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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Italian

University regulations pertaining to the Ph.D. are listed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.


  1. Course Work—A candidate for the Ph.D. degree must complete at least 135 units of graduate-level study. 72 of the 135 units must be taken within the department. All course work should be selected in consultation with the Chair of Graduate Studies.

    Required Courses

    • ITALGEN 369: Introduction to Graduate Studies: Criticism as Profession. This course must be taken in the first quarter of study.
    • ITALGEN 301E: New Methods and Sources in French and Italian Studies. This course must be taken no later than the end of the third year of study.
    • DLCL 201: The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages. This course must be taken in the Spring quarter of the first year of study.
    • A minimum of five courses taught in Italian (ITALLIT) at the graduate level with instruction in Italian. Three of the required five courses must be taken within the first year.

    Elective Courses— Apart from the required courses above, students are granted considerable freedom in structuring a course of study appropriate to their individual needs. During the first year, most course work is done within the department, in order to ensure an adequate preparation for the qualifying examination. Students are encouraged to take a variety of courses in order to be exposed to different periods and issues. Students are not allowed to take Independent Study during their first year. In the second and third years, however, the program of study is tailored to the specific interests of the student.

  2. Examinations—Successful completion of all department and University examinations.
  3. Dissertation—Submission and approval of a dissertation.
  4. Teaching—Ph.D. students are required to teach minimum of five courses within their five years of funding.
  5. Language Requirements—Attaining a native or near-native fluency in Italian is a requirement to qualify for the Ph.D. degree. Upon entering the program, candidates must contact the Language Center and arrange to take the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) to determine their fluency in Italian. An advanced level or above must have been reached by the time candidates take their qualifying exam in the Autumn Quarter of the second year of study. If a student fails to score in the advanced bracket of the OPI test upon entering, he/she is tested again at the beginning of the second year. It is the responsibility of the candidates to design a course of study to improve their proficiency in Italian. Candidates who do not meet the minimum language requirement must discuss their plans to meet this requirement with the Chair of Graduate Studies. By the end of the third year, students must have passed reading examinations in two additional foreign languages. If the candidate's period of concentration is earlier than the Romantic period, one of these must be Latin; if Romantic or later, French.
  6. Candidacy—At the end of the second year of residency, students who are performing well, as indicated by their course work, performance on the Qualifying Exam, and teaching and research assistantship performance, are advanced to candidacy. This step implies that the student has demonstrated the relevant qualities required for successful completion of the Ph.D. Future evaluations are based on the satisfactory completion of specific remaining department and University requirements. Students who are not advanced to candidacy will normally be terminated from the program and awarded an M.A. degree. In some cases, the department may require that a student complete outstanding work or complete unmet requirements before admission to candidacy. The university requires that all students must be admitted to candidacy by the beginning of the third year in residence in order to continue in the Ph.D. program. Therefore all requirements stipulated by the department must be met before registration for the autumn quarter of the student's third year. At any point during the degree program, evidence that a student is performing at a less than satisfactory level may be cause for a formal academic review of that student.
  7. TGR Status—Doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy, completed all required courses and degree requirements other than the dissertation, completed 135 units, and submitted a Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form, must request Terminal Graduate Registration status to complete their dissertations. Each quarter, all TGR students must enroll in ITALGEN 802 for zero units, in the appropriate section for their adviser.


Doctoral students in the department must take required courses for a letter grade if available and are expected to earn a grade of 'B+' or better in each course. Any grade of 'B' or below is considered to be less than satisfactory. Grades of 'B' or below are reviewed by faculty: while the grade will stand, the student may be required to revise and resubmit the work associated with that course.


There are three examinations: the Qualifying Examination, the Field Examination, and the University Oral Examination. All course work must be current prior to taking any scheduled exams.

Qualifying Examination—The first oral examination, which takes place in the first two weeks of October of the second year of study, tests the student's knowledge of language and literature and his/her aptitude for critical thinking. The examining committee, determined by the Director of French and Italian, schedules the precise exam date and time.

The exam is based on a standard reading list covering major works from all periods of literature in the language(s) of study, from the Middle Ages to present day. The list may be expanded to reflect a student's particular interests, but not abridged. The reading list may be obtained from the Chair of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, or by referencing the French and Italian student handbook.

The exam is 90 minutes in length and consists of two parts:

  1. A 20-minute presentation by the candidate on a topic to be determined by the student. This presentation may be given in English or in the language of study and should engage, in a succinct manner, an issue or set of issues of broad relevance to the literary history of the language(s) of study. The presentation must not simply be a text read aloud, but rather must be given from notes. It is meant to be suggesting and not exhaustive, so as to provoke further discussion.
  2. A 70-minute question and answer period in which the examining committee follows up on the candidate's presentation and discusses the reading list with the student. At least part of this portion of the exam takes place in the language(s) of study. The student is expected to demonstrate a solid knowledge of the texts on the reading list and of the basic issues which they raise, as well as a broader sense of the cultural/literary context into which they fit and demonstrate the ability to formulate an original point of view on such texts and contexts.

Students who do not pass the Qualifying Exam their first time may be placed on probation with limited enrollment and be allowed to retake the exam at the end of Autumn Quarter. Should the student not pass the retake exam, his/her studies in the Ph.D. program will be concluded.

Students already holding an advanced degree in the relevant area may request to be excused from the Qualifying Exam. However, the student must present a formal request for a waiver to the Chair of Graduate Studies upon arrival at Stanford. Such a request must document the course work completed elsewhere and include all relevant reading lists. Only in cases where taking the Qualifying Exam would involve considerable repetition of already competed work is such a waiver likely to be granted.

Field Examination—The second oral examination takes place in the Autumn Quarter of the third year of study. The exam is 120 minutes in length and consists of two parts:

  1. A 20-minute presentation by the student on a topic (a particular literary genre or a broad theoretical, historical, or interdisciplinary question) freely chosen and developed by the individual student working in collaboration with his/her adviser and the Chair of Graduate Studies. The student should design this research project so that it has the breadth and focus of a book he/she might write or a seminar he/she might teach. The student should discuss the proposed topic with the Chair of Graduate Studies before the end of the quarter preceding the quarter in which he/she plans to take the exam; together they choose a committee of two faculty members with interests close to the proposed topic. (In most cases, one of these committee members is the student's adviser.) In addition to these two members, the examination committee includes the Chair of Graduate Studies, who serves in an ex officio capacity as the third member of the examination committee. This presentation is followed by a 20-minute discussion.
  2. An 80-minute discussion of a reading list, assembled by the student, which covers about a century of writing. The reading list should include works in all genres relevant to the period covered and should be around two single-spaced pages in length. The list may well include critical and scholarly works or texts from outside the traditional domain of literary studies in the chosen tradition (such as film, philosophy, other literary traditions), but such coverage should be regarded as supplemental except in rare instances where the chair and faculty advisers have agreed to define these materials as the student's field. Students are required to discuss the reading list for the examination with the Chair of Graduate Studies and with members of their committee during the quarter preceding the examination. A final reading list must be submitted to the committee no later than two weeks preceding the examination. Each member of the committee is assigned a 20-minute period to question the candidate on the reading list and its intellectual-historical implications. The aim of these questions is to establish the student's credentials as a specialist in the period of his/her choosing, so the core of the reading list must be made up of texts that are essential to any specialist. It follows that reading lists must not focus on the narrow area of the student's research interest. The tendency to bias reading lists towards the dissertation topic, be it an author or a genre, does not cancel the obligation to cover the major figures and genres. It is understandable that some students, by their third year, have become so deeply committed to their work toward the dissertation that they wish to use the preparation period for the examination as part of their dissertation research. Certainly, some of the exam work may prove relevant, but students should also remember that the examination is the central means of certifying their expertise in a literary period.

The University Oral Examination—This examination takes the form of a dissertation proposal defense. It is to be taken no later than Autumn Quarter of the student's fourth year. Students must have completed all course work and language requirements before the quarter in which they take the University Oral examination. One quarter prior to the University Oral examination, students must schedule the exam date and time as well as work with their primary adviser to obtain an outside chair for the examination.

Two weeks before the exam, the student must submit to the committee a 25-35 page proposal, which must contain the following parts:

  1. a clear presentation of the student's central thesis
  2. a synthetic overview of the dissertation
  3. a description of the methodology that is used in the dissertation
  4. an in-depth discussion of current secondary sources on the topic.

The student must also append a bibliography, but this does not take the place of number 4. The proposal must be prepared in close consultation with the dissertation director during the months preceding the exam.

The exam committee consists of four members, in addition to a committee chair from outside the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, whose principal functions are to keep track of time and to call on the four members of the committee who question the candidate on the talk and on the reading list.

After a 20-minute presentation on the part of the candidate, each member of the committee (apart from the committee chair) questions the student for 20 minutes. At the end of the hour and forty minutes, the faculty readers vote on the outcome of the exam. If the outcome is favorable, (four out of five votes in favor of the student passing), the student is free to proceed with work on the dissertation. If the proposal is found to be unsatisfactory, the dissertation readers may ask the student to revise and resubmit the dissertation prospectus and to schedule a second exam. A student who fails a second time will be released from the Ph.D. program and awarded a terminal M.A. degree.


Given the interdisciplinary nature of the Ph.D. programs and the opportunity they afford each student to create an individualized program of study, regular consultation with an adviser is of the utmost importance. The adviser for all entering graduate students is the Chair of Graduate Studies, whose responsibility it is to assist students with their course planning and to keep a running check on progress in completing the course, teaching, and language requirements. By the end of the second year of study, each student should have chosen a faculty adviser whose expertise is appropriate to his/her own area of research and interests.

Yearly Review—The faculty provide students with timely and constructive feedback on their progress toward the Ph.D. In order to evaluate students' progress and to identify potential problem areas, the department's faculty reviews the academic progress of each student at the end of the academic year. The yearly reviews are primarily intended to identify developing problems that could impede progress. In most cases, students are simply given constructive feedback, but if more serious concerns warrant, a student may be placed on probation with specific guidelines for addressing the problems detected. Possible outcomes of the yearly review include (1) continuation of the student in good standing, or (2) placing the student on probation, with specific guidelines for the period on probation and the steps to be taken in order to be returned to good standing. For students on probation at this point (or at any other subsequent points), possible outcomes of a review include: (1) restoration to good standing; or (2) continued probation, again with guidelines for necessary remedial steps; or (3) termination from the program. Students leaving the program at the end of the first or second year are usually allowed to complete the requirements to receive an M.A. degree, if this does not involve additional residency or financial support.

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