses (including a SPAN606); 1 teaching assignment

Qualifying Evaluation and Comprehensive Oral Exam

Spring Semester: 3 courses; 1 teaching assignment


Year 3- Teaching/Research Fellow

Fall Semester:  3 courses (including SPAN800*); 1 teaching assignment

Comprehensive Written Exam

Spring Semester: 3 courses (including SPAN800*); no teaching assignment

Dissertation Proposal due by June 1st

Both Foreign Language Requirements Satisfied; 20 Course units completed

*See #5/ Comprehensive Exams


Year 4- Teaching/Research Fellow

Fall Semester: ABD Status; 1 teaching assignment

Spring Semester: ABD Status; no teaching assignment

Dissertation research and writing


Year 5- Educational Fellow

ABD Status; no teaching assignment

Dissertation Defense by the end of spring semester 


II. Advising and Evaluation of Students

Upon entering the graduate program in Hispanic Studies, each student will be advised by the Graduate Chair for Hispanic Studies. Thereafter, the Graduate Chair will continue give advice on course registration and other academic matters, but students are encouraged to consult other faculty members as well. When a general area of concentration is identified as a possible source of a dissertation topic, the appropriate professor will become, de facto, the student's principal advisor, and, normally, the dissertation supervisor.

At the beginning of each academic year the faculty will review the progress of each student. The faculty closely monitors the students' scholarly and professional development, particularly during the crucial first two years. Among the items covered during this review are the following: grades, performance in class, quality of written material, teaching performance, and due progress toward the Ph.D. degree. Because the faculty does not wish to encourage any student who may not be able to complete the degree with distinction, any student who has not shown adequate command of oral and/or written Spanish; has failed a course; has a grade point average lower than 3.5; has not made steady progress toward completion of the Ph.D. degree; or has generally performed below expectations may be placed on departmental probation or asked to leave the program.


III. General Comments

1.) All students must be familiar with the guidelines, rules, and deadlines of the Graduate School, especially in matters such as registration, submission of material for specific degree-granting dates, etc. It is not the responsibility of the Graduate Chair, the Chair, the student's dissertation advisor, or the Graduate Coordinator to ensure a student's compliance with official Graduate School regulations. Exceptions and/or exemptions from any of the Hispanic Studies section's or the Graduate School's requirements or schedules are granted, if at all, with reluctance and after consultation with and/or written request to the appropriate officer.

2.) Students should consult with the Graduate Chair as early as possible, and as frequently as any question arises that concerns requirements, overall progress toward the degree, deadlines, etc.

3.) All graduate students are eligible to apply to be considered for the position of Assistant in the various programs sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. The following guidelines and procedures will be used in choosing the Assistants for any given year:

a.) Only students who are generally in good standing, whose teaching performance has been excellent, and who do not have any outstanding work will be eligible.

b.) A timely deadline for receipt of applications from graduate students will be announced by the Graduate Chair.

c.) The faculty will choose the Assistants from among the applications received.

d.) The faculty has prepared a list of general works on theory and criticism considered to be important reading for any future scholar and colleague in the field. While there will be no formal testing on these works, it is expected that the serious candidate for the Ph.D. will make an attempt to be reasonably familiar with them.