Visit the Graduate School for admission information and the online application to the Ph.D. program. Please note that only online applications are accepted. Any difficulties or special requests for paper applications should be addressed directly to the Graduate School. Questions of a general nature relating to the Department of Romance Studies may be directed to the Graduate Field Assistant.

Program Overview

The Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University is home to a most vibrant and distinguished doctoral program in Hispanic and Lusophone literatures, with a longstanding tradition of top-notch scholarship and a dynamic group of nationally and internationally recognized faculty members.The Spanish and Portuguese program is one of only two programs at Cornell to have been ranked among the top ten according to both National Research Council (NRC) rankings.

In recent years, the faculty has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Graduate students have been awarded fellowships from the Provost and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell, the Ford Foundation, as well as Tinker, Manon-Sicca, and FLAC grants. The high reputation and visibility of the Spanish and Portuguese program at Cornell is sustained by the active participation of both its faculty and its graduate students in national and international conferences and colloquia, and in its tremendous output spanning academic books, fiction, translations, articles in specialized journals, newspapers and other media.

Interdisciplinary Study and Research

Taking advantage of the numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary study and research available throughout the university, graduate students are encouraged to develop their own individual interests and disciplinary orientations in an open and ongoing dialogue with members of the Department and the Graduate Field in Romance Studies. Taking advantage of the field structure and the special committee system, Cornell’s signature contribution to graduate education, students can expect to be exposed to a wide range of research areas, periods, critical and theoretical frameworks: from textual analysis and cultural studies, critical, art, political and psychoanalytical theory, to the study of genre, gender and sexuality; from Medieval and Early Modern Studies to contemporary prose, poetry and film; from the Andes and the Southern Cone to Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, and the Latino/a presence in the USA.

Our graduate students engage in a flexible course of study based on minimal general requirements that are complemented according to individual needs and experience under the advice of the special committee. Interdisciplinary studies are a staple of our scholarly focus, and is actively encouraged in our graduate students and practiced by the faculty, making the process of developing a graduate minor and selecting a committee from members of the field and outside the department an organic process.

Intellectual Life

There are numerous regular events hosted by Hispanic and Lusophone Studies at Cornell. The Lecture series in both Spanish and Portuguese bring international scholars who often offer workshops as well. The annual John Kronik Memorial Lecture brings the field’s most important figures to campus. In addition, graduate students can take advantage of the many opportunities available in order to attend workshops, conferences, and talks organized by the Department of Romance Studies and other programs throughout the University. The recently created Romance Studies Annual Lecture brings outstanding scholars to the Department: in 2013 Francine Masiello will deliver this lecture and conduct a workshop with graduate students.

Like all graduate students in the University, students may engage in the activities organized around the Society for the Humanities’ annual theme and apply to their very competitive fellowships in the last years of their dissertation work; they may also participate in symposia and colloquia across the University; organize discussions, present their work in proseminars, and participate in different student study groups. They may also choose to participate in the organization of Entralogos, the graduate student conference of the Department of Romance Studies; or they may decide to be part of the editorial board of diacritics, which selects two highly-qualified graduate students to be part of the board.

During the summer, students may choose to apply for participation in Cornell’s prestigious School for Criticism and Theory, as many in the program do.

There are many other less formal intellectual venues that graduate students in Spanish and Portuguese frequent, such as the creative writing workshop led by Professor Edmundo Paz-Soldán, the Brett de Bary Writing Workshops, different reading groups (often with faculty participation, such as the Psychoanalysis Reading Group, the Marx Reading Group, etc.). In addition, they may obtain funding —for instance, from the Institute for Comparative Modernities— to organize a reading or study group.

Special CommitteEs

The graduate student’s work is directed by a committee of faculty members chosen by the student. As students advance in their programs, their special committees will recommend work in related disciplines and languages necessary to achieve the students’ goals in their individually defined fields of study. Students are encouraged to relate their fields of study to other disciplines, such as anthropology, comparative literature, history, Latin American studies, linguistics, music, philosophy, theater arts, or women’s studies, to name only a few popular options. This is encouraged through a minor field, related to their research, but different from their major area of interest. Overall, there is flexibility and individual attention paid to each case.

Members of the Graduate Field from Other Departments:

Course Descriptions

Please refer to the Spanish and Portuguese sections within the Romance Studies course offerings for detailed descriptions about the language and literature courses we offer.  Note that bracketed courses are not being taught this academic year.

Recent courses for graduate students

  • Holy Wars in the 16th-Century Mediterranean
  • Brazilian Critical Theories
  • Modern Andean Literature
  • After Borges: Literature, Politics, and the Aesthetic Act
  • The Architecture of Desire: Luis Buñuel and Film Theory
  • Space, Place and Narrative in Medieval and Early Modern Spain
  • Macondo/McOndo
  • Literature of the Conquest
  • Film, Photography, Literature: Visualizing Contemporary Spain
  • The Task of the Cleric
  • Aesthetic Theory and the Participatory Act
  • Thinking the Event: Theory, Politics, History

Ph.D. Program

Admission to the program is very competitive, based on an evaluation of the entire dossier of material submitted by the student, which includes a personal statement, letters of recommendation, writing sample, transcripts, GRE and, if pertinent, TOEFL scores. Particular attention is paid to the student’s self-presentation, so care should be taken in writing the personal statement and in choosing the essay sent as a writing sample.

Cornell’s aid package is highly competitive nationally. All admitted students are guaranteed a multi-year package that includes two years of full fellowship, the opportunity for building a teaching portfolio of a range of courses through teaching assistantships, and summer research support.


Students receive five years of full support. The first year of course work is covered by a Sage Fellowship from the Graduate School, and students are expected to take a full load of four courses per semester. The second year of Sage Fellowship from the Graduate School is taken in the last year of study, normally during the fourth or fifth year, when students are writing their dissertation. During the second, third, and fourth years of course work, students receive support from teaching assistantships, which typically entail teaching responsibilities of 15-20 hours per week teaching different levels of language or introductory literature courses. One of the features distinguishing the program in Hispanic and Lusophone Studies at Cornell is the opportunity to teach literature courses, either the introductory survey courses in Latin American, Early Modern Iberian, or Contemporary Spanish literatures and cultures, or a Freshman Writing Seminar at least once during a student’s residence in the program.

Coursework and Second Foreign Language Requirement

Students fulfill their graduate requirements by taking course work in the Department of Romance Studies and in other departments at Cornell. During the first two years, students plan a full load of courses in their major and minor fields. The normal load is four courses per semester (three for those holding teaching assistantships, in the second year). In this two-year period, until they take the Qualifying Examination, all students are required to take the special 6000-level seminar in Hispanic and/or Lusophone literature chosen for each semester.Moreover, in their second year, all students must take the Language Methodology course to prepare for their teaching assignments as TAs, as well as, in due course, the Teaching Writing seminar to prepare for teaching literature courses. Students are expected to emphasize diversity and avoid duplication of past work.

In the summer following their first year, students are encouraged to pursue related language study either at Cornell or abroad and/or independent readings or research that complements their preparation for the Q exams.

The balance of courses, independent study, and thesis work is decided upon by the student and the Special Committee.


Students will take their Qualifying Examination in April of the second year (fourth semester). The Q exam consists of a series of exams on the different literary areas, based on brief canonical lists. The student must take the exam on all areas except on that area of his/her area of specialization (after all, the student is expected to become through coursework and research a specialist in that area). After passing the Q exam, the student is no longer required to take the rotated 6000-level seminar in Hispanic and/or Lusophone literatures, though they may choose to do so. In any case, they must still complete the 14 courses required of the program. Students typically dedicate one semester to the preparation of their special A (Admission to Candidacy) Examination after their Q Examination, but must take this exam on or before May of their third year. The A Examination consists of a meeting with the student’s Special Committee, in which a polished paper and a prospectus of the dissertation are presented to the Committee and discussed. The fourth and fifth years are dedicated to the writing of the dissertation.

Prior to taking the “A” exam, the student must also demonstrate or acquire proficiency in a second foreign language (one that complements the student’s course of study). Proficiency can be demonstrated through coursework or by written examination.

Ph.D. Guidelines

Research Abroad

All students admitted to the program can expect to be able to conduct research abroad, and to obtain support for their participation in national and international conferences from Cornell.