The Master of Arts degree is offered in French, Italian, and Hispanic Studies. The degree is meant to prepare students to enter doctoral programs, to teach one of the Romance languages, or to take up professional positions in other fields, such as general education, business, or publishing.
The graduate curriculum offers broad coverage of French, Francophone, Iberian, Latin American, and Italian literatures. Survey courses are interspersed with seminars that are organized according to more specialized principles of research, such as author, theme, genre, or theoretical approach. Taking into account the many different ways that the study of literature has been pursued over the past two hundred years, graduate programs in RLL offer students an opportunity to explore literary, linguistic, and cultural phenomena relating to the Romance languages from a large number of traditional and contemporary perspectives, including film and media. An awareness of critical theory and the importance of history are essential aspects of our graduate programs; for this reason, students are strongly encouraged to take courses focused exclusively on theory as well as those that treat the history and philology of the Romance languages. With few exceptions, courses are taught in the target language.
The general aim of courses in the department is to combine the close, careful, analytical reading of major works of a Romance language with an appreciation of how and why the study of literature continues to occupy a privileged position for confronting the challenges of communication and understanding that necessarily underlie all the liberal arts and that are negotiated daily in every walk of life. In other words, the study of literature is the study of life.
Students accepted into the RLL Master of Arts Programs (French, Hispanic Studies, and Italian) are given comprehensive support usually in the form of a Teaching Fellowship, comprising full tuition remission for all courses required for the degree and a monthly stipend which is calibrated to meet basic living expenses. The Teaching Fellowship is renewed for the second year unless the student does not maintain excellence in his or her studies or is unable to perform effectively as a language instructor.
Note that departmental financial support does not include health care coverage, which students can purchase through the university. For more information about health insurance and other forms of financial support offered by the department, see our department's "Funding for Graduate Study" page.
As part of their training, each semester, M.A. students teach two sections of elementary or intermediate language (three-credit courses meeting three hours per week), under the close supervision of a language coordinator. Each year in late August before the start of the academic year, the department offers a two-day comprehensive Orientation Program for new Teaching Fellows, supplemented by one-day orientation programs offered by the BC Office of Graduate Student Life and the Connors Family Learning Center (held during the same week in August) and by additional RLL dept. workshops on foreign language pedagogy offered during the academic year.
The professional formation of students also includes a one-semester one-credit course,
RLRL 9990, "The Graduate Professional and Pedagogy Seminar," held during the Fall semester, representing a systematic introduction to issues of graduate student life and a preparation for a successful career. Presentations by members of the RLL faculty and other university officials include professional ethics, pedagogy, research methods, strategies for conference participation and scholarly publishing, the evolving role of critical theory, long-term career planning, as well as specific information on departmental requirements.
Students are also afforded direct experience (writing, editing, reviewing, etc.) in the realm of scholarly publication through participation in The Romance E-Review, the online Graduate Journal of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
They also gain direct experience of presenting papers at professional conferences through the annual RLL Graduate Student Interdisciplinary Conference completely organized by students in the department.
"The skills I developed through pursuing an MA at Boston College have been valuable at every step of my doctoral studies. One of the program's key strengths is its structure, which allows students to take a variety of courses on Latin American and Spanish literature from faculty who are well-recognized in their fields. This structure helped me to build a base as a generalist, which is important during the coursework and exam phase of a Ph.D. program. Courses with a theoretical facet helped me begin defining the theoretical approach to my thesis project sooner. The department’s Independent Research Project (IRP) was also key to my formation as a researcher, as its combination of intellectual freedom and guided mentorship taught me to develop an extended research project from start to finish. It goes without saying that this is an indispensable skill during the dissertation phase of a Ph.D. program. Lastly, and crucially, the Masters program brought me up to date on the latest pedagogical methods in Spanish-language teaching. Not only did this make me a prepared educator when teaching undergraduate courses in my doctoral program, but it also taught me to effectively balance coursework and teaching, often a significant challenge for doctoral candidates. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone intent on pursuing a Ph.D. to first undertake the Masters at Boston College, as the program’s generous faculty, excellent coursework and teaching experience have allowed me to transition to a doctoral program fully prepared to meet its challenges."
-- Alexandra Brown, Ph.D. candidate, University of Pennsylvania
The Department expects its graduate students to have acquired the following skills and bodies of knowledge by the time they graduate from Boston College:
- “Advanced-high” linguistic proficiency in the target language (as measured by the ACTFL scale) in speaking, listening, writing, and reading.
- Broad understanding of the literature and culture of the target-language country or countries, including major literary movements and genres.
- Knowledge of the diverse theoretical approaches to texts appropriate to the M.A. degree level.
- Proficiency in the close reading and critical analysis of literary texts, which includes the ability to recognize and interpret the correspondence between thought and expression, text and contexts.
- Competence in research methods and practice, as they pertain to libraries, archives and other repositories of relevant research materials.
- Ability to conceive and express original arguments and conclusions, and to present them in an appropriate academic format, in both oral and written form.
- Competence in foreign language pedagogy and familiarity with the best practices of the profession.