Indiana University Bloomington
Department of French and Italian

Exams & Reading Lists for Italian Studies

The M.A. Exam

There is a master's exam session held on the first Saturday of each semester (Fall and Spring). It consists of a six-hour written examination based on reading lists covering all periods of Italian literature. Candidates who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree must take their master's exam within their fourth semester of classes. Master's candidates who do not intend to earn a Ph.D. may choose to take their exam after their fourth semester of classes. Students who choose this option will not be considered for any further financial support. Students must signal their intent to sit for the exam to the Director of Graduate Studies (with a copy to the graduate secretary) at least 60 days prior to the scheduled exam date. In particular cases (i.e., a terminal master's degree with focus on language instruction, for instance), the Faculty may accept a special pedagogical project in lieu of the written examination.

To qualify for the Master's exams, students must have completed all courses previously taken. Specifically, students with incompletes will not be allowed to sit for the exams. Each section of the exam will contain a question requesting the student to analyze a specific literary passage. The student will have to choose at least one question of this type. The students can choose whether to handwrite the exam or to type it on an IU computer.

Students can write the answers for the MA exam in either English or Italian.

All exams are anonymous.

The master's exam will be judged by the entire faculty on a pass/fail basis, according to the following scale:

  • HIGH PASS = exceptional knowledge of the subject matter and outstanding critical ability
  • PASS = good knowledge and good critical understanding of the subject
  • LOW PASS = satisfactory knowledge of the material but lacking full critical comprehension. (The faculty may decide that an extra oral exam on the subject is necessary.)
  • FAIL = the student must retake the exam within the next two sessions to qualify for the M.A. degree.

Students who receive a FAIL or a LOW PASS will not be admitted to the Ph.D. program.

If the Italian Studies faculty decides to change the exam system for the master's degree, all students in their first year of classes will have to comply with the new rules. Those who pass the exam and complete their course work need to file for their master's degree at the Graduate School to have it appear on their transcript.

The Ph.D. Exam

The Ph.D. exam in Italian Studies is divided in two parts:

  1. An in-depth written examination covering all periods of Italian literature and culture, including film.
  2. The submission of a dissertation project.

Part 1

Students must take the first part of their PhD exam no later than their 4th semester in the PhD program. To qualify for the first part of the Ph.D. exam, students must have no Incompletes on their academic record.

Part 1 of the Ph.D. exam will be held in two sessions: one on the first Friday of the semester (9am–2pm), and the second session the next day, Saturday (9am–2pm). At each session, candidates will be asked to answer three questions from a list of topics. In the first session, the questions will cover the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque; the second session will cover the eighteenth century to the present, including cinema.

Students must indicate their intention to sit for the exam to the Director of Graduate Studies (with a copy to the graduate secretary) at least 60 days prior to the scheduled exam date. Students are urged to discuss the reading list with the Director of Graduate Studies at least two months before the exam. Please consult the current reading list online to prepare for the exam. The current reading list is available on the departmental website. Previous sample exams are available for consultation from the graduate secretary.

Students must write at least one answer in English and one in Italian in each of the two sessions. The students can choose whether to handwrite the exam or to type it on an IU computer.

Those who take the exam will remain anonymous to the evaluators until the final results have been calculated.

Part 2

The second part of the Ph.D. exam consists of the submission of a preliminary description of a dissertation project of approximately 20 to 25 pages of length (including a select bibliography). This description is meant to help students begin the preliminary stages of a dissertation project, and it should be considered as a preliminary, less specific, draft of the dissertation proposal.

Students must submit their dissertation project as soon as possible after having passed the first part of their PhD exam, and no later than the following exam session.

To qualify for submission of the dissertation project, students must have no Incompletes on their academic record.

The project must include a presentation of: 1) the topic the student intends to work on for the Ph.D. dissertation; 2) the main thesis of the work; 3) the role and relevance of the thesis to the existing scholarship on the topic; 4) a plan of the organization of the dissertation, divided by chapters; 5) a bibliography. The project can be in English or in Italian.

Students are urged to discuss the preparation of their project with the professor or professors selected as potential dissertation advisor(s), as well as with the other professors whose area of specialization most closely relates to the chosen topic.

Once completed, the dissertation project is to be submitted to all faculty of the Italian program, both via email as an attachment and in hardcopy in the faculty members’s mailboxes.

Rules applying to both parts of the exam

The two parts of the Ph.D. exam will be evaluated by all Italian Studies faculty, who will employ the same grade scale used for the Master’s examination. If a student receives a “Low Pass”, the faculty may decide that an extra oral exam is required. Students who receive a “Low Pass” must discuss their exam and their plans to improve their academic performance with the Director of Graduate Studies. Students who fail an exam may be allowed, at the discretion of the faculty, to retake the exam during the subsequent examination session, or to submit a new version of their dissertation project.

Failing a part of the exam can result in the loss of teaching support and other forms of University financial aid in the subsequent academic year. Students who are not allowed to retake the exam or to resubmit their dissertation project, or who fail two exams, will not be permitted to continue in the program.

If the Italian Studies faculty decides to revise or modify the Ph.D. examinations or the reading lists, students who have not yet been admitted to the doctoral program or who have not yet completed at least one examination under the previous system or reading list will be required to follow the new or revised system.

Students who have completed only the first part of the Ph.D. exam under the old system can choose between: 1) taking only the modern part of the first half of the Ph.D. exam, working on the new reading list, and then submitting their dissertation project no later than the next exam session; or 2) taking the second part of the old Ph.D. exam using the old reading list, and later submitting the dissertation proposal only (not the dissertation project). The deadlines for these students are the same as those in the system that the candidate will choose (old or new).

Times, Dates, and Locations

The spring exam dates have been set and are listed below. To register, please e-mail Professor Marco Arnaudo and copy the Graduate Secretary.

  • MA: January 17, 9:00-3:00
  • PhD first part: Friday January 16 and Saturday January 17, 9:00-2:00
  • PhD second part: to be submitted no later than the following exam session for fall
    *Breaks are not scheduled, but may be taken at the student's discretion.

Reading Lists for Literature Degrees