Romance Languages and Literatures

Kathy Richman, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Elvira G. Di Fabio, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies (Fall 2019)

In the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL), undergraduates discover the literatures, cultures, and critical approaches of societies worldwide where French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan are spoken. RLL offers language courses from the beginning to advanced levels, as well as opportunities for accelerated work and study abroad.  The heart of the concentration consists of courses about literature and society taught in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.  Faculty also offer advanced courses in English on special topics that involve more than one language tradition.  These are listed as Romance Studies and count toward the concentration

Courses in RLL invite undergraduates to engage deeply and critically with all kinds of texts and questions – from Don Quixote to the legacies of colonialism and the politics of post-war Europe – in a language other than English. Students develop an understanding of the ways in which rhetorical devices like metaphor and hyperbole make cultural artifacts – from everyday materials to works of art – richer, more complex, and more demanding of in-depth analysis. RLL offers a challenging and supportive environment in which students can strengthen their capacity to interact in meaningful ways with people in dozens of countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Students in RLL develop skills in analysis, critical thinking, and communication that prepare them to act as informed and sophisticated global citizens.

Undergraduates who arrive at Harvard with advanced language skills take courses that provide a panoramic introduction to the literature, film, and culture of different regions and eras, all taught in the original Romance language.  They continue with more specialized courses on specific topics or movements.  Students with some foundation in a Romance language enroll in the appropriate intermediate course in language and culture, where they focus on perfecting communication skills and cultural understanding in preparation for the advanced courses described above. Many undergraduates begin a new language at Harvard, and some go on to complete the concentration or a secondary field in RLL.

At all levels of courses in French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan, students learn to communicate accurately and effectively.  Equally importantly, they become more attuned listeners. As they develop an understanding of how people in different communities in the Romance-speaking world conceive of artistic, social, ethical, and political issues, their own sense of self evolves. In RLL, undergraduates achieve the cultural and linguistic fluency so crucial in today’s globalized world.

RLL offers summer programs taught by our own faculty in Paris, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Milan/Siena, and Santiago de Chile.  Students enjoy intensive, in-depth, location-specific curricula while earning credits that count as two term-time Harvard courses. Many find these programs to be an enriching and useful component of completing the concentration.

Concentrators in RLL work closely with faculty to develop and carry out research projects. Senior theses and independent studies address a wide range of topics, including: evolving images of the Basques in Spanish popular culture; self-representation and political struggles of Chinese immigrants in Mexico; political and social constructions in Italy’s American country music scene; cultural differences in the education policies of French, Spanish, and Arabic schools in Morocco; communication strategies for Zika prevention in Brazil; reading autofiction in Borges and Barthes through the lens of social media; and ambiguities in medicine and fiction in 20th-century Latin America.

An undergraduate degree in RLL prepares students for work in the following areas, among others:

Medicine – internships and residencies abroad; international medical humanitarian organizations; public health in the U.S. and overseas

Arts – museum curation; filmmaking; publishing; journalism; fiction and other creative writing

Law – foreign service and diplomacy; human rights organizations; U.S. firms based abroad; and international firms in the U.S.

Teaching and Scholarship – 1-year assistantships in France, Spain, and Italy; bilingual and secondary schools; graduate programs leading to careers in teaching and research at colleges and universities

Business and Public Administration – consulting; international banking and investment firms; non-governmental organizations; foundations; advertising; import/export of specialty foods and wine.

CONCENTRATING IN ROMANCE LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES

A student concentrating in RLL will choose one of five Special Fields as the focus for work in the concentration, as follows:

  • French and Francophone Studies
  • Italian Studies
  • Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
  • Spanish, Latin American and Latino Studies
  • Romance Studies (study of 2 or more Romance languages and literatures)

Concentrators begin either with courses in language and culture or place directly into seminars in literature, film, and culture and society in their chosen Special Field. (General requirements are outlined below.) In consultation with the Special Field Adviser and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), concentrators develop and submit a Plan of Study that reflects both the scope of the special field and their individual interests and goals.

CONCENTRATION REQUIREMENTS

Basic Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Category A. Language and Culture courses: Two courses at the 40, 50, or 60 level. A maximum of two courses at this level may be counted toward the concentration requirement. A student who places out of category A must replace the two required courses with courses in categories B, D or E, or approved Gateway courses. See 5.g below, for information about concentration language requirement.
    2. Category B. Literature, film, and culture and society: Two courses at the 70 level.
    3. Category C. Sophomore Tutorial: Romance Studies 97.
    4. Category D. Four courses taught in Romance Languages and Literatures at levels 70, 80,100, and 200. At least three of these courses must be taught in the special field language, and at least two must be at the 100 level or above.
    5. Two courses in related fields. A maximum of two courses in related fields may be counted toward the concentration requirement. In consultation with the Faculty Adviser and the DUS, students choose courses related to the study of Romance languages and literatures from such fields as Anthropology, Classics, Comparative Literature, Economics, Government, History, History of Art and Architecture, History of Science, Linguistics, Music, Philosophy, Psychology; Sociology; Women, Gender and Sexuality; and Visual and Environmental Studies, among others.
    6. One elective course to be chosen from the categories above or as approved by the concentration adviser and DUS in accordance with the rules stipulated below in “Other information.”
  2. Tutorial (letter graded):
    1. Sophomore Tutorial: Romance Studies 97. See item 1.C above.
  3. Thesis: Optional (see below)
  4. Other information:
    1. Gateway courses: one General Education course and one Freshman Seminar may, on approval from the DUS, receive concentration credit in categories B, D, E and F.
    2. Study Abroad: Though not a requirement, study abroad, during the summer and/or the academic year is strongly encouraged. Summer courses taught in a Romance language may be approved for up to two courses of concentration credit. RLL faculty offer summer courses that automatically count as 8 Harvard credits. Term-time study abroad courses are eligible for a maximum of three courses for one semester (12 credits), or six courses for a full year (24 credits). The department works closely with the Office of International Education to recommend particular programs based on each student's specific needs and academic and cultural interests.
    3. At least one course in category B or D should deal with literature and culture before 1800.
    4. Residence requirement: RLL concentrators must take a minimum of six courses counted for the concentration in residence; honors concentrators must take a minimum of eight concentration courses in residence.
    5. Pass/Fail: Courses taken for concentration credit may not be taken Pass/Fail (with the exception of an approved Freshman Seminar).
    6. The Faculty Adviser and the DUS may approve substitutions of work not specifically listed above.
    7. Concentration language requirement: By the end of the junior year, concentrators are expected to demonstrate advanced oral and written proficiency in one Romance Language (two for Romance Studies concentrators). Advanced proficiency may be demonstrated by a score of 780 or above on the SATII or on the Harvard Placement Test, or by completion of a course at the 50-level or above with a grade of B or higher.
  1. Requirements for Honors Track with Thesis: 14 courses (56 credits):Required courses. Same as Basic Requirements. Plus:
    1. Junior Essay: Students must complete a Junior Essay as the culmination of a 100- or 200-level course offered in RLL.
  2. Tutorials (letter graded): same as Basic Requirements plus Senior Tutorial: French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or Romance Studies 99a and 99b, and successful completion of the thesis.
  3. Thesis: Required
  4. Senior Honors Oral Examination: Required.
  5. Other information:
    1. Same as Basic Requirements
    2. Residence requirement: Honors concentrators must take a minimum of eight concentration courses in residence.

Requirements for Honors Track, Non-Thesis: 14 courses (56 credits):

  1. Required courses. same as Basic Requirements.
    1. Two additional courses: Two courses at the 100-level or above, completed with grade of A or A-.
  2. Tutorials (letter graded): same as Basic Requirements
  3. Thesis: None
  4. Oral Examination: None
  5. Other information:
    1. Same as Basic Requirements
    2. Residence requirement: Honors concentrators must take a minimum of eight concentration courses in residence.

Honors eligibility: Concentrators with a minimum concentration GPA of 3.45 are eligible to participate in the honors program.

N.B. Students who take two additional courses at the 100-level, or one additional course at the 100-level and one additional course at the 200-level, with a minimum grade of A- in each, can be recommended for a departmental degree of Honors (but not High or Highest Honors). Students who take two additional courses at the 200-level with a minimum grade of A- in each can be recommended for a departmental degree of Honors or High Honors (but not Highest Honors). To be considered for Highest Honors, students must pursue the Thesis Option.

Joint Concentration: Romance Languages and Literatures as primary field: 8 courses (32 credits)

  1. Required Courses:
    1. Language and Culture courses: One course at the 40, 50, or 60 level. See notes in Basic requirements for information about placement and substitution.
    2. Literature, Film, and Culture and Society: One course in introductory field survey at the 70 level.
    3. Sophomore Tutorial: Romance Studies 97.
    4. Three courses taught in Romance Languages and Literatures at the 70 level or above. At least one of these must include a 100- or 200-level course or an independent tutorial that culminates in a Junior Essay.
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore Year: Romance Studies 97. See item 1.C above.
    2. Junior Year: Junior Essay. See item 1.D above
    3. Senior Year: French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or Romance Studies 99a and 99b (two terms) and successful completion of the thesis.
  3. Thesis: Required.
  4. Senior Honors Oral Examination: Required.
  5. Other Information: Course substitutions as approved by the DUS

Joint Concentration: Romance Languages and Literatures as allied field: 6 courses (24 credits)

  1. Required Courses:
    1. Language and Culture courses: One course at the 40, 50, or 60 level. See notes in Basic requirements for information about placement and substitution.
    2. Literature, Film, and Culture and Society: One course in introductory field survey at the 70 level.
    3. Sophomore Tutorial: Romance Studies 97.
    4. Three courses taught in Romance Languages and Literatures at the 70 level or above.
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore Year: Romance Studies 97. See item 1.C above.
  3. Thesis: Required
  4. Oral Examination: None.
  5. Other Information: Course substitutions as approved by the DUS.

ADVISING

Close consultation with faculty is essential for planning and completing a rich and successful concentration in RLL. Concentrators are invited to meet regularly with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, Advisers in each Special Field, and the Undergraduate Coordinator.

Director of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Kathy Richman, Boylston 422, 617-495-1929, richman@fas.harvard.edu

Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Elvira G. Di Fabio, Boylston 435, 617-496-4842, edifabio@fas.harvard.edu (Fall 2019)

Special Field Advisers for 2018-2019:

French and Francophone Studies Dr. Kathy Richman, Boylston 422, 617-495-1929, richman@fas.harvard.edu  

Italian Studies  Dr. Elvira G. Di Fabio, Boylston 435,617-496-4842, edifabio@fas.harvard.edu (Fall 2019); Prof. Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja, acpistoja@fas.harvard.edu, (Spring 2020)

Spanish, Latin American and Latino Studies Dr. María Luisa Parra, Boylston 326, 617-495-1868, parra@fas.harvard.edu

Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Dr. Viviane Gontijo, Boylston 416, 617-495-8476, vivianegontijo@fas.harvard.edu

Romance Studies Dr. Kathy Richman, Boylston 422, 617-495-1929, richman@fas.harvard.edu

RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH AND INTERNSHIPS

The combined holdings of Widener, Lamont, and Houghton libraries constitute one of the major collections of Romance literatures in the world. Other important resources available to RLL concentrators include research and internship opportunities at the Harvard Art Museums; the Harvard Film Archive; the Center for European Studies; the Lauro de Bosis Committee; Villa i Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies; the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; the Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard; the Office of Career Services; the Office of International Education; and numerous other centers. RLL concentrators are encouraged to consult the Research Guide for Concentrators posted on the Department’s website.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

The Department's offices are located on the fourth floor of Boylston Hall. Faculty offices may be found on the third, fourth and fifth floors of Boylston.

General Information and Support:

Contact Cathy Downey, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Boylston 405, 617-495-1860, cdowney@fas.harvard.edu

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Romance Languages and Literatures 43 46 48 51 46 34 24 16 14 9
Romance Languages and Literatures + another field 2 0 1 1 2 2 1 3 3 4
Another field + Romance Languages and Literatures 4 2 6 7 4 3 4 2 6 5