The RLL Concentration


Spoken today in Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Romance languages and their rich literary and cultural heritage play a key role in the world's multicultural societies.  

The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures focuses on the four most widely used Romance languages and on their literary traditions around the globe. Harvard has offered courses in French, Italian and Spanish since at least the early nineteenth century. Portuguese was added in 1886. 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. Today’s students can also study Catalan language, cultural history and literature.

The RLL curriculum honors both the shared origins of this cultural community and the variety of directions its members have taken throughout history. Courses offer opportunities for intensive study of the literary masters --Dante, Rabelais, Camões, Cervantes, Proust, Borges, Pessoa and others—whose works have shaped world literature, for hands-on experience with poetry, theater, and translation, and for exploration of modern Romance literature and film in intersections with other languages and cultures, and in their vibrant presence in the United States. Recognition of the power of geography and history to shape cultural production makes many of our courses international, multilingual and interdisciplinary in scope. In addition to courses focused on a particular language or region, our Romance Studies offerings engage in comparative study of both classical and cutting-edge developments in the Romance languages and their cultures.

RLL concentrators gain communicative competence in the Romance languages, embracing culturally symbolic exchanges through a range of modalities and disciplines. In lively dialogue with faculty and graduate students, they discover ways of understanding languages, literature, theater, translation, visual arts and cinema in historical context, with the opportunity to explore issues of gender, race, politics and the environment.  The concentration prepares students for a broad array of immediate career options, and for advanced study in the humanities and social sciences. RLL means real life learning: our concentrators carry the theoretical and practical tools for interpretation learned in our classrooms into their work as teachers, public health providers, lawyers, physicians, legislators, diplomats, bankers, entrepreneurs and global citizens.


RLL invites its concentrators to participate in

  • Individualized programs, tailored to students’ interests, created in consultation with faculty adviser and the DUS
  • Small classes that offer daily opportunities to practice oral expression in the target language
  • Faculty-taught sophomore tutorials
  • Faculty-advised honors theses
  • Critical thinking and writing, in theory and practice.
  • Creative writing and translation
  • Dramatic performances
  • Comparative and interdisciplinary work
  • Studies in film, text and image
  • Study abroad to enhance language skills and knowledge of culture
  • Internships at home and abroad
  • “Language in the Community” courses
  • Beyond the classroom:  film series, language tables, writing workshops, visiting lecturers, colloquia


Concentrators choose one of five Special Fields as the focus for work in the concentration. In consultation with the Special Field Adviser and the DUS, each concentrator creates a Plan of Study that reflects both the scope of the chosen field and individual interests and goals. Our Special Fields are: 


Close consultation with faculty is an essential tool for making the most of a concentration in RLL. Concentrations are invited to meet regularly with the Director and the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Undergraduate Coordinator, and Advisers in each Special Field.

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Kathy Richman, Boylston 422
(617) 495-1929,

Special Field Advisers for 2021-2022:

French and Francophone Studies
Kathy Richman, Boylston 422
(617) 495-1929,

Italian Studies
Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja , Boylston 516

Spanish, Latin American and Latino Studies
María Luisa Parra, Boylston 326
(617) 495-1868,

Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
Josiah Blackmore, Boylston 322
(617) 495-1931,

Romance Studies  
Kathy Richman, Boylston 422
(617) 495-1929,


The combined holdings of Widener, Lamont and Houghton libraries constitute one of the major collections of Romance literatures in the world. Concentrators in RLL have access to resources,  from collections to research and internship opportunities, including the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Film Archive, the Center for European Studies, the Lauro de Bosis Committee, Villa i Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard, the Office of Career Services, the Office of International Education, and numerous other centers.



The Department's offices are located on the fourth floor of Boylston Hall.  Faculty offices may be found on the third, fourth and fifth floors of Boylston.

General Information and Support:

Cathy Downey, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Boylston 405


Image: "Portugal, Lisbon: Unidentified Artwork" by hom26.
Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.