Department of Spanish and Portuguese

College of Letters & Science

Masters | Portuguese

Guidelines for the M.A. in Portuguese

The course of studies leading to the Master of Arts degree in Portuguese in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a flexible one designed to introduce the candidate to Portuguese and Brazilian literatures, literary criticism, and linguistics. The program is for students who terminate their academic career at the M.A. as well as for those who decide to pursue the Ph.D. Its general, non-specialized approach is beneficial to both types. To the M.A. student it affords the breadth of knowledge required for teaching Portuguese in secondary schools and community and junior colleges. To the potential doctoral candidate it provides the general foundation necessary for subsequent specialization. The Master’s program offers a panorama of selected works, a general view of literary and linguistic currents, and an introduction to literary and linguistic research.

Admission and Advising

  • Applicants with a B.A. in Spanish or Portuguese must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and a GPA in Spanish or Portuguese courses of at least 3.25. Exceptions to these requirements may be made by the Admissions Committee.
  • During the registration period, the student will be asked to supply supplementary information regarding courses taken previously, experience abroad, scope of readings in Spanish and Spanish-American literatures, and preparation in linguistics.
  • All candidates will take an examination for written proficiency. An unsatisfactory performance, as determined by the examiners, on that written examination will require the student to take Spanish 323 (Advanced Language Practice with Emphasis on Expository Writing). Only those so required to take Spanish 323 will receive graduate credit for it, though it will not count toward any of the seven curriculum areas. Candidates who are not native speakers of Spanish will take an examination for oral proficiency. An unsatisfactory performance on the oral examination will require the student to take Spanish 320 (Spanish Phonetics). However, Spanish 320 will not count as graduate credit.
  • Each candidate will choose one of six general advisers. The student and the adviser will plan a program that takes into account the candidate's interest, strengths and deficiencies. If, for example, the student has a strong undergraduate background in a particular period of literature, the adviser will not recommend further exposure to the same field. The core courses (see below) are designed specifically to provide a sound, basic introduction to a particular field. Likewise, a student with extensive experience abroad and/or undergraduate preparation in composition or conversation may not need further study in these areas.
  • Candidates who expect to go on to the Doctorate are urged to acquire the basic reading knowledge of a second foreign language before taking the M.A. examination. It should be another Romance Language, Latin, Arabic or German. Other languages may be considered, with the approval of the department.

Course Requirements

The M.A. course work in Portuguese consists of a minimum of 31 credits. Related course work in another department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be counted toward the minimum 31-credit requirement if it has been approved by the Chair in consultation with the departmental Committee.
After one semester in residence here, incoming graduate students from other universities may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to transfer graduate credits taken at their previous university to satisfy requirements here. A maximum of three courses (9 credits) may be transferred from their previous program toward their degree requirements, except in the major field, and no more than three credits may be granted in one but not both of the students’ supporting fields. Each petition must be approved by the advisor, validated by a faculty member specializing in that field, and assessed by the Graduate Studies Committee with regard to its level and appropriateness. Only in rare circumstances will exceptions be considered.
The Master's Degree program in Portuguese in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is based on a series of core courses designed to give the student a broad knowledge of Portuguese, Brazilian and Lusophone African literary currents. Specific course requirements are as follows:

  • A one-credit proseminar (Port 707) must be taken by beginning graduate students during the fall semester of their first year. The proseminar emphasizes research methods, bibliography, special problems in dealing with the literature of the various historical periods, the theory and practice of literary criticism, etc.
    Fifteen credits, in the form of 5 three-credit core courses. The following core courses, designed especially for beginning graduate students, are offered on the following cycle:

    Year 1

    Year 2

    Fall Spring Fall Spring
    Portuguese 411
    (Portuguese Literature from 1140 to 1825)
    Portuguese 412
    (Brazilian Literature from 1500 to 1890)
    Portuguese 467
    (Portuguese Literature since 1825)
    Portuguese 468
    (Brazilian Literature since 1890)
    Portuguese 361
    (Portuguese Civilization)
    Portuguese 362
    (Brazilian Civilization)
    Portuguese 451
    (Lusophone African Literature)
    Portuguese 330
    (History of the Portuguese Language)
  • Fifteen credits of electives are required. Six of these elective credits must be taken as seminars. Port 899 (Directed Study) may only satisfy elective credits. Students are strongly advised not to take a seminar in an area in which they have no previous preparation. Exceptions by consent of instructor.
  • All graduate students who are candidates for an M.A. degree in this department must take a minimum of two graduate-level courses in Spanish and/or Portuguese for credit each semester, exclusive of Independent Reading courses and audited courses. A student who is not in compliance with this requirement is not making good progress toward the degree, and will therefore be deemed not in good academic standing. Advisers should be aware that only the Departmental Committee, on the favorable recommendation of the Graduate Studies Committee, may grant exemptions.

Reading List

The M.A. Reading List will constitute a basic corpus of primary works to be viewed as an integral part of the M.A. course work. The five curriculum areas are constituted in the following fashion:

Download Portuguese MA Reading List (2008) or Portuguese MA Reading List (2015) (PDF)


  1. The M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination covers the five curriculum areas, of which the candidate must take four. The student is required to have taken a course (i.e., not necessarily a survey course) in the fifth area. Each of the four areas is tested by a 1½ hour exam, consisting of some combination of the following: short questions (definitions, terminology, key concepts, etc.), specific questions on key works and/or general essay questions (dealing with textual analysis, literary history, contrastive studies, etc.). These examinations are scheduled for the third weeks of November and April. The student must indicate in writing to the Chair of the Examination Committee at least one week prior to the final examination which of the five areas he/she wishes to omit from the Portuguese M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. At least one part of each area of the M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination must be written in Portuguese.
  2. Each area of the M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination has three possible grades:
    1. Pass with recommendation: M.A. granted and candidate admitted to doctoral program.
    2. Pass: M.A. granted but the candidate is not admitted to the doctoral program.
    3. Fail: The candidate is deemed to be admitted to the doctoral program if a minimum of two passes with recommendation are obtained, with no failures. The M.A. may be granted if there is only one failure.

    Exam results which include three or four Passes with Recommendation and no fails are designated Outstanding.

  3. M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Process: In the event a student does not meet the requirements set forth in the M.A. Guidelines document with respect to the Ph.D. Qualifying process, there will be a thorough discussion and subsequent ratification of the case by the Departmental Committee. If the candidate has no fails on any section of the exam and two professors are willing to defend the candidate and state that they support his/her entrance into the Ph.D. program, either professor being willing to direct his/her dissertation, the candidate shall be admitted into the Departments doctoral program. If the candidate has two high passes but fails in a maximum of one area, and is supported by two faculty members, that candidate will be admitted into the Ph.D. program on probation and must repeat and pass the failed area of the exam within one semester. In either case, the student will complete his/her dissertation under the supervision of one of the two professors who defended the candidate at the Departmental meeting. The student should be aware of the possibility that the two professors may work in different fields. Any student who is not admitted to the Ph.D. program through successful completion of the exam or through either of the above-mentioned processes will not be eligible for admission to the Ph.D.
  4. Any student who does not pass the M.A. examination will be allowed to retake only those areas in which he/she failed as long as he/she received only two fails and he/she takes both area examinations in the next scheduled M.A. examination (i.e. November for failed April exam; April for failed November exam). In order to complete the M.A. successfully, he/she must pass both areas; those who fail three or more areas must retake the whole M.A. examination at the next scheduled time and must pass all areas in order to receive the M.A. degree. No candidate will be permitted to take any areas of the M.A. exam for a third time. Admission to the Ph.D. program will be considered by the Department on the basis of the first examination only. Students on academic probation will not be allowed to take the M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.