May 22, 2024  
Graduate Catalog 2007-08 
Graduate Catalog 2007-08 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Spanish

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John Benson,
513 Sprau Tower
Telephone: (269) 387-3016

Students who pursue the Ph.D. in Spanish at Western Michigan University will study the culture of the Hispanic world in both broad and specific terms. The Spanish doctoral program is based upon the belief that advanced students ought to acquire the widest possible knowledge of Hispanic culture before they choose to limit their focus to selected portions of it in the doctoral dissertation. Students will be encouraged to develop a significant content base in the culture of Spain and America, from the beginnings to present day. They will be expected to understand the relationship between the myriad of specific components that have come to form Hispanic civilization and to appreciate them for their own esthetic and intellectual value, as well as for their particular contribution to the overall culture. Additionally, students should develop the methods and skills necessary to investigate and analyze language and literature and be able to express their findings in clear, consistent and complete terms. The goal of the Ph.D. program is, in sum, twofold: to lead students to comprehend and appreciate the breadth and uniqueness of Hispanic culture as it has evolved through time and across geography, and to enable students to formulate and express their own discoveries and conclusions regarding the enduring values and manifestations of that culture.

Admission Requirements

  1. The M.A. in Spanish at Western Michigan University or an equivalent degree from another university.
  2. Satisfaction of the general requirements of The Graduate College.
  3. Three letters of recommendation from persons qualified to assess applicant’s academic potential for Ph.D. study in Spanish.
  4. A 500-word statement written by the applicant in which s/he describes principal academic and career interests and goals, as well as reasons for desiring to study in the Spanish program at Western Michigan University.
  5. A writing sample in Spanish. This would ordinarily be a paper written in a course taken during the M.A. program.
  6. An interview in Spanish, either in person or by telephone.

Program Requirements

Completion of a minimum of 36 hours of course work beyond the M.A., with a minimum grade point average of 3.00. All Spanish courses in the department must be taken at the 6000-level or above. With prior approval of the Spanish graduate advisor, a maximum of six of the 36 hours may be taken in relevant courses in other languages in the department, or outside the department.

  1. Successful completion of the following required courses, all of which count within the total 36 hours:
    1. Trends in Literary Criticism
    2. Don Quijote
    3. History of the Spanish Language
  2. Reading knowledge of at least one language, in addition to Spanish and English, relevant to one of the student’s major research interests. Competency will be measured by a reading or translation examination, the exact format of which will be determined by the student’s advisor in consultation with the student. The required level of reading is comparable to the third year of college study of the language.
  3. Grade of “pass” or higher on the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination. All course work and the reading knowledge examination (see 1, 2, and 3 above) must be completed before the comprehensive exam is taken. Additional information about this examination is given below.
  4. Preparation and defense of a dissertation on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the director. At least 15 hours of dissertation credits are required. Additional information about the dissertation is given below.
  5. Fulfillment of all general and specific requirements of The Graduate College.

Recommendations in Addition to Requirements

  1. Teaching. It is expected that most Ph.D. students in Spanish will have an interest in teaching. Thus, at some time during their graduate career at Western Michigan University, all Spanish Ph.D. students will be given the opportunity to gain teaching experience, usually through a teaching assistantship. Opportunities for teaching exist in a variety of courses at the undergraduate level. This experience will be guided by faculty supervision. Renewal or continuation of assistantships depends on satisfactory performance in teaching and in graduate studies, as well as on availability of university resources.
  2. Study abroad. it is recommended that before graduation, all Ph.D. students in Spanish will have spent at least six months in residence or study in a Spanish-speaking country. Many students will have fulfilled that expectation as undergraduates, but they are urged to seek additional opportunities to study abroad. Students in our program are eligible for scholarships offered by the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Mexico and the Universidad de Burgos in Spain, institutions with which we have exchange agreements. Six hours of graduate credit from these institutions may be counted toward the 36 hour Ph.D. course requirement. Study at other universities in Mexico, Spain, or other countries is also possible with the approval of the graduate advisor. Research and writing for the dissertation may be carried out during residence abroad, provided that arrangements are approved by the dissertation director. Since the faculty places a high priority on mastery of the Spanish language and the acquisition of cultural insights gained during residence in Spanish-speaking countries, the department will be very supportive of students’ efforts to study abroad. Graduate students are eligible for the President’s Grants for study abroad awarded by the University, as well as for some departmental scholarships.

Areas of Study and Comprehensive Examination

Areas of study are the following:

  • Spanish literature and culture: medieval and Golden Age periods
  • Spanish literature and culture: 18th century to present
  • Spanish American literature and culture: colonial period through Modernismo
  • Spanish American literature and culture: 20th and 21st centuries
  • Linguistics I: Spanish linguistic systems and their acquisition
  • Linguistics II: Variation in the Spanish linguistic systems

All students are expected to prepare themselves through course work in all areas of study, and through additional readings. They will select two areas of major interest in which they will be examined. Reading lists serve as preparation guides. Students should take the comprehensive examination as soon as possible after finishing required course work and passing the reading knowledge exam, but in any case they must take the examination within a period of six months after having completed those requirements.

The comprehensive examination will be given twice each year during a three-week period, in May and October. The exam will be structured in this way: (1) Two four-hour written exams, one over each of the two areas of major interest; (2) one oral exam lasting approximately two hours. All parts of the comprehensive examination will be conducted in Spanish.

A single grade will be given for the entire exam. Possible grades are: superior, good, pass, fail. Students who fail the exam may retake it once. At the discretion of the examination committee, they may be required to retake the entire examination or portions of it.


The dissertation is the capstone of the Ph.D. experience. It ought to be an original, high-quality, contribution to scholarship in an area of particular interest to the student. As in the case of course work, the dissertation is a learning experience to be guided by faculty. To be sure, the research and writing of this book-length manuscript requires considerable independent work and discipline on the part of the student. Nonetheless, we give great importance to the role of the faculty in this process, particularly to the duties of the dissertation director. The goal is that the entire process be realistic, fair, collegial, and expeditious. We believe that this student-centered approach to research will be significant for the achievement of our overall objective, i.e., the formation of first-rate teacher/scholars in a reasonable period of time.

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