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RLL Intellectual Mission


Greetings from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan! Despite the serious challenges brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic, RLL is still a place of remarkable creativity, discovery, and vitality. Pedagogical rigor and innovative research characterize every level of our curriculum and sustain our departmental mission from the Elementary Language Program and the Upper (major/minor) Levels to the Graduate Program.


In our department students can gain in-depth knowledge of the languages, literatures, cultural production, linguistic systems, social histories, religions, politics, belief systems and knowledges that encompass a truly vast spatial, linguistic, and human geography that includes Europe and the Greater Mediterranean, the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific. Students in RLL can therefore acquire in-depth knowledge pertaining not only to France, Spain, and Italy from the medieval period to the present, but also to the Mediterranean at large, to the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking colonial and postcolonial Americas; to French-speaking colonial and post-colonial Africa and the Pacific Islands, and to the Spanish, French and Creole speaking Caribbean and its diasporas, including those of the United States.  



In addition to the vast geography that our program accounts for, the Upper-Level undergraduate curricula in Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish provide students the opportunity to gain a broad historical perspective, which includes the ethnic and religious multiculturalism of the medieval world and its systems of power; the racial, religious, and social upheaval that accompanied Christian-European colonial expansionism; the thought and cultural production of the Spanish Golden (imperial) Age, the European Renaissance, and Enlightenment; the histories of trans-Atlantic anti-Blackness and the abolitionist impulse of modern human and women’s rights; the conditions of colonial and postcolonial Indigenous genocide and European supremacy in the Americas and Africa; the emergence of modern imperialism and the nation-state; national literary and filmic traditions and their ideas of economic progress, development, and inclusion/exclusion; historical perspectives on the urban/rural divide; the place of sexuality and gender in our understanding of the human, the historical, the social, and the political; past and contemporary social movements; urban studies and the history of the built environments of the global south; linguistic hybridity in the Americas and between Europe, South Africa and South America; ethnic and border studies both past and present, and more. Across all these histories, engrained problems, cultural representations, and expressions they have generated, our undergraduate students are exposed to the linguistic, ethical, political, historical, and aesthetic questions of justice and injustice, of racial and sexual diversity and inequality, and of the inclusions/exclusions which have been handed down to us from within the modern vernacular cultural and social traditions deriving from the legacies of the Roman empire.



Our common intellectual mission emphasizes a global curriculum that combines theoretical reflections on literature, language, culture, and the visual arts, with a sustained assessment of the shifting historical relationship between society, the state, representation, and political economy across the Romance early modern, national, imperial, and contemporary diasporic traditions. RLL stands for exceptional scholarship in the humanities of a comparative and international nature, which provides an unparalleled opportunity for LSA students to explore the ramifications of non-US-centered diversity, equity, and inclusion on a local, regional, national, transnational, hemispheric, and trans-hemispheric scale, both past and present, via linguistic and cultural traditions other than English. RLL offers graduate and undergraduate students a truly unique international studies experience grounded in rigorous study, the development of profoundly comparative cultural perspectives, the attainment of thorough multilingual proficiency, and the fundamental cross-cultural competencies that come from advanced communication, understanding, and preparation for a good part of the non-English speaking world both in the US and beyond.