Graduate Program

Introduction and Overview

The Graduate Program in Italian in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania offers students a liberal range of curricular options that provide a broad academic base in Italian literature, film, cultural studies, and critical theory, as well as the most current pedagogical theory and practice. Students are encouraged to shape a curriculum that will prepare them in a primary period of interest as well as a secondary focal area. The goal is to develop both a rigorous historical sense of Italian cultural traditions and the flexibility to function effectively as scholars and teachers in Italian programs at American universities.

In addition, the Graduate Program in Italian at Penn offers a development track targeting special practical and technical needs of graduate students as they prepare to enter the profession. Concurrent informal colloquia, sponsored by both faculty and students, are designed to address issues of professional concern at various stages in a student's graduate formation. The graduate students in the Department of Romance Languages--French, Italian, and Hispanic Studies--jointly organize their own conference, which takes place in the spring of every year.

Many resources are available to the graduate students in Italian at the University of Pennsylvania. The nationally renowned Van Pelt Library has excellent Italian holdings, including periodical collections dating from the eighteenth century and Special Collections with strengths in Dante, the Renaissance, and Reformation. It has also established a video library and provides state-of-the-art facilities for film study and viewing.

The Center for Italian Studies coordinates scholarly activities among faculty and students across the humanities, in the departments of History, History of Art, Music, English, and Classical Studies. Its interdepartmental colloquium series, "Italy at the Center," features presentations by Penn Italian Studies faculty from across the humanities. Other cultural events sponsored by the Center include visiting lectures, film screenings and a major annual academic conference. Recent conferences have been devoted to such topics as "Romanticism and the Idea of Italy"; "The Holocaust in Italy: Ten Years After Primo Levi"; "A Colloquium on Film Studies: Cinema Across the Disciplines"; "Translation and Cultural Transformation"; "Strong Voices, Weak History? Medieval and Renaissance Women in their Literary Canons"; "Italian Roots, American Soil: Generations of Immigrants to the Philadelphia Area"; "AAIS-American Association of Italian Studies, XXI Annual Conference." Guest lecturers have included Giuseppe Velli, Piero Boitani, Albert Ascoli, and Fred Gardapahé. The Center also has hosted visiting film directors, including the Taviani Brothers, Carlo Lizzani, Francesco Rosi, and Gianni Amelio, as well as authors who have come for readings, most recently Gianni Celati and the poets Bianca Tarozzi and Antonio Riccardi.

 Individual dissertation research abroad is encouraged and summer research funding is available competitively through Penn's Salvatori Fund or other resources.

In addition to lectures, conferences, films, and concerts sponsored on campus by the various departments, the Center for Italian Studies, and the Casa Italiana of the Modern Languages College House, Italian at Penn benefits from plentiful community resources. They include in particular cultural events organized under the auspices of the Italian Consul General of Italy in Philadelphia and in connection with the sister city relationship between Philadelphia and Florence, and initiatives of the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia and the Friends of the Center for Italian Studies at Penn.

Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Study

Students may complement their studies with up to four courses outside the Italian Studies section--for example, in another Romance language, Comparative Literature, English, or History. Certificate programs are also available in the areas of Women's Studies and Urban Studies. The University of Pennsylvania enjoys reciprocal agreements with several other nearby institutions, which allow students to complete a number of courses in them while enrolled in a graduate program at Penn. Additionally, interdisciplinary study is encouraged through participation in the wide range of seminars, lectures, and colloquia sponsored by the various Graduate Groups and affiliated research institutes and centers at Penn, including the Center for Italian Studies and the Latin American Cultures Program. Students and faculty participate in the weekly "History of the Book Seminar," which draws scholars from a wide range of disciplines to discuss the history and materiality of the book.  The Graduate Humanities Forum also provides a forum for doctoral students to interact with colleagues from across the disciplines and holds weekly meetings as well as special research seminars, colloquia, and an annual student conference.


The Department offers guided preparation for students' participation in the academic job market. Students receive advice and feedback on their job application materials (CVs, cover letters, teaching statements, research statements, etc.) and attend an intensive week-long seminar in December that prepares them for the Annual Convention of the MLA. Mock interviews and practice job talks are also arranged. Recent graduates of our program have fared extremely well on the job market, accepting tenure-track positions at some of the best colleges and universities around the country, including Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Princeton.

The Career Services Office makes every effort to assist students in finding employment and offers a range of services geared toward both academic and nonacademic career options.

Library Resources

The Van Pelt Library, the University's central humanities research collection, is especially rich in the Romance languages areas, with outstanding collections of rare books and manuscripts.  The Italian literature collection includes a broad base in literary scholarship from all periods. The Macauley Collection, devoted to Italian Renaissance culture and literature, includes one of the largest Tasso collections in the United States.

The French Italian Graduate Society

The French Italian Romanic Society (FIGS), the graduate student organization of the French and Italian Divisions of the Department of Romance Languages, works to enhance the general welfare of graduate students in both intellectual and practical terms.  This group helps to organize Department-sponsored lectures and colloquia, and organizes an annual graduate student colloquium.

The Gregory House Modern Language Program

Graduate students have the opportunity to live and work as resident advisors at the Gregory House, an undergraduate campus dormitory that is staffed by native speakers, graduate students, and faculty members from participating departments in French, Spanish, Italian, and German.  In addition to communal dining for House residents, each floor offers weekly coffee hours for informal conversation, movies, and other social events.

Department Facilities

The Department of Romance Languages occupies the fifth floor of Williams Hall, with a seminar room for Romance Languages graduate classes, a graduate lounge, and a computer lab, as well as the Cherpack Lounge, where faculty and graduate students meet informally, and where lectures and colloquia sponsored by the Department are held.

University of Pennsylvania
521 Williams Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Telephone: (215) 898-1980
Fax: (215) 898-0933