Requirements and Procedures for the completion of the Ph.D. in Italian


The maximum number of course credits required is 48, of which at least 27 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 through the Spanish Department). 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 Department), 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.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination consists of a written and an oral part. It tests a) the knowledge of major canonical works of Italian literature and culture across centuries, through the 21st century;  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. It is based on the reading list available on BOX (site name “Graduate Students Info”).

Part I : Written Exam

This four-hour written exam must be taken in the department on DAY 1 of the comprehensive exams. It 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).

Candidates will be given a choice of three questions and must answer two on the texts from either the 13th-17th centuries or the 18th-21th centuries (they will work on the text grouping that they have NOT chosen for their oral exam). The three questions will be structured as follows.

1.        A close reading of a particular passage.

2.        The analysis of a text to be placed within its historical and aesthetic contexts.

3.        The presentation of a transhistorical issue that addresses changes in trends, themes, and/or forms over time.

Part 2 : Oral Exam.

This part of the exam will be taken within 5 business days from DAY 1 of the exams and will focus on the group of texts that the students has chosen for this part of the exam, as they will be related to the main focus of their future work in the Ph.D. program (either the 13th-17th centuries grouping or the 18th- 21th centuries grouping). This part of the exam tests the student's knowledge of the texts, oral communication, and their aptitude for making connections and critical thinking. It will begin with the student’s presentation on a topic of their choice (15 minutes) and continue with a discussion on the texts form this grouping (45). The exam is 60 minutes in length. Each student can choose between the distant (zoom) and in-person mode.

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 dates of the examination must be announced 60 days in advance.


The grades assigned are Pass or Fail.


Example of Written Part of Comprehensive Examination. DAY 1

Out of these three questions on texts from the 13th to the 17th century, please answer two of them. One answer should be written in English and one in Italian. Each answer should be at least 1,000 words.  You have four hours to complete this exam.

1)       Textual analysis – “Donna de Paradiso” by Jacopone da Todi

2)       Keeping in mind the multiple narrative levels of the collection, discuss Boccaccio’s representation of women in the Decameron also in relation to enclosed spaces vs open-air scenes. How do women express their identity in the novelle or in the cornice? How can we determine the author’s participation in the female protagonists’ (either within the brigata or in the stories) assertiveness or lack of confidence?

3)       Addressing at least two texts from the reading list, analyze representations of the volgare and the ways in which they were linked to the Italian identity. How is the volgare described? Which values does it represent to the authors, and to which community of speakers/writers/readers do these authors ascribe it? Finally, discuss whether and how their representations of the volgare articulated ideas that became the building blocks of the Italian nation.

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 and 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 at:

All international students who are applying for academic positions in the US should take the Optional Practical Training (OPT) workshop with the Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services (for regulations, dates, application materials, see:

The Italian graduate faculty reserves the right to recommend withdrawal from the program for poor or insufficient performance at any stage of the student’s graduate school training.

Ph.D. Learning Goals

The doctoral program in Italian trains students at the highest level to pursue academic careers in Italian language, literature, culture, and cinema studies. Students may also use their acquired skills to pursue careers in publishing, translation, or to work in cultural institutions in the US, in Italy, and abroad. 

Learning Goal 1 for Students: Attain the ability to analyze critically and creatively literary, cultural, and cinematic texts of the Italian tradition, and, when appropriate, in relation to other national contexts.

Assessment of student achievement of Goal 1: • Grades in graduate courses • M.A. examinations assessing the depth and breadth of knowledge • Review by faculty of student progress with close advising and mentoring • Placement in positions and careers that require ability and scholarship in Italian language, literature, culture, and cinema.

Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 1: • Close advising to ensure that students are being prepared in a coherent and academically rigorous fashion • Effective monitoring of student progress • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of instructors in graduate courses • Periodic review of curricular offerings, degree requirements and assessment tools by program faculty, with input from a graduate student curriculum committee, and in consultation with the office of the dean of the graduate school and/or the unit dean. 

Learning Goal 2 for Students: Engage in and conduct original research. 

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 2: • Oral presentations • Seminar papers • M.A. examinations • Qualifying examinations o Preparation of bibliography in consultation with faculty members o Presentation of bibliography and its rationale o Delivery of written exams • Preparation and defense of Ph.D. dissertation proposal.

Assessment of quality of Ph.D. dissertation: • Public defense of dissertation • Critical reading of dissertation by committee of graduate faculty members and a committee member from outside of the Italian graduate program • Submission and acceptance of peer-reviewed articles and conference papers based on the dissertation • Achievement of students as evidenced by professional placements, selection for conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications and individual grant attainment.

Role of the graduate program in helping students achieve Goal 2: • Provide early introduction to research methods and opportunities for research • Provide opportunities to present research and receive feedback • Maintain adequate funding levels through the research phase • Provide comprehensive advising and assist in the identification of mentors. 

Learning Goal 3 for Students: Ability to teach Italian language, literature, and culture 

Assessment of student achievement of Goal 3: • Attendance in training workshop for new instructors • Participation in monthly meetings with coordinator • Performance in Methodologies course • Review by faculty of class observation and advising and mentoring • Peer class observation. 

Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 3: • Supervision of student teaching with bi-annual class observation; mentoring; participation in lectures and workshops organized by the department; attendance of workshops organized by the World Language Institute; videotaping of classes and review of videotapes; review of student evaluations • Close advising to ensure that students are being prepared in a coherent and academically rigorous fashion • Effective monitoring of student progress • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of instructors in graduate courses • Periodic review of curricular offerings, degree requirements and assessment tools by program faculty and in consultation with the office of the dean of the graduate school and/or the unit dean. 

Learning Goal 4 for Students: Prepare to be professionals in careers that require training at the highest levels in the field of Italian studies as well as problem-solving skills and the ability to collaborate on collective projects.

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 4: • Review evidence of papers presented, publications and professional networking • Evaluation of work in service committees (Advisory committee, Rutgers Day committee, Newsletter committee) and in the Italian Graduate Society • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of graduate student instructors • Collection of placement data • Review by external advisory committees composed of leading scholars in the field • Survey alumni/ae 

Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 4: • Develop discipline-specific programs in concert with the American Association of Teachers of Italian, the American Association of Italian Studies, the Modern Language Association of America, the North Eastern Modern Language Association of America, the American Comparative Literature Association, as well as with academic journals and presses • Encourage participation in professional development programs in such areas as literature instruction, language pedagogy, library use, course management software, interview skills, presentation skills, development of CV’s, use of research tools, training in the responsible conduct of research, and proposal writing • Mock interviews in preparation for the job market • Colloquia that offer presentation of dissertation work with feedback from faculty and fellow graduate students • Host discipline-specific training when appropriate • Teach students how to do assessment in their future professional capacities • Provide flexible options for students with interdisciplinary interests related to Italian language, literature, and culture • Develop or enhance programs related to job and networking skills, including activity in professional societies • Acquaint students with non-academic career opportunities. 

The Italian graduate faculty, with input from a graduate student curriculum committee, will regularly review the structure and content of the program and the feedback received from assessment and surveys. These reviews will be used to provide the best possible education to students in order to prepare them as highly trained individuals in the field of Italian language, literature, and culture.