Spanish at Cornell boasts a highly recognized faculty in both Spanish literatures and cultures, making it one of the top programs in the nation in terms of both teaching and research excellence. Faculty with expertise in Spanish can be found not only in the Department of Romance Studies, but also in many other departments and programs, from City and Regional Planning, to International Agriculture, to Visual Studies. The range of faculty interests and departmental activities is enormous, allowing students to design their own personalized curricula after a few core requirements are met. Many of our students and faculty enjoy a privileged relation with colleagues in History, Anthropology, Art History, Near Eastern Studies, or Comparative Literature (to name a few related areas of study within the College of Arts and Sciences), as well as the Latin American Studies Program and the Latino Studies Program. Other Cornell Units Other units at Cornell committed to supporting the work of advanced students in Spanish are the The Institute for European Studies and several of the Language Houses.

The Spanish Major

Students fulfill the requirements for the major in Spanish by successfully completing, with grades of B- or better, four core courses and 15 credits of electives (which include a Senior Seminar of the student’s choice). Courses may be taken concurrently and do not have to be taken in any particular order.

Core Courses

The four core courses for the Spanish major are:

1 Advanced Language Course
  • SPAN 2180 Advanced Spanish Writing Workshop (4 credits). (N.B.: A student with native or near-native command of Spanish may substitute a higher level course in Spanish.)
3 Introductory Literature/Culture Courses
  • SPAN 2140 Modern Spanish Survey (4 credits), or SPAN 2235 Perspectives on Spain in Spanish (4 credits, offered in the Fall only)
  • SPAN 2150 Contemporary Latin American Survey (4 credits), or SPAN 2205 Perspectives on Latin American in Spanish (4 credits, offered in the Spring only)
  • SPAN 2170 Early Modern Iberian Survey (4 credits)



While we strongly recommend that majors select all of their elective courses from among the SPAN offerings in the Department of Romance Studies, electives other than the Senior Seminar may also be selected from among eligible courses elsewhere in the University. Courses applicable toward the Spanish major must derive at least half of their content from Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) or Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) parts of the world.  When in doubt, students are advised to speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  To be counted as a course, any elective must be taken for at least three credits.  Students may apply up to three courses from abroad toward a Spanish major.

Two Senior Seminars (4 credits each) are offered every year in our program. Majors must take one of these; they may choose to do more than one. Although majors typically take the Senior Seminar in the final year, some opt to take the Senior Seminar earlier. The Senior Seminar changes every semester, usually alternating a Peninsular topic with a Latin American topic, an early modern topic with a contemporary topic. Check Courses of Study and/or our internal Department course roster to find out what these will be for each academic year. Here are some of the courses that Spanish majors may choose as electives:

Examples of Senior Seminar
  • SPAN 4870 The Forgotten and the Damned: An Alternative History of Latin American Literature (4 credits, Fall 2014)
  • SPAN 4640 The Other Iberia (4 credits, Spring 2015)
Examples of Eligible Electives
  • SPAN 2xxx Any of the Perspectives courses (e.g., Perspectives on Spain, Latin American, the Caribbean) (4 credits each)
  • SPAN 2330 Latino Music in the U. S. (3 credits)
  • SPAN 3020 Spanish in the Disciplines (1 credit)
  • SPAN 3170 Creative Writing Workshop (in Spanish) (4 credits)
  • SPAN 3380 Anti-Imperialism in Latin America (4 credits)
  • SPAN 3420 Borges: Aesthetics and Politics (4 credits)
  • SPAN 3560 Spanish Cinema: 1975 – The Present (4 credits)
  • SPAN 4550 Cervantes: Don Quixote (4 credits)
  • SPAN 4790 The Seven Deadly Sins (4 credits)
  • ARTH 4155 Topics in Latin American Art (4 credits)
  • GOVT 3293 Comparative Politics of Latin America (4 credits)
  • HIST 1960 Modern Latin America (4 credits)
  • HIST 1970 History of the Caribbean: From Conquest to Revolution (4 credits)
  • HIST 3060 Modern Mexico: A Global History (4 credits)
  • HIST 3800 Latinos in U. S. History
  • LATA 2950 The African Diaspora in Contemporary Latin American (4 credits)
  • LATA 3010 Hispanic Theatre Production (4 credits)
  • LATA 3290 Comparative Politics of Latin America (4 credits)
  • PORT 2800 Perspectives on Brazil (4 credits)

Please note that elementary- and intermediate-level language courses in Spanish and Portuguese are not applicable toward a Spanish major. If you have any questions about what constitutes an elementary- or intermediate-level language course, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Course Descriptions

Please refer to the Spanish section within the Romance Studies course offerings for detailed descriptions about the courses we offer.  Note that bracketed courses are not being taught this academic year. See our departmental course roster for courses offered in Spanish language and literature during the current academic year.

How to sign up for the Major in Spanish

Students interested in pursuing a Spanish major should make an appointment to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cary Howie, during his weekly office hours. Inquiries of a general nature can be directed to the Undergraduate Assistant, Cal Hile, in Klarman Hall K165.

Minor Requirements

Students can obtain a minor by taking five courses (15 credits) with a grade of B- or higher. One of these must be an advanced language course, and another must be a Perspectives course. The other three are elective courses, of which one must be taken in Romance Studies. At least three of these five courses for the minor should be taken at Cornell. Students may apply up to two courses from abroad toward a Spanish minor.  Students interested in pursuing a Spanish minor should make an appointment to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cary Howie, during his weekly office hours.

The Spanish Minor:

  • 1 Advanced Language Course (2180, 3100 or 3110)
  • 1 Perspectives Course (2200 or 2205 or 2230 or 2240 or 2800)
  • + 3 Electives

 Advanced language courses:

  • SPAN 2180 Advanced Spanish Writing Workshop
  • SPAN 3110 Advanced Spanish Conversation and Pronunciation

 Perspectives courses:

  • SPAN 2200 Perspectives on Latin America
  • SPAN 2205 Perspectives on Latin America in Spanish
  • SPAN 2230 Perspectives on Spain
  • SPAN 2240 Perspectives on the Caribbean
  • PORT 2800 Perspectives on Brazil

Study Abroad

All Spanish majors and minors are strongly encouraged to study abroad through Cornell-sponsored or Cornell-approved programs. Popular ways to do so include the semester or year in Spain program at the University of Seville, or the  Summer program in Madrid. Students may also study abroad through other recognized programs in such attractive locations as Barcelona, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Lima, or Quito. When appropriate, this work can be counted toward the required course work for the major or minor. Students should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Study Abroad advising dean, and Cornell Abroad, as well as with their faculty adviser before taking courses abroad to assure they are appropriate.  Students may apply up to three courses from abroad toward a Spanish major, and up to two courses from abroad toward a Spanish minor.

Spain Program

Cornell-in-Seville, also called CASA-Sevilla, is part of the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad, and Cornell is the lead institution in Seville. CASA-Sevilla is a unique multi-dimensional program designed to integrate linguistic, social, cultural, historical and artistic study and experiential learning.  Students achieve this through taking both American-style and regular Spanish university courses, through learning about Spanish culture and society by living with families in the local community, by working in community organizations, and through educational tours. Every year, either a Cornell University or University of Pennsylvania faculty member serves as faculty-in-residence and teaches one course per semester to the CASA-Sevilla students. Students receive strong, individualized linguistic support, with staff and faculty attending closely to the student’s personal learning goals. These individual learning goals are ultimately summarized in a portfolio and individual research project as a capstone for the program’s core seminar. More information can be found on the Cornell Abroad website.

Madrid Summer Program

In this intensive six-week program you will immerse yourself in Spanish culture, significantly improve your language skills, and earn up to eight credits. You’ll use Spanish in and outside of the classroom, get to know and interact with native speakers, participate in site visits to museums and venues of historical importance, attend concerts and theater productions, and experience life in a European nation. In addition, the Summer Program in Madrid will prepare you for early entry into a minor or major in Spanish.


Additional Information


Superior students who wish to undertake a guided research project are encouraged to do an honors thesis in the area of their choice during Fall and Spring of their senior year. Students select a member of the Spanish faculty to direct the writing of the essay on the research topic of their choice.

Guidelines for Senior Honors Thesis Spanish Majors:

Students wishing to write an honors thesis should have a GPA of at least 3.0 in all subjects and 3.3 in the Spanish major.

The honors thesis allows the student to synthesize readings and perspectives acquired during the course of an undergraduate education. The thesis topic should extend the student’s work already begun in a course or a sequence of courses taken before the senior year.

Students should consult with the Honors Program Supervisor late in the Spring of their junior year, or very early in the Fall of their senior year if they are considering enrolling in the year-long honors thesis course. Among other things, the Honors Program Supervisor can provide them with a list of potential faculty supervisors.

Only a faculty member in Romance Studies may approve the topic and supervise the thesis. For students engaged in interdisciplinary work, co-supervisors are strongly encouraged. It is the responsibility of the student to identify and contact potential co-supervisors outside the Department of Romance Studies. Experience suggests that supervision works best when the student has already taken a course from the faculty member and knows his/her expectations and approach. The nature and extent of contact between the student and the supervisor depend upon mutual agreement. If possible, the Honors Program Supervisor will from time to time call a meeting of all seniors doing honors theses to allow students to share ideas about their work.

An honors thesis may take many forms, mutually agreed upon by the student and the supervisor. In one common scenario, the student will write an essay of approximately fifty pages in length, drafted and revised in a series of carefully planned stages. Timetables may vary, but the following deadlines have proved useful to other students in the past: September 15, outline; October 15, bibliography; November 15, first chapter or subdivision; February 15, second chapter or subdivision; March 15, third chapter or subdivision; April 15, completed first draft.

Honors theses are normally written in Spanish. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Projects will be read by a second faculty member (which could be the co-supervisor), selected by the student in consultation with the supervisor and the Honors Program Supervisor. The second reader may belong to a department other than Romance Studies. The supervisor and the second reader will determine the final grade and the level of honors. All students receive a grade of “R” for the first semester’s work.

The final version of the thesis must be submitted to the supervisor and the second reader by May 1. A copy of the final version of the thesis should also be handed in to the department for their archives. No flexibility with regard to the May 1 deadline is possible, because of strict university regulations for submission of grades and honor designations.

A Degree in Spanish: At Cornell and Beyond

Spanish majors typically pursue a second major in such departments as Government, Psychology, History, International Relations, and Economics. They often go on to do graduate work in Spanish or other related disciplines, teach in secondary schools, or enter into government, diplomacy, social agencies, and business corporations. Others work in publishing, hospitals, legal firms, and banks, where knowledge of Spanish is increasingly important both for tapping into local resources as well as developing global connections. Many of the Spanish majors combine their work in this field with professional training that prepares them for careers in law or medicine.