The Ph.D. Requirements



The Ph.D. program builds upon a broad knowledge of Italian literature and culture from the 13th century to the present (such as that acquired at the MA level), providing advanced training in the interdisciplinary field of Italian Studies, and culminating in the dissertation. Fulfilling technical requirements of residence, coursework, and examinations is not sufficient for the degree. The Ph.D. is conferred in recognition of the candidate’s overall mastery and original research and contribution.

Degree Requirements

1. Residence

The Graduate division defines academic residence as payment of registration fees and enrollment in at least 4 units in 100 or 200 series courses for a minimum of two semesters. However, the time needed for completion of the Ph.D. degree in Italian Studies is normally 4 years.

2. Registration

New and continuing students must be registered by the end of the third week of classes. The minimum enrollment requirement for all graduate students who are not yet advanced to doctoral candidacy is 12 units per semester. Of these, at least 8 are typically in graduate seminars (4-credit, 200 series courses). All fellowship recipients and students holding a GSI or GSR appointment supplemented by department funding (e.g. fee balance) must also register for a minimum of 12 units.

3. Coursework

Ph.D students in Italian Studies take 2-3 years of coursework beyond the M.A., the exact number of units depending upon the nature of their M.A. (or equivalent) experience. Students permitted to proceed after the Berkeley M.A. in Italian Studies are required to complete 28 units of coursework in the 100 and 200 series. Students entering from another institution or from another Berkeley M.A. program may be required to complete an additional 1 or 2 semesters (12-24 units) of coursework in order to broaden their training, or to fulfill outstanding requirements (for example, language).

Required courses must be taken for a letter grade and distributed as follows:

a) Primary field (minimum 8 units): The primary field may be a two hundred year period of Italian literature and culture, or a major historical phenomenon studied over the length of the Italian tradition, i.e., a genre, like lyric or drama; a problem, like the relationship of the artist to political patronage; or an interdisciplinary phenomenon, like the interplay between poetry and music. This requirement must be met in 4 unit seminars with research papers.

b) Secondary field (minimum 8 units): The secondary field may be a traditional discipline or an interdisciplinary field, e.g., Anthropology, Art History, Film Studies, History, Medieval Studies, Music. This requirement must be met in 4 unit seminars with research papers.

c) Prospectus Tutorial (IS 282, 4 units): In the semester before the Qualifying Exam, students prepare a preliminary dissertation prospectus, usually under the supervision of the future dissertation chair. The provisional prospectus is a concise description (15-20 pages) of the proposed dissertation project, including: primary materials to be investigated, the approach to be taken, the project’s relation to existing scholarly work, and a comprehensive bibliography.

d) Pedagogy: Students holding language GSI appointments for the first time are required to enroll in Italian Studies 355 (Seminar in Language Pedagogy) for 4 units. Students teaching Reading & Composition courses for the first time are required to enroll in a separate, campus-mandated pedagogy seminar (College Writing 300 or Comparative Literature 360S) for 2 units. Subsequent GSI appointments require enrollment in a practicum (IS 302 or 303) for 2-4 units.

e) Individual Studies for Doctoral Students (IS 602, 1-8 units): Students preparing for the QE can enroll in up to 8 units of Italian Studies 602.

f) Electives: Students are encouraged to explore elective courses inside and outside the department, particularly those addressing theory and method.

g) Study Abroad: Non-native speakers of Italian are eligible for department support for a semester of study at an Italian University. This is an opportunity to practice academic Italian usage and to gain familiarity with Italian approaches to scholarship, as well as to forge scholarly networks for the future.

4. Language Requirement

Before taking the QE, students are required by the Graduate Division to demonstrate advanced reading ability in two languages other than English and Italian which are indispensable for doctoral research. Typically these languages are Latin, French, German, or Spanish, but in some cases students demonstrate proficiency in others (e.g., Arabic, Albanian, Romanian, Portuguese, etc.). Most students will have completed one of the language requirements in the course of their MA. Students may pass both languages by examination, or one by examination and the other by coursework (as detailed in the MA description of requirements).

5. Provisional Prospectus

A provisional Prospectus produced in IS 282 (see above) will be submitted for approval to a committee composed of department Faculty, plus an external member agreed upon by the student and the Graduate Adviser. (The Graduate Division requires that all Ph.D. examination and dissertation committees include at least one non-departmental faculty member from the Berkeley campus.) The approval process takes place prior to the QE (usually at the beginning of the semester in which the QE is taken).
Students revise and develop the prospectus beyond the QE, eventually presenting the completed dissertation prospectus at the department colloquium. In the process, they continue to consult with the eventual dissertation director and committee.

6. The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is required for advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. and the dissertation writing stage, and it usually takes place during the 4th semester after entrance to the Ph.D. program. Students are tested in three areas: the primary field and two special topics, and the examination consists of written and oral components. In order to meet the requirements of Normative Time, the QE must be taken by the end of the 8th semester of full-time enrollment at Berkeley. The student must be registered during the semester in which the QE takes place.

Examination committee: At least one year before the proposed QE date, the Graduate Adviser composes a QE committee in consultation with the student. The committee consists of at least four members of the Berkeley Academic Senate, one of whom must be in another Department. The QE chair cannot go on to chair the student’s dissertation.

Examination lists: Six months before the proposed QE date the student submits detailed proposed bibliographies for approval: a.) the primary field of specialization, and b.) two special topics. The special topics are defined in consultation with the QE committee and approved by the Graduate Adviser. At least one of them should be closely related to the student’s secondary field. The other is most often related to readings done in the Prospectus Tutorial (IS 282). Examination lists should be comprehensive with respect to primary and secondary sources. After approval, the student may request changes, but committee members cannot require alterations once the QE semester has begun. Reading lists and questions from past examinations are on file in the department library.

The written examination: The written examination consists of three sections of 8 hours each, taken within one week. Exam #1 will be on a special topic with an interdisciplinary component and a significant relation to the student’s secondary field. Exam #2 will be on a special topic deriving from the student’s primary field, in most cases with a significant relationship to the focus of the student’s dissertation. Exam #3 will be a general examination over the student’s primary field list. In each case the student will answer one question from a choice of two. The student will be informed within one week as to whether she or he has passed, and may proceed to the oral component; the committee will also provide comments in writing. If any part of the written exam is not a pass, it must be retaken before the oral can be taken.

The oral examination: takes place within two weeks of the written examination. It lasts up to three hours and covers the written examinations and the lists on which they were based. While the Prospectus is not subject to examination, the QE may conclude with a discussion of the student’s evolving plans for the dissertation. A failed exam may be repeated one time only, with approval of the exam committee and the Dean of the Graduate Division. A student who is not recommended for a retake or fails the exam a second time, is dismissed from the program.

7. Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Upon passing the Qualifying Examination, the student advances to doctoral candidacy by submitting the Higher Degree Committees Form (available on the student’s CalCentral dashboard). The form requires the names of the student’s dissertation committee members. A dissertation committee must include a minimum of two members of the department and one from another department (and all must be members of Berkeley’s Academic Senate). The Department may approve an all-internal dissertation committee only in special circumstances. (Reminder: the chair of a student’s oral exam cannot also chair the dissertation committee.)

Students who have advanced to candidacy must complete the Graduate Division’s Doctoral Candidacy Review each year (this is found on your dashboard in CalCentral). After you complete your sections, contact the chair of your dissertation committee to fill out their section.

8. The Dissertation Prospectus

Shortly after the QE, students meet with their committee members to review their plans for the dissertation. Before writing the dissertation, they update and revise the prospectus as called for, and submit it for approval by the department.

9. The Prospectus Colloquium

The approved prospectus is presented formally in the departmental colloquium in the semester folowing the QE. The presentation usually lasts 30 – 45 minutes and is followed by questions and comments from the group.

10. The Dissertation

The dissertation must make an original and substantial contribution to knowledge. This is usually done by the discovery of new information; the combination or synthesis of previously unconnected facts; the production of new interpretations of cultural material; the application of theory to literary, linguistic, artistic, cultural or historical phenomena; the extension of methodology characteristic of a particular discipline into the subject area of some other discipline or disciplines; or some combination of the above. It must consist of a work of connected expository prose and observe standard scholarly conventions of annotation and bibliography. While the student will seek advice from the dissertation committee (and other sources) while writing the dissertation, the final result must be his or her own unaided work. Good advice on all these matters is available in publications such as Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed. (2018), and current editions of the Chicago Manual of Style and the MLA Style Manual.

No minimum (or maximum!) length is stipulated for the dissertation; but the Department of Italian Studies considers it unlikely that, in normal circumstances, a contribution to knowledge of the substance necessary for the conferral of the Ph.D. can be made in under 150 pages.

Students submit chapter drafts as they progress, and a completed draft of the dissertation must be submitted (at the latest) two months before Graduate Division’s filing deadline, allowing for final comments and revisions. The student must be registered or on Filing Fee status in order to file for the degree.

Everything you need to know about The University of California standards and regulations for preparing, organizing, and filing your Dissertation is found on the Graduate Division web page under Policies and Procedures: