The PhD program in Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) is offered jointly by the Departments of French, Italian Studies, and Spanish and Portuguese, and administered by a director and executive committee who are faculty members in those departments. The program affords students the opportunity to undertake more detailed comparative studies among the Romance languages and their linguistic and literary/cultural products than they normally would in any single departments program. It is founded upon the belief that a truly comprehensive understanding of Romance linguistics and/or Romance literature and culture must be nourished by a substantial degree of familiarity with multiple Romance varieties.

Students opt for a program track in either Literature or Linguistics. They choose one language from among those taught in the three participating departments as their main emphasis (linguistics or literature pertaining to their primary language), but must also complete substantial coursework in other departments, and their eventual dissertation must deal with more than one Romance variety. The RLL program's admissions process, funding, requirements, and administration are separate from those of the three participating departments, but RLL students are normally affiliated with the department of their primary language (the host department) for social and employment purposes, and receive program-related advising from a designated faculty member (the head graduate adviser for RLL students) in that department.