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Applying for Postgraduate Study in Italian

How to apply for a PhD or MLitt

The Italian Department welcomes applications for postgraduate study. We participate in two taught Master's programmes: an MPhil in Literary Translation, and an MPhil in Comparative Literature In addition, you can apply to do independent research in Italian. This can lead either to a PhD or to an MLitt. Normally, a Trinity research degree is written in English, but we can obtain permission for students to write in Italian when there is a good academic reason why their work could be more appropriately written and read in that language. You must still have a good standard of English to come here. Please note that a PhD in Ireland is not funded on the same basis as an Italian dottorato di ricerca.

Please go to to apply for graduate courses at Trinity College.

Here are some guidelines to help you decide whether postgraduate research in Italian is for you, and to help you prepare and submit the sort of documentation which would help us decide whether we can offer you a place as a research student. We have tried to keep this information fairly objective, and to spell out some of the costs as well as the benefits of postgraduate work.

Working on an MLitt or a PhD can be a stimulating and satisfying experience. For a few years you would be at the cutting edge of research in a particular field of studies, focusing on a subject of your choice. At Trinity College you would have the support of expert and dedicated scholars in the department of Italian and in other departments that relate to your work. Our library, the only copyright library in Ireland, is one of the largest and best stocked in Europe. Dublin in general and Trinity College in particular host exciting cultural events, some of which will inevitably be close to your interests. Giuseppe Bonaviri, Franco Brevini, Vincenzo Consolo, Edoardo Sanguineti, Beppe Severgnini and Francesca Sanvitale are some of the writers who have visited Trinity College Dublin in recent years.

A new research student is placed initially on the MLitt register, and after a year's successful research can apply to transfer to the PhD register. But some students decide that the project they want to reseach is more suited to a shorter period of study, and opt to remain on the MLitt register.

Writing a PhD is a demanding enterprise, and it can lead to disappointments. Not all students are able to achieve their final degrees. Those who do cannot be sure of gaining access to an academic career (future lecturers need teaching and administrative skills, as well as opportunities and luck when they enter the job market). The members of our department will do their best to assist and advise post-graduate students, but cannot guarantee more than a first-class learning experience. Ultimately, even this depends on yourself: postgraduate research is essentially an independent pursuit of knowledge, and your supervisor can only assist you in finding your own individual path to understanding your topic and communicating it to an academic readership.

The prerequisite to applying for a post-graduate degree in our department is a very good degree in a relevant subject. We meet regularly three or four times a year to select our post-graduate students: every completed application is carefully considered by our staff and every applicant receives an answer and some advice.

Before sending in your application, please contact Dr Justin Doherty for preliminary advice. His e-mail address is

Your application must contain:

  • a research project (preferably but not necessarily in English) of 1500-2000 words;
  • a detailed curriculum vitae
  • a sample of your writing (a published article, an unpublished essay, or a chapter of your tesi di laurea).

The research project should show that you are familiar with the subject you want to study, and that you have some original ideas to develop. Your plan should not be too ambitious (a student cannot aspire to write a general history of Dante criticism) nor too modest (one cannot spend three years studying the influence of Henry Fielding on Alessandro Manzoni). You will be working for a long time on the same subject: you are expected to read and discuss lots of primary and secondary sources.

We are open to a broad range of topics, historical periods, and theoretical approaches. Our research interests include Medieval and Renaissance literature; narrative literature; 19th and 20th century literature, culture and society; and translation studies.

We may give priority to well-defined projects that are close to the interests of our staff, or have special relevance to the Irish cultural tradition, or draw on the holdings of our library. But we want to hear, first of all, what your interests are. While we recognize and respect the freedom of any scholar to use the style more appropriate to her/his personality, subjects and methods, we strongly recommend the use of a straight, matter-of-fact prose style in the early stages of the application. Further information can be found in our departmental site ( and in the current Trinity College Dublin Postgraduate Prospectus, which you can obtain by following the link at the bottom of the Graduate Studies introductory page.

There are some useful books about doing postgraduate research and writing a dissertation. For example:

  • The craft of research, by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. 2nd ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2003. [TCD Library: Lecky, Lending LEN 301.072 N5999*1;1] --- an elegantly written and thoughtful guide.
  • Writing Your Dissertation: The Bestselling Guide to Planning, Preparing and Presenting First-Class Work, by Derek Swetnam (How to Books) [TCD Library: Stacks (use call slip or place request) PL-334-904] --- less relevant to Italian studies, but some of its tips and checklists are potentially useful and stimulating.

Useful advice can also be found on web sites; try these links:

Buon lavoro!

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