Romance Languages: Italian Studies, PhD

The Graduate Program in Italian Studies in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania offers students a range of curricular options that provide a broad academic base in Italian literature, intellectual history, film, cultural studies, and critical theory, as well as the most current pedagogical theory and practice. Students are encouraged to shape a curriculum that will prepare them in a primary period of interest as well as a secondary focal area. Students may complement their studies with up to four courses outside the Italian Studies section--for example, in another Romance language, Comparative Literature, English, and History. Certificate programs in the areas of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Cinema Studies and Urban Studies, for example, are also available. Interdisciplinary study is encouraged through participation in the wide range of seminars, lectures, and colloquia sponsored by the various Graduate Groups and affiliated research institutes and centers at Penn, including the Center for Italian Studies, and at the many cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area.

Great resources are available to the graduate students in Italian, including the world-renowned Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. The Program in Italian Studies collaborates actively with the Kislak Center to provide students with hands on experience with rare material in conjunction with classes, talks, conferences, and book exhibits. Additionally, individual dissertation research abroad is encouraged and summer research funding is available competitively through the Salvatori Fund or other sources.

Finally, the Center for Italian Studies coordinates scholarly activities among faculty and students across the humanities, organizing research groups, visiting lectures, film screenings and major academic conferences.  

All students admitted to the program are awarded full financial support through the University's Benjamin Franklin Fellowships, including summer funding for the first three years. Students who enter the program with previous graduate work may be eligible to transfer some credits toward the Ph.D.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.


The Ph.D. program in Italian is planned as a five-year sequence. Requirements for the Ph.D. include:

  • A total of seventeen (17) graduate courses to be distributed as follows:

    • A Literary Theory course (usually in the first or second year)

    • ITAL 5910 Italian Teaching & Learning (Italian Teaching & Learning and Second Language Development [SLD]) in the spring semester of the second year

    • A minimum of 11 electives in Italian (including independent studies)

    • Up to 4 courses outside Italian in another field pertinent to the student's area of specialization.

  • A Qualifying Evaluation—In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must pass successfully a qualifying evaluation. At the beginning of a student's second year, the faculty will evaluate all aspects of the student's performance during his or her first year in the program.

  • Foreign Language Requirement—a translation exam in two foreign languages appropriate to the student's prospective field of specialization.

  • Ph.D. Examination—A three-part written examination and an oral exam taken at the beginning of the third year.

  • Dissertation Proposal—following successful fulfillment of the Ph.D. Examination, the candidate will shape a dissertation project and writing schedule.

  • Dissertation—the presentation of a dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D.

    Dissertation Defense—a public, oral presentation of the dissertation will take place during the semester in which the student will graduate.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2022 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.

Sample Plan of Study

Year 1- Educational Fellow
Fall Semester
4 courses
Spring Semester
4 courses
Foreign Language Requirement 1 Satisfied
Year 2- Teaching/Research Fellow
Fall Semester
3 courses (including a Literary Theory course)
Qualifying Evaluation
Spring Semester
3 courses (including ITAL 5910)
Year 3- Teaching/Research Fellow
Fall Semester
PhD Exam
3 courses
Spring Semester
Both Foreign Language Requirements Satisfied; Courses Completed
Dissertation Proposal
Year 4- Educational Fellow
Dissertation Research and Writing
Year 5- Educational Fellow
Dissertation Writing and Completion
Dissertation Defense