The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is a research-oriented unit made up of diverse and multidisciplinary faculty who specialize in language, literary and cultural studies, creative writing, linguistics, and Spanish for the professions. We provide students with diverse cultural perspectives, critical thinking skills, and awareness of contemporary and historical issues to prepare them to be multilingual global citizens.

At the graduate level, the Department offers three degrees: Master of Fine Arts in Spanish Creative Writing, Master of Arts in Spanish, and Doctor of Philosophy in Spanish. Our thorough TA pedagogical training increases graduate students’ teaching effectiveness and enhances their professional preparation.

Our areas of excellence include: 

  • Spanish Creative Writing: Our MFA program is one of very few such programs in the U.S. and the only one in the BTAA. We are one of very few universities that offers Spanish creative writing to undergraduates and we contribute to the identity of UI as the writing university. Since its creation in 2012, this program has graduated 42 students who have published 13 books, 4 of which won prestigious awards. A 2019 graduate won the highly competitive Tusquets award from a Spanish publishing house. Students in the program participate in editing Iowa Literaria, the University’s magazine of literature in Spanish. 
  • Spanish American literature and culture: This area has a long record of research and teaching excellence. Our faculty work in Spanish American literature and culture from the colonial period to the present, film studies, and literary translation. They offer several high-demand courses each semester, many of which are cross-listed with Latin American Studies (LAS). 
  • Portuguese and Brazilian studies: We are one of the few BTAA institutions that offers Portuguese. Portuguese language and Brazilian studies are key areas for our PhD programs and essential for student success in the academic job market. 
  • Spanish linguistics: The faculty include specialists in applied linguistics, second language acquisition, syntax, sociolinguistics and discourse analysis, formal linguistics, psycholinguistics, and heritage speaker Spanish, a range that makes us distinctive within the BTAA. The linguistics faculty in Spanish and Portuguese provide hands-on, high-impact research experience to both graduate and undergraduate students through linguistic laboratories. 
  • Spanish Peninsular literature and culture: This area has a long record of research and teaching excellence. Our faculty work in Spanish literature and culture from the Middle Ages to the present, with particular strengths in early modern and contemporary literature and culture. 
  • Spanish for professional purposes: This area has seen the greatest growth in our undergraduate curriculum over the past five years and will undoubtedly continue to be a magnet attracting career-minded students to our Spanish minor and major into the future. The fastest growing area is Spanish for health care followed closely by translation, business Spanish, and Spanish for educators. 

Our combination of fields makes us distinctive within the Big Ten and the United States. The claim that our department has six areas of excellence reflects the many needs we serve in our teaching, our research and creative work, and our service. These multiple areas of strength enable us to prepare PhD students for the current academic job market in which they often must teach courses in all areas of Spanish studies while also conducting research in their specialization. They also enable us to serve the needs of undergraduates who often choose Spanish and Portuguese as a second major or as a minor to complement their primary area of study. The relevance of U.S. Latinx studies courses to our student population, reflected in the high demand for the courses offered in that area, challenges us to recommit to the recruiting and retention of faculty prepared to fulfill that demand or to reassess the role of U.S. Latinx studies in our department’s research and teaching mission.