Department of French and Italian

College of Letters & Science

About the Program

Thank you for your interest in our Department. We hope you will consider applying to our graduate program in Italian, which offers an exceptional educational and professional experience. Surveys on the status of Italian studies in North America have recognized that our Department, in addition to being one of the largest, has a well balanced and strong program in all areas.

The Italian faculty consists of six full-time members, four of whom are native Italians. Our program is one of very few institutions that have specialists in all areas of Italian Studies including film and linguistics. Our current graduate students (29, from first-year students to dissertators) come both from Italy and from colleges and universities across North America. This diversity of personnel is essential to the breadth and vitality of our program, which may also be measured in its course offerings, cultural activities (e.g., lectures, films, Circolo Italiano), scholarly events (symposia and conferences), and teaching opportunities. The Department is also the editorial home of three well-respected journals: Dante Studies (published by the Dante Society of America), the Modern Language Journal, and L'Anello che non tiene.

Typical course offerings over a two- to three-year period cover all centuries of Italian literature and a wide variety of topics, including Italian culture, cinema, civilization and linguistics:

In recent years we have been able to sponsor special lecture series and symposia on a variety of Italian topics . e.g., Eugenio Montale, Giacomo Leopardi, Giuseppe Parini, Vottorio Alfieri and Italian Feminism. In conjunction with other university departments, our program sponsors lectures and proseminars by distinguished visitors. This sort of interdepartmental cooperation also permits students to do pertinent work in other languages and disciplines, such as Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Film Studies, Art History, English, French, Spanish, History, and Medieval Studies, thus broadening their background and potential expertise in a variety of areas. We also cooperate with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese on an individual Ph.D. degree in Romance Philology and Linguistics.

We are proud that during their tenure with us our graduate students gain a solid foundation not only in scholarship and criticism, but also in teaching. All graduates are required to have at least one year of experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA), and most students teach more than that. These assistantships are an integral part of our educational program and may be complemented by a special course on teaching methods offered through French. Although teaching assistants work closely with experienced faculty who chair the elementary and intermediate language courses, they have responsibility for grading and presentation of course material in their sections.

Our standard offer to an incoming teaching assistant provides a guarantee of three or four years of support, depending on whether the individual is a new graduate student or has already done graduate work elsewhere. Our practice has always been to continue to support those students beyond the terms of the guarantee, provided they are making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Other opportunities for support include yearly competitive fellowships and travel awards at the university level. The Department and the University have some opportunities for study and research in Europe through our study-abroad programs and exchange agreements with individual universities. For example, we frequently send one of our graduate students to serve for a semester or a year as the house fellow for our study program at the Villa Corsi-Salviati near Florence. We also have exchange and cooperation arrangements with the Università  di Siena, the Università di Firenze and the Université de Genève.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the top public research institutions in the United States, and the collection of more than six million volumes in Memorial Library has a very rich and strong Italian component.

With a population of around 200,000, Madison is the capital of the state of Wisconsin. It is built on and around four lakes, and has many amenities, not least of which is a vibrant cultural life both on and off campus. Although the winters in Madison are cold, the other three seasons are generally very pleasant. The excellent "quality of life" that is enjoyed by Madison residents was recognized a few years ago (1996) when it was voted the best place to live in America by Money Magazine. With careful planning, it is possible for you to live on the stipend that you would receive, even at the 36% inexperienced TA rate.

When choosing a graduate program, you should carefully consider all the aspects of a program. Although future trends are difficult to predict, our Department has had an outstanding placement record over the past thirty years. The Department regularly sponsors workshops to prepare students for the job market; these focus on effective resum, writing, interview techniques and strategies, and related matters. Graduates from our program are currently teaching at Charlottesville, Virginia, Massachusetts Florida State, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio State, Stanford, Florida, Santa Clara, Queens College, Brigham Young, Dartmouth, Vassar, Arizona State, Tennessee, Dominican, Hofstra, and other institutions. They attribute their success in obtaining employment to a number of factors: their solid preparation in all areas of Italian literature, linguistics, and culture, their training in research methods and criticism, and, perhaps most important of all, the richness of their teaching experience in our Department.

In short, we believe that, as one of the largest programs in the North America, we offer an unparalleled opportunity to study Italian literature, linguistics, and culture. Our program is varied, active, and successful. And the most important ingredient in its success has been the quality and general excellence of the students we have been able to attract. We hope soon to count you among them. Please contact us with any questions you may have concerning our program. We look forward to hearing from you.