Ph.D. in Spanish

Bookshelf containing many colorful books written in Spanish

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese has developed a Ph.D. to address the needs of a new generation of doctoral students in the humanities. The program provides a rigorous and comprehensive education in the traditional disciplines of Iberian and Latin American literary and cultural studies, while also allowing for engagement with larger transdisciplinary and transnational approaches relating to the role of the humanities in the contemporary world. Students admitted to the doctoral program will have the opportunity to develop research interests under the guidance of diverse faculty and to acquire the skills to teach successfully at the University level.

Degree Information

  • Broaden and deepen knowledge of literary and cultural movements, as well as engaging students in larger issues pertaining to the role of the humanities in the contemporary world
  • Develop the research, analytical, and writing skills necessary for producing a solid dissertation and publishable articles
  • Acquire working knowledge of major theoretical trends and critical issues (past and current) in the fields of specialization
  • Increase knowledge of broader historical, cultural, and socio-political issues surrounding the fields of specialization
  • Develop understanding of current foreign language pedagogy and instruction, as both theory and praxis

PhD Paper (Area A), Written Qualifying Exams and Defense of Dissertation Proposal (Areas B and C)

The PhD exams require completion of three areas: a research paper (Area A), written qualifying examinations (Areas B and C), and an oral defense of the dissertation proposal. All areas must be completed after having passed or registered for the 24 hours of required coursework in the department (typically the third year of the program). The DGS and the COGA’s GPC will make sure that the qualifying exams adhere to the University Academic Support Centers (former AAAC) rules,

General Timeline:

First two semesters/Completion of coursework Period

The student works closely with their Doctoral advisor in all matters related to course selection and program planning. By the end of the second semester of course work at KU, the student will meet with their Doctoral advisor to plan their exam areas and select two additional Advisory Committee members. Once formed, the student will meet with the Advisory Committee to ensure the fulfillment of all required coursework, supporting languages, and the Doctoral minor (see Advisory Committee form. Appendix A, p. 48). In addition, the Advisory Committee and the student will decide on the topics for the written paper (A) and two examinations (B and C):

  1. Paper (Area A): the student will submit a paper that shows critical engagement with a genre (novel, poetry, essay, drama, etc.) or critical/theoretical area (e.g., poetics; performance studies; narrative and narratology; cultural studies; romanticism). This paper can be the continuation/finished form of a project initiated in any of the PhD seminars.
  2. Examination (Area B): Based on a bibliography put together by the student on a specific field, understood as a focus on a specific region (i.e., Caribbean literature) and temporal framework (i.e., Colonial Latin America).
  3. Examination (Area C): Based on a bibliography put together by the student on a theoretical framework as it relates to a specific corpus of literary and cultural expression from the Latin American and Peninsular contexts (i.e., transatlantic studies, circum- Caribbean studies, border studies, reading and readership, etc.).

The committee will ensure that these three areas are complementary but not redundant, and that neither of them is too broad, nor too narrow. The materials from Areas A, B, and C will confirm the ‘academic profile’ of the student as an up-and-coming scholar and are the foundations for the dissertation work. Thus, it is imperative that the student can articulate how each area complements the others, and how these areas altogether shape the process of inquiry in the fields of literary and cultural studies.

PhD students are required to seek feedback on their paper (Area A) and to work with their principal advisor on preliminary drafts prior to turning the final paper to the full Advisory Committee no later than their last semester of coursework. Students must turn in a draft to the full PhD Advisory Committee by November 1 prior to the Spring Semester exam or by April 1 prior to the Fall Semester exam. Faculty are not expected to provide feedback on PhD papers after the end of the semester prior to the Exam.

Immediately AFTER last semester of coursework

Both the paper AND examinations are due at the exam period immediately following the last semester of coursework or no later than two weeks after if recommended by the PhD Advisor.


  • Students completing coursework in May will be examined and turn in their paper in the second full week of the following Fall semester.
  • Students completing coursework in December will be examined and turn in their paper the second full week of the Spring semester.
  • Students will turn in the final version of their paper (Area A) on the date that the first PhD written exam is administered.

Area A: PhD Paper

The student will write one substantive, and potentially publishable research essay (10,000- 12,000 words) under the supervision of the Doctoral advisor and additional members of the Advisory Committee. Ideally, the paper for area A will constitute the basis for a dissertation proposal and possibly even a chapter in the dissertation.

To be accepted toward fulfillment of the PhD requirement, the essay must demonstrate breadth and depth of understanding of the topic in question and a mastery of the relevant critical corpus, in addition to the ability to formulate an original inquiry and offer a strong thesis. The expectation is that students undergo multiple revisions of their work prior to the final submission. The Advisory Committee will have sole responsibility for determining whether the paper is a pass or a fail. In addition, if the student fails to turn in the paper at the set timeline, they will receive an F on this Area of the PhD Qualifying exams.

Areas B and C: Written Examinations

These areas include two three-hour written examinations (in Spanish), followed by the oral defense of the Dissertation Proposal.

Written examinations for areas B and C are based on reading lists agreed upon in advance by the student and the Advisory Committee. The examinations will be given twice a year, to be scheduled for the second full week of classes in the Spring and Fall semesters. The dates for these exams will be announced at least four weeks before they are to take place. The Graduate Program Coordinator and Director of Graduate Studies will ensure that the exam adheres to any individual accommodations communicated through the University Academic Support Centers, former AAAC, 

Students who do not pass Areas B and/or C will be able to retake either one or both during the semester immediately following the first attempt. A student may not take any part of the comprehensive written examination for areas B or C more than three times.

Examination questions will be written for the student by at least two Advisory Committee members, who may solicit input from other faculty members with expertise in a specific area. The student’s advisor will provide the Graduate Studies Committee with the questions for the exam during the first week of the semester. All members of the Advisory Committee will proof-read and approve the questions. Once the written exam is completed, the Advisory Committee will have sole responsibility for its assessment. The chair of the Advisory Committee must communicate in writing the results of each examination process to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will in turn communicate in writing with the student; these letters constitute a record of the written examination process and are placed in the student’s academic file as evidence of progress toward the degree.

Policy on Postponement of the Written PhD Written Examinations

If a student signs up for the PhD Examination for a subsequent semester and does not take the Examinations on the scheduled dates, and/or fails to present the Examination paper, the student will fail the relevant portions of the Examination. Students are encouraged to work with their committees to set realistic exam dates. In strenuous circumstances, students may petition for an alternate date. If such a petition is granted, the student will be allowed to postpone the Examination with no penalty. Unusual circumstances include serious medical conditions, family emergencies, and sudden changes in the composition of the Department faculty.

Although students retain their legal right to petition for any reason, failure to make sufficient progress on a paper in the months prior to a scheduled exam does not in itself qualify as an “unusual circumstance.” A petition should explain the justification for postponement in detail and be accompanied by appropriate documentation, including a letter of endorsement from the Chair of the student’s examination committee. Since unusual circumstances can arise quite suddenly, the Graduate Studies Committee cannot set a firm deadline for petitions. A student should act expeditiously, however, if considering such a request, to allow sufficient time for the Advisor and the Committee to consider it. If a student has petitioned to postpone the examination once and is unprepared to take it the following semester, it is recommended that they take a leave of absence from the PhD program.

Oral Defense of the Dissertation Prospectus

After the student has passed all three written components of the examination (Areas A, B, and C), the Director of Graduate Studies will request the KU Office of Graduate Affairs to schedule the defense of the dissertation prospectus. This requirement must take place during the same semester as the written portions of the Comprehensive Examination, and at least two weeks following notification to the Office of Graduate Affairs. Failure to complete the oral defense within that time period could require repetition and successful completion of all components of the written examination.

Oral Defense of Dissertation Prospectus Committee

The examination committee will consist of five members, including the members of the student's Graduate Advisory Committee, an additional faculty representative from the Department, and one faculty member from outside the Department. The expected dissertation director chairs this committee.

Content and Assessment

For the oral examination, students must prepare a dissertation prospectus (approximately 12-15 pages). This narrative should:

  • Outline the central question toward the formulation of a solid thesis.
  • Explain the choice of primary sources (literary works, cultural expression) under analysis.
  • Offer a theoretical framework and reflection on methodology.
  • Situate the proposed research within previous scholarship.
  • Provide a general outline of the dissertation.
  • Include a bibliography that further shows the candidate’s dialogue with other theoretical and critical works on the subject.

The members of the oral examination committee will receive copies of the dissertation prospectus at least ten days prior to the scheduled examination date. The oral examination will focus on the proposal, but its larger purpose is to assure that the candidate has adequate control of the general field of the dissertation. Thus, the committee may wish to follow up in some of the weaker areas of the written examinations, or probe further aspects related to the dissertation not covered in the written examinations. The candidates will be expected to consult with their committees to ascertain if there are any specific areas needing special attention.

At the oral examination, questions may be asked by any member of the senior staff, but the decision to pass or fail the candidate is made by the oral exam committee (consisting of five graduate faculty; one is an external member to the department). According to the regulations of the KU Office of Graduate Affairs, if the student fails the comprehensive examination in any of its areas (written -areas A, B, C- and/or oral) it may be repeated on the recommendation of the department, but under no circumstances may it be taken more than three times. And it may not be repeated until at least ninety days have elapsed since the last unsuccessful attempt. Normally, a student would repeat the oral examination before the end of the semester following the semester in which the previous oral examination was given. After the student passes this examination, their status, as far as the KU Office of Graduate Affairs is concerned, is changed from that of a PhD aspirant to that of a candidate for the PhD.

If the student changes the dissertation topic after this examination has been successfully completed, a new dissertation proposal must be prepared and approved by the student's dissertation committee and by the department's Graduate Studies Committee.

After passing all areas of the Qualifying exams, the Office of Graduate Studies requires that doctoral candidates be continuously enrolled in at least six hours each fall or spring semester, including at least one dissertation hour, until 18 hours have been completed or until graduation, whichever comes first.  After the 18 hours are completed, the student must enroll in at least one dissertation hour per semester until all requirements of the degree are met. Enrollment during this period may include the semester in which the exam was passed provided that it was taken  before the first day of the term’s final exam period.

Students who have completed their qualifying exams are not required by the Office of Graduate Studies to enroll during summer session. Doctoral students should consult with their advisors and departmental graduate staff to determine whether any other policies require them to enroll during the summer.

Prior to beginning work on the dissertation, students are asked to consult carefully the ‘Guidelines for Dissertations’ appended to this document (see Graduate Student Handbook Appendix A (.pdf)).

Dissertation Committee

Membership on the dissertation committee is designated by the KU Office of Graduate Affairs on the basis of recommendations by the Department. The dissertation committee shall consist of five members. One of them must be from outside the Department, particularly if the dissertation topic engages with other disciplines. The chair of the candidate’s committee is the director of the dissertation.

The three-person Graduate Advisory Committee may become the core of the student’s Dissertation Committee. Yet, the student can change the composition of their committee after the Ph.D. examination process is complete, and in consultation with their doctoral advisor and Director of Graduate Studies.

Final Oral Defense

As stipulated by KU’s Office of Graduate Affairs, each member of the committee must read and approve the dissertation before the degree can be awarded. Each member should, thereof, have the opportunity to read the dissertation and to make suggestions before it is typed in its final version.

During the last semester of writing the dissertation, the student should contact the Graduate Academic Advisor to begin the defense scheduling process. The Graduate Academic Advisor will communicate on behalf of the student to schedule the defense, reserve a room, and complete pre-approval work prior to the exam. The dissertation defense scheduling process should begin no later than two months prior to the earliest possible defense date.

The student should send the final draft of their dissertation to each committee member via email (or in hard copy by request) at least four weeks prior to the scheduled date of the dissertation defense to enable committee members to examine it fully. The grade (satisfactory, honors, or unsatisfactory) for the defense is determined by majority vote of the five-member dissertation committee.

After the final oral defense, the dissertation, prepared in accord with KU Office of Graduate Affairs and departmental guidelines, must be submitted electronically to the KU Office of Graduate Affairs. In addition, one bound and signed copy of the dissertation must be turned in to the Department for permanent filing. The KU Graduate Catalogue states that students who do not complete the dissertation within the eight-year time limit, must petition for an extension of the deadline.

To request a leave of absence from the Ph.D. program a student must submit a written petition to the Graduate Committee. Leaves normally are for a maximum of one year. Such leaves are intended to accommodate students for personal reasons, i.e. illness, family crises, etc., and in special cases for full-time professional activities related to the student’s doctoral program and long-range career goals. The Committee normally will not endorse any professional activities request submitted after May 15 for a leave beginning in the fall semester, or after November 1 for a leave beginning in the spring semester. Normally the graduate committee will recommend approval for single one-year extension to complete a dissertation, and to qualify for such an extension the candidate will be expected to have submitted to his or her committee a minimum of one half of the dissertation prior to the request. Dissertation directors are urged to remind students approaching the eight-year limit of this policy. Retroactive requests will not be considered.

The following table lists chronologically Ph.D. Degrees in Spanish & Portuguese from 2000 to present:

YearAuthorDissertation Title
2000Nowak, Lisa J. Optical Illusions:  Directing the  Audience's  Perspective in Spain's Golden Age Theatre
2000Rico, Alicia Sociedades en transicion: La novela fantastica escrita por mexicanas y espafiolas en la decada de los ochenta
2000Stevens, Camilla From the House to the Stage: Family and  Identity in Contemporary  Cuban and  Puerto Rican Drama
2000Boyer, Charles G.Revolution and Romance: Social Change and Desire in Mexican Narrative, 1955–1989
2001Misemer, Sarah M. Cultural Icons in Latin American Theater:  Studies of Frida Kahlo, Carlos Gardel, Eva Peron and Selena Quintanilla-Perez
2002Blair, Laura SenioThe Return Home: Experiences of Deterritorialization in Post-Pinochet Chilean Literature
2002Del Mar Freire Hermida, MaríaViaje con nosotros.  De la euforia cultural al desencanto politico
2002Diaz de Leon, Aida  From Disappearing Narrators to Signs of the  Author: Images of the  Subject in the Short Stories of Silvina Ocampo
2002Evers, MichelleStaging the Nations:  Performing Identity in Post-Franco Spain
2002Irizarry, RobertoMulatos Melosos "Hibridez y vanguardia en Puerto Rico, Cuba, y Brasil"
2002Olive, Elena MariaPopular Culture in Contemporary  Spanish Poetry: From the Novisimos to the New Millennium
2002Paredes Mendez, Maria FranciscaLa regeneracion nacional y el discurso de genero en la ficcion española de 1900 a 1931
2002Strichartz, ArielCooking, Feeding, and Eating: Theatre and Dictatorship in the Southern Cone
2003Chacon Rivera, TomasIntelectuales, martires y caudillos en el teatro de la Revolución mexicana
2003Chavarria, Maria Gabriela El suefio politico de los primeros modernistas en Centroamerica a traves de la imagen de sus ciudades: Ruben Dario, Juan Ramon Molina, Francisco Gavidia y Enrique Gomez Carrillo
2003Fernandez Iglesias, Juan CarlosEl espejo fragmentado: La expresion de la subjetividad en la poesía mexicana contemporánea
2003Koessler Avellanet, SheilaThe Discourse of Desire During Times of Crisis in Mexican Novelas of the 1980S
2003Leone, Maryanne L. Borderland Identities and Contemporary Spanish Fiction
2003Torrico-Sanchez, BenjaminEmblematica y narrativa en el siglo de oro
2004Akrabova, Maria G.Sheherazada en el espejo: Una aproximacion a lo fantastico femenino
2004Bermudez, Nayibe I.Sujetos (trans)nacionales: La negociacion de la etnia, el genero sexual y la clase social en cine y literatura de fines de siglo XX
2004Fallon, Jr.,Paul FrancisBorderline Tactics: Negotiations of Community, Subjectivity, Nation, and Agency in Temporal Representations in Northern Mexican Border Narratives
2004Harpring, MarkThe Bachelor at the Crossroads of Gender and Class in the Late Nineteenth-Century Spanish Novel
2004Hernandez, Paola S.La identidad en la era de la globalización: Resistencia  y desencanto en el teatro de Argentina, Chile y Brasil
2004Mohn, Mary ChristineThe Novels of Alvaro Pombo: Registers of the Sociopolitical History of Contemporary Spain
2004Vasquez-Mendoza, Jesus A.Entre la palabra y la imagen: Relaciones narrativas entre prosa y cine mexicanos
2005Adlung Kellogg, Kirsten M.A Question of Character: Narrative and Theatrical Subjects in the Works of Sabina Berman and Marco Antonio de la Parra
2005Bermudez, Nayibe I.Sujetos (trans)nacionales: La negociacion de la etnia, el genero sexual y la clase social en cine y literatura de fines de siglo XX
2005Boero, Paulo J. The Figure of the Outsider in Contemporary Argentine Narrative: Talking Argentina Out of the Proceso (1976–1996)
2005Brown, Michael L.Dams, Doors, and Divans:  Staging a National Narrative Therapy in Chile, Argentina, and Spain
2005Fallon, Paul F.Borderline Tactics: Negotiations of Community, Subjectivity, Nation, and Agency in Temporal Representations of Northern Mexican Border Narratives
2005Krebs, Brenda L. The Early Modern Stage as Editorial Page: The Theater as a Mass Communication Medium in Seventeenth-Century Spain and England
2006Ballesteros, Jose R.El imperio desde el centro: Representaciones indianas sexualizadas en la temprana edad moderna española
2006Bayers, LeslieVoice, Visuality, and Performance: Alternative Expression in Contemporary Peruvian Poetry
2006Cardone, Resha SophiaActing up and Carrying on: Women Writers of Chile, 1945-2006
2007Gomis-Izquierdo, Vicente"Siempre hubo clases": Clases medias y modernización en la literatura hispanica decimonónica
2007Kanost, LauraPolitical Asylums: Locating Mental Illness in Latin American Literature (1980–2000)
2007Tome, PatriciaSaboreando Cuba: Corporalidad y gastronomia en la produccion cultural cubana y cubano-americana (1980-2000)
2007Zalba, RocioComunidades teatrales: La melancolia y la nostalgia en la representacion y formacion de la identidad argentina a fines del siglo XX y principios del siglo XXI
2008Acuna-Zumbado, EduardoHacia la construccion del sujeto y sus procesos de lectura en la hipertextualidad latinoamericana
2008Drickey, Kirsten M.En carne propia: Embodied identities in Cuban and Mexican cultural production
2008Finzer, Erin S.Poetisa Chic:  Fashioning the Modern Female Poet in Central America, 1929-1944
2009Amend, TracieThe Adulteress in Spanish Tragedy (1830-1930)
2009Burckhardt, Omega SunshineParadictatorial nostalgia: The exile poetry of Juan Gelman, Ferreira Gullar, and Gonzalo Millan
2009Fonseca, AlbertoCuando llovio dinero en Macondo: Literatura y narcotrafico en Colombia y Mexico
2009Tolentino-Solano, AdrianaFamilias desmembradas y orfandades: Representaciones de una actidud posmoderna hacia la nacion Mexicana
2009Whitney, Kendall A.Wanderl[o]st: Lost Identities and Losing Place in the New World (Dis)order
2010Meijide Lapido, ArturoAlonso Quijano en el Callejón del Gato: Las ficciones de psycho-killers españolas
2010Moreno, Jose AntonioDeseos de comunidad en el personaje intersticial y marginal: En la novela y el cine de los noventa en Mexico
2010Thornton, Megan L.The Power of the Voice: Listening to Mexican and Central American Immigrant Experiences (1997–2010)
2011Garcia, Hernan ManuelLa globalizacion desfigurada o la post-globalizacion imaginada: La estetica cyberpunk (post)mexicama
2011Postma, Regan LeeFreeways and Free Speech, Rail Cars and Rancheras: Geographic and Linguistic Mobility in Contemporary Mexican and Mexican-American Cultural Production
2011Romo Blas, Ana MariaCiudad de Mexico y la Habana: Imagenes y representaciones urbanas en torno a la violencia y la memoria
2012Garcia Otero, Maria J.Hag(e)ografia. Propaganda ideologica y politica geográfica en los discursos hagiográficos peninsulares. La construccion de la nacion Española (Siglos XIII a XVII)
2012Lisenby, J. DavidRecurrent Racialisms: Contemporary Enactments of Nineteenth-Century Cuban Figures, Types, and Tropes
2013Gowan, Ian PopeWork and the Post-Crisis: Artistic Representations of Claustrophobic Labor Spaces in Argentina (2001–2011)
2014Celis-Castillo, Pablo GenaroManchanayta Rikuj Ñawiruntukuna or The Terror that the Eyes Saw: Visual Tropes in Peru's Cultural Production about the Armed Struggle
2014Garcia Puente, MariaErase de nuevo una princesa: Las reescrituras feministas de cuentos de hadas de la españa del tercer milenio
2014Miller, Tiffany Dawn CreeganAmplifying Subaltern Voices: (Media)tion and Marginalized Identities in Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil
2014O'Brien, Michael Patrick, Jr.Competition and Conflict: Ludic Structures and Strategies in Late Medieval Iberian Romance
2014Rapp, JacobLiving the Polemic: The Mexican Novel in the Age of Modernismo, 1876-1908
2014Villalobos, ElizabethAsesinos fronterizos: Performance de transgresion de los derechos humanos en el imaginario social del norte y sur de Mexico
2015Dalton, David S.Embodying Modernity in Mexico: Race, Technology, and the Body in the Mestizo State
2015Sheldon, MeganCross-Cultural Queer Encounters: Women, Nation and Queer Culture in Contemporary Spanish Narrative and Film
2015Stear, Ezekiel G.Beyond the Fifth Sun: Nahua Teleologies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
2016Barbosa, Maria Emilia da Costa Redondo Estrela EstevesBody Talk: Performing Violence Against Women in Contemporary Guatemala
2016Delgado Solorzano, Edma I.Crusaders, Martyrs, and Saints: Representations of Christian militancy in Mexico, 1850-2013
2016Foster, Jennifer M. Abercrombie(Un)Natural Pairings: Fantastic, Uncanny, Monstrous, and Cyborgian Encounters in Contemporary Central American and Hispanic Caribbean Literature
2016Trujillo, Jean MarieArtistic Representations of Andean Diasporas: Food and Carework; Music and Dance Performance; and Human Trafficking
2017Alder, ErikSubaltern Saints: Medieval Iberian Hagiography in Dialogue with Latin American Testimonio
2017Barroso, JavierThe Representation of Nazism and World War II in the Literature of Argentina and Mexico
2017Garcia Genel, AngelicaMemoria prestada. La represión y los movimientos estudiantiles en dos casos de estudio: Mexico (1968) y España (1960-1977)
2017Rodriguez Cortes, Luis AlbertoIdentidades en transito: La (supra)nación en narrativa, cine y espacios de difusión cultural latinoamericanos del siglo XXI
2017Valadez, RafaelWhen the Literary Mutates and the Digital Emboldens: Transformations in Spanish Electronic Literature of the 21st Century
2018Alonso, RacielLa isla en presente perfecto: Articulaciones de lo cotidiano en la produccion cultural de Cuba posterior a 1974
2018Gonzalez, Mirla AndreaArtificial Futures and Posthuman Subjects: Social and Moral Implications of Technology and Scientific Advancement in Spanish Science Fiction
2018Pineda, GinettRescatando a la Pachamama
2018Soll, KatherinePerforming Invisibilities: Conjuring the Ghosts of the Forgotten and Ignored on the Stage
2019Ivers, Christina ElizabethImprints of Devotion: Print and the Passion in the Iberian World (1472-1598)
2020Elder, Cayce

Projecting Spanishness: The Golden Age Comedia and Film in Spain

2021Risso, MarcelaGeografías afectivas de la modernidad del Atlántico Norte en relatos de viajeras latinoamericanas (1835-1935)
2021Muñoz, LinaPoéticas y políticas de la movilidad en el cine del Abya Yala
2021Meredith, DanaStubborn Structures: Revaluing Masculinity in Mexican Women-Authored ‘novelas sobre la Revolución’ (1963-2010)
2022Rañales, Ángel M.Poética caballeresca: libro y propaganda en la imagen literaria y editorial de Isabel I de Castilla (1489-1511).
2022Roman Alvarado, Juan PabloNarrativas de tránsito: movilidades y colonialidad en novelas y filmes de los siglos XX y XXI en Colombia y Ecuador
2023Tenorio Lopez, AriadnaSobre nuestros cuerpos negros: pureza colonial y racionalización en el México contemporáneo
2023Felipe Lomelí, LuisNature from the Disregarded Worlds: Feeling the Anthropocene from Latin America and Luso-Africa
2023Rabinovich, AndrésNeoliberal Tensions in Representations of Soccer in Argentina and Brazil (2003-2016)