The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures focuses on the four most widely used Romance languages – French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish – and on their cultural and literary traditions around the globe. Introductory Catalan and independent studies in Catalan Literature are also available.
Harvard has offered courses in French, Italian and Spanish since at least the early nineteenth century. Portuguese was added in 1886, Catalan in 2000. In 1900, the Department of French merged with several Romance branches of the Modern Language Department to form the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
The RLL curriculum honors both the shared origins of this cultural community and the variety of the directions it has taken throughout history. Examples of fields of study offered in RLL are: modern Italian cinema; early modern French and Spanish theater; the Francophone literature of the Caribbean and Africa; Spanish and Portuguese in their intersections with other languages and cultures in America; comparative studies of the development of Romance languages and cultures.