The Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at Penn State offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Spanish, with specializations in Spanish Peninsular literature (Medieval through Modern), Latin American literature (Colonial through Modern), and Hispanic linguistics. A number of teaching assistantships are available to qualified applicants. Teaching assistants in the M.A. program are normally guaranteed four semesters of support; those in the Ph.D. program are usually guaranteed eight semesters of support beyond the M.A., contingent on satisfactory teaching and academic progress. A limited amount of fellowship support is also available.
For questions about the graduate program in Literature, contact Dr. Judith Sierra-Rivera, Director of Graduate Studies. It is often the case that the questions from potential graduate applicants need to be addressed by the Director of Graduate Studies in conjunction with the Graduate Administrative Assistant. Because these individuals do not necessarily speak Spanish, we kindly ask that you correspond with us in English.
The main objective of the Literature division is to train students diachronically in their fields, providing them with an exceptional theoretical background and thoroughly preparing them for their future academic and scholarly careers. Our faculty work in areas that challenge and extend the notion of “canonical literature” through expansion to other media, other art forms, and other disciplinary methods.
Specific areas of strength include:
- 1930s Latin American public performances in both theater and radio.
- The framework of Queer and Affect Studies to conceptualize the contemporary intellectual figure in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Material culture in the Golden Age, specifically the intersections of literature and visual arts.
- Renaissance and Humanism in Italy and Spain.
- Film and popular culture in 20th century and contemporary Spain and Mexico.
- Afro-Caribbean literature, a trans-Atlantic field.
- Inter-American studies.
- Classical reception, translation, and cultural exchange between Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions in medieval Spain and Europe.
- Transnational modernisms and avant-garde movements.
- Theatre and performance during the Spanish Golden Age.
Moving forward, our work will be driven by thematic, methodological, and globalized concerns. Our students are also encouraged to take classes in the Comparative Literature, English, or French departments to further enhance their academic preparation.
With over twenty professional faculty and more than fifty graduate students (about half at the doctoral level), our department is committed to maintaining a low student-to-faculty ratio. Our graduate students teach three basic Spanish courses per academic year and selected and qualified students are frequently offered to teach culture, literature, or linguistics courses not only in Spanish, but also in Italian and Portuguese.
The intellectual environment of the Department is regularly enhanced with guest lectures, colloquia, conferences, and institutes. In the last few years, authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Antonio Benítez Rojo, Mempo Giardinelli, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Rosa Montero, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and Ana Lydia Vega, read their work and presented lectures in our department.
Research and Activities
Our graduate students are afforded several professional development opportunities through the Department in areas such as teaching (creating and implementing courses), research (fellowships and grants), study/research abroad (for dissertation), and course supervision (for both the Basic Language Program and intermediate and advanced undergraduate Spanish courses). Students may also gain valuable research experience by working closely with faculty members as research assistants.
The Department and the Graduate School enthusiastically support the presentation of graduate research papers in national and international conferences, and they also offer competitive scholarships for dissertation writing. In the Spanish American area students have written outstanding dissertations on authors such as Borges, García Márquez, Palés Matos, and Valenzuela, and on topics as diverse as science fiction, postmodern detective fiction, paranoia and narrative, the ethics of authorship, and the presence of Scandinavian themes in Latin American poetry. In the Spanish division graduate students have forged new avenues of investigation in authors like Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Laforet, and Marías, and have proposed new critical approaches to the study of autobiography in women writers, Catalan nationalism, the role of memory in writing, and the intertextuality of fiction.
As for study abroad, graduate students have several opportunities to collaborate with the department’s summer programs in Puebla, Mexico and in Ronda, Spain.
At University Park, Pattee Library houses the Arts and Humanities Library, with extensive holdings in literature and linguistics, the Extended Hours Reading Room, featuring Reserves and Microforms, and the Gateway Commons, featuring electronic resources. State-of-the-art multimedia and research facilities are also available at the Center for Language Acquisition.
Most graduate students in the Department hold teaching assistantships, for which they receive a stipend and a grant-in-aid that covers full University tuition.
For those who do not, there are several sources of financial aid in the form of grants, fellowships, scholarships, etc. Students interested in being considered for fellowship support should apply no later than January 15.