Program Description

Graduate Program Description

Students take a total of fifteen courses during their first three years at Brown: three courses per semester in the first and second years (plus one language-instruction methodology course in the spring of the first year), and two over the course of the third year, one of which may be an independent study devoted to work on the major paper. (Students entering the program with an MA may be exempted from up to two courses, upon consultation with the director of graduate studies.) Students are encouraged to take a course with each member of the literature faculty, which promotes exposure to a range of different texts and approaches. Students are also encouraged to explore their textual, theoretical, and interdisciplinary interests through courses in other departments at Brown, upon consultation with the DGS. 

Of the fifteen courses, one is required: a language-instruction methodology seminar, taken in the spring of the first year alongside students from other language departments, and which provides excellent training for future teaching. The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown offers further training in specific aspects of teaching, and many of our students choose to follow certificate programs over the course of their degree to enrich their teaching acumen. 

We ensure active interaction between students and faculty during the first years of the program, to mentor and support our students as they move toward more specialized and independent work in the dissertation-writing phase. Faculty members meet twice-yearly to discuss the progress of students still taking coursework, to confirm that all are performing well and in line with the timeline; students will receive letters with a brief assessment of their performance. Note: two or more incompletes jeopardizes good standing in the program; two or more B grades are considered unacceptable, and will result in a probationary period; no grades below a B are accepted. 

Aside from fluency in Spanish and English, students must show proficiency in two further languages during their time at Brown: the first by the end of the second year in the program, the second by the end of the fourth year. These requirements can be fulfilled by (a) passing a translation exam; (b) taking two language classes or one advanced seminar (undergraduate or graduate level) for credit; (c) counting comparable work done at a previous institution; or (d) taking an intensive summer course in the language. 

Preliminary exams
The graduate program emphasizes general coverage during the first two years of study, and more focused work in a specific area of interest during the third year. Students take preliminary exams after their second summer in the program, in September of the third year. These exams cover a reading list of 70 books, evenly divided between peninsular and Latin American, spanning medieval to contemporary texts. There are two exams divided by geographical area, each lasting four hours, and each requiring students to answer three questions out of four. The exams are discussed and approved by faculty at the first meeting of the new academic year.

Major paper
After passing the preliminary exam, students begin work on a “major paper”, a 25-30 page study of a topic related to the dissertation. Students sign up for an independent study with a faculty member of their choosing to work on this paper; it can be thought of as the first draft of a chapter or article related to the dissertation, or as a methodological exploration of topics to be examined in the dissertation. The major paper should be completed within the semester.

Oral exams and dissertation proposal
The spring of the 3rd year is devoted to oral exams and the dissertation proposal. Students should at this point identify at least a primary advisor and a second reader, and may also choose at this point to include a third committee member, who may be drawn from the department, from another department at Brown, or from a related field at another institution.  Working closely with these committee members, students will put together specialized reading lists in a major and a minor area, for a one-hour oral exam with their committee to take place shortly after spring break. 

Fourth and fifth years
The dissertation proposal, which should be no more than 8-10 pages plus a bibliography, is presented at the beginning of the fourth year, allowing students to advance to candidacy.  Research from this point becomes more independent, and involves fewer members of the department. However, we remain actively involved with our students in professional development, through workshops and individual consultations, in fellowship and grant applications, in putting together articles and book reviews, and with careful guidance through the job market process. We encourage our students to apply in their fourth or fifth years for fellowships offered by different entities at Brown, as a way of sharing their research in multi-disciplinary environments, such as fellowships sponsored by the Cogut Center, by the John Carter Brown Library, by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. 

Students who remain in good standing midway through the fifth year, but who need a little extra time to finish writing their dissertation, will be eligible to apply for dissertation completion support through the graduate school or through various newly created interdisciplinary opportunities at Brown.





1st year

3 seminars; no teaching

3 seminars plus Methodology; no teaching

2nd year

3 seminars; teach 1 course


3 seminars; teach 1 course
Fulfill 1st language requirement

3rd year

2 seminars; major paper; teach 1 course

Oral exams and dissertation proposal; teach 1 course

4th year

Dissertation writing; teach 1 course

Dissertation writing; teach 1 course
Apply for internal fellowships
Fulfill 2nd language requirement

5th year

Dissertation writing; no teaching; job market applications

Dissertation writing; no teaching
Complete dissertation, or apply for dissertation completion fellowship