Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D.)

pdf  Doctoral Program


The number of course credits required is 48, of which at least 33 must be taken at Rutgers. There is also a minimum requirement of 24 research credits. All graduate students who teach must take the Methodology of Teaching course (940:501, offered yearly). Other required courses are: one course in Theory of Literature: 195:501, Intro to Literary Theory; or 195:617, Advanced topics in Literary Theory, offered through the Comparative Literature Program), and one Graduate Writing course (16:355, no credits, offered through the English Department), to be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Program Director.

Students who come to Rutgers with an MA degree in Italian from another university or an equivalent are admitted on a conditional basis. After completing 12 credits with grades of B or better, the Italian Graduate Faculty will determine, on a case by case basis, how many courses taken at other institutions will be accepted toward the Doctorate at Rutgers. However, in no case will doctoral candidates take less than 11 graduate courses at Rutgers.

Language Requirements

The candidate must demonstrate advanced reading ability in two languages, other than English and Italian, that are relevant to the candidate's research. In order to satisfy this requirement, the student may (1) take the graduate language proficiency exam administered by the World Languages Institute (; (2) pass summer courses of “Language for Reading” with grades of B or better; or (3) count four semesters of a language in college, with grades of B or better.


M.A. Examination

 The examination consists of two four-hour written exams to be taken in two consecutive days in the department. It is based on a reading list available on Sakai (site name “Graduate Students Info”). This is an open-book exam, for which the students will be able to consult the texts assigned in the reading list, in PDF format, on a department computer (no WiFi connection).

EXAM DAY 1. Candidates will be given a choice of three questions and must answer two on texts from the 13th-16th centuries.

EXAM DAY 2: Candidates will be given a choice of three questions and must answer two on the texts (including cinema) from the 17th-20th centuries.

On each day, the choice of three questions will be structured as follows:

4) Students will perform a close reading of a particular passage.

5) Students will address the historical and aesthetic contexts of a text.

6) Students will answer a transhistorical question that addresses changes in trends, themes, and/or forms over time.

The answers should demonstrate a) a knowledge of major canonical works of Italian literature across centuries, through post-WWII period; b) the ability to analyze a given literary text by placing it within the proper historical, cultural, ideological and aesthetic contexts; and c) the ability to identify major trends and themes in terms both of content and of style, and to draw connections between texts and periods. Two questions must be answered in Italian and two in English.

The exam as a whole must address at least four centuries of literary production. In addition, the exam as a whole should answer one of each type of question (see the list of three types of questions above). Candidates are expected to have completed at least 30 credits before taking the examinations and to take the exams within one year of ending their coursework. In case of failure, the exam must be taken again within the next semester and may not be retaken more than once.

Exam Sessions

The calendar of exams will be coordinated in agreement with the Graduate Program Director


The grades assigned are High Pass, Pass, Terminal Pass, and Fail.

Ph. D. Qualifying Examination

 The Ph.D. qualifying examination is a take-home essay based on a bibliography of 40-60 titles geared to the dissertation. An examining committee of four faculty members, formed in consultation with the PhD student and the Graduate Director, will assist the candidates in the preparation of the bibliography, which must be approved by the committee at least three weeks before the exam. After approving this bibliography, the members of the examining committee will devise two essay questions, and candidates will write an essay of approximately 15 pages on one of the two.

Candidates will have a weekend (Friday 10am to Monday 10am) to complete the exam. They will receive written feedback from the committee members after two weeks and will discuss their essays with the committee after three weeks.

The language of the examination is the same as the language chosen by the candidate for her/his dissertation.

The Ph.D. qualifying examination should be taken no later than the end of the fourth year.


The grades assigned are Pass or Fail.

Dissertation Prospectus

After successful completion of the Qualifying Examination, the Dissertation Committee will assist the candidate in preparing the prospectus.

No later than three months after the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination, the candidate must submit an advanced draft of the prospectus to the members of the Committee. The prospectus should be 10-12 pages and should describe the dissertation project, including primary materials, the methodological approach, the relation of the proposed project to existing scholarly-critical work in the field, and a comprehensive bibliography of relevant scholarship and primary materials. The language of the prospectus is the same as the language chosen by the candidate for her/his dissertation.

The committee will either approve the prospectus and allow the student to continue on toward the dissertation prospectus defense or inform the student of areas that need further preparation and set the conditions necessary to assure that the student completes the additional required preparation.

The Prospectus Defense

The approved prospectus will be presented formally to the faculty and the graduate students of the Department in a public defense.


 The candidate must submit a completed version of the dissertation (approved by her/his advisor) one month before the official university deadline of the semester in which s/he intends to receive the degree. This will allow time for final comments and revisions, and for the production of the revised manuscript. For norms concerning the format of the dissertation, please consult the Graduate School Site.