Doctoral Program

 I. Requirements for the Ph.D.

II. Advising and Evaluation of Students

III. Study and Teaching Abroad

IV. Funding


I. Requirements for the Ph.D.

1. Course work.

Students will be required to complete satisfactorily 17 courses, for a total of 17 course units (CUs). All students should take at least one course in each period of French literature. The choice of courses should also reflect a diversity of theoretical, critical, and methodological approaches. Papers should be presented following MLA guidelines and, in at least half of the French courses, should be written in French. Students may take up to three courses outside of French, either in another language or in another field pertinent to the prospective area of specialization. Comparative literature courses that are not cross-listed with French but partially deal with French texts should be discussed with the instructor and the Graduate Chair; such courses may be given French credit, depending on the amount of reading and writing done in French. Students are expected to meet each semester with the Graduate Chair to discuss seminar selection and for approval of extra-departmental courses. 

Normally a student will register for eight courses in the first year and three courses per semester for four additional semesters, or until all course requirements are met. Please find below a typical breakdown of coursework, including seminar electives and required courses covering exam preparation and pedagogical training. 


Typical format:

Year 1- Educational Fellow

Fall Semester: 4 courses (including the FIGS proseminar, FREN 7770)

Spring Semester: 4 courses (including the M.A. exam preparation course (FIGS 5000) and the FIGS anchor course)

M.A. Exam (end of the Spring semester)

Students are strongly encouraged to satisfy one of their language requirements in their first year.


Year 2- Teaching/Research Fellow

Fall Semester: 3 courses (including a Literary Theory course and FREN 5990)

Spring Semester: 3 courses 


Year 3- Teaching/Research Fellow

PhD exam (beginning of the Fall semester)

Fall Semester: 3 courses

Spring Semester: no mandatory courses

Dissertation proposal

Students should have earned 17 course units by the end of their 3rd year.


Year 4- Educational Fellow

Dissertation research and writing


Year 5- Educational Fellow

Dissertation writing and completion 

Dissertation Defense


2. Required courses.

As indicated above, five specific courses are required of all graduate students: FIGS 5000 ("Reading for the M.A. Exam"), FIGS 7770 (the FIGS Proseminar), French 5990 "Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching"), and a Literary Theory course. 

A total of seventeen (17) graduate courses are required for the Ph.D., to be distributed as follows:

1. The FIGS Proseminar, FIGS 7770, an introduction to graduate life—a course taken in the first semester of the first year.

2. A FIGS anchor course—a content course (topic varies every year) taken in the second semester of the first year.

3. The M.A. Exam Preparation Course, FIGS 5000—taken in the second semester of the student's first year.

4. FREN 5990 (Teaching and Learning)—a course taken during the first semester of the student's second year to support and implement their service as teaching fellows.

4. A Literary Theory course— taken in the student's first or second year.

6. A minimum of 9 electives in French & Francophone studies is needed (cross-listed courses included). Courses will be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Chair. Depending on their content, courses from other departments may also count, with the approval of the Graduate Chair.

7. Up to 3 courses outside French & Francophone studies in another field pertinent to the student's area of specialization.

Students are permitted to continue coursework past 17 course units with Graduate Chair approval. 

3. Foreign language requirement

In addition to French, students are required to demonstrate reading knowledge of another foreign language, normally one that is used significantly in their chosen field of specialization. The foreign language must be selected with the approval of the Graduate Chair. Students are encouraged to satisfy the foreign language requirement early in the program and in any case before they sit for the Ph.D. exam at the end of the third year.

This requirement may be satisfied one of three ways:

  • A reading examination in a modern language, which will consist of a translation of about thirty lines of prose from a literary text and thirty lines of modern criticism (two hours with a dictionary). Reading exams are offered twice a year, once in October and once in March. The dates will be announced by the Graduate Coordinator. 
  • Successful completion of a one-semester Latin course, in which the student has fulfilled all course requirements such as tests, quizzes, and homework assignments. The student will need to produce a letter from his or her instructor that attests to satisfactory performance in the course.
  • Successful completion of a summer course for reading knowledge, offered tuition free by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences during the first summer session of each year. Reading courses are usually given in French, German, Spanish, and they are sometimes given in Latin. Students are expected to complete all course assignments and pass the final exam in order to fulfill the language requirement.

Alternative options to satisfying the language requirement may be approved by the Graduate Chair on a case-by-case basis.

Please note: Students specializing in Medieval or Renaissance studies need to fulfill a Latin requirement in addition to the other language. The Latin requirement may be fulfilled one of two ways:

  1. Successful completion of a one-semester Latin course, in which the student has fulfilled all course requirements such as tests, quizzes, and homework assignments. The student will need to produce a letter from his or her instructor that attests to satisfactory performance in the course.
  2. A translation exam in Latin, which will consist of one passage by a classical author and one passage by a Medieval/Renaissance author.


4. Credit for graduate work done elsewhere.

After his or her first year in the program, a student should make a request to the Graduate Chair to receive credit for graduate courses taken at another institution. Such students may follow an accelerated schedule with respect to course work, exams, and dissertation preparation. The number of credits to be received by an incoming student for work done in another institution will be determined on an ad hoc basis, but will not exceed four course units. The fulfillment of requirements listed in items 1-3 above must be taken into consideration when awarding credit to a student for courses taken elsewhere. That is, a student may receive credit for graduate course work done at another institution in the terms specified by the Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania; but the above departmental requirements must be satisfied either by courses taken previously, by course work pursued at the University of Pennsylvania, or by a combination thereof.


5. Master's examination.

An oral exam based on the Master's Reading List (a corpus of 25 texts) will be given at the conclusion of the spring semester of the student’s first year (2nd semester). Students are granted one credit unit to prepare for the exam. 

The oral exam will last approximately one hour and will be conducted by the examining committee partially in French and partially in English. It is designed to test students' general knowledge of the Masters Reading List and attendant sociohistorical contexts. The grade for the oral exam will be pass/fail.

In case a student needs to retake the exam, that will happen at the beginning of their third semester. A student cannot take the M.A. exam more than these two times.



6. Qualifying evaluation.

In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must pass successfully a qualifying evaluation. At the beginning of the second year, the faculty will evaluate all aspects of the student's performance during his or her first year in the program, namely:

  • All written assignments completed for courses
  • Contribution to class discussion
  • Grades
  • Performance on Master's examination


After all criteria are considered by the graduate faculty, the student will be informed that he or she has:

- Passed the evaluation and is invited to continue studies toward the doctorate. If all Graduate School requirements have been met, the student will be awarded a Master's degree in his or her second year.

- Passed the evaluation and is eligible for a terminal Master's degree. A student who is judged eligible for a terminal Master's degree will be required to finish the third semester of coursework in order to receive the degree.

- Failed the evaluation and is asked to withdraw from the program at the end of the semester in which the evaluation takes place.


7. Ph.D. examination.

The Ph.D. exam will be taken in fall of the third year (or the 5th semester). It will be devised by an examination committee organized by the student in consultation with the student’s primary advisor and the Graduate Chair. It will consist of the following:

  1. A take-home exam essay, to be completed within four days. The exam will be on a topic formulated by the student’s advisor (in consultation with the committee). The topic will be in the student's field but will not be directly related to the proposed dissertation topic. It will be based on the texts from the student’s field of specialization on the Ph.D. reading list (e.g. 17th-century Theater, 19th-century realist novel, 20th-century poetry). It will be written in the language to be used for the student’s dissertation and the length of the answer will be approximately 15-20 pages. The grade for the written Ph.D. examination will be pass/fail.
  2.  An oral exam to follow within one week will further probe questions from the written exam and also address texts from the Ph.D. Reading List, which will consist of the comprehensive general list as well as 20-25 texts relating to the student's chosen specialized field. The exam will last about one and one-half hours and will be conducted mainly in French. The grade for the oral Ph.D. examination will be pass/fail.


8. Dissertation Process.

The presentation of a dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D. Candidates must be thoroughly acquainted with all University regulations governing the writing and presentation of a dissertation and should refer to the Doctoral Dissertation Manual.

a. Dissertation Proposal

Following successful fulfillment of the Ph.D. Examination, the candidate will shape a dissertation project and writing schedule. A Dissertation Chair and a Dissertation Committee will be chosen through a selection process involving the candidate, the FIGS Graduate Chair, and the French & Francophone faculty. The committee will consist of faculty members and at least 2 of which have to belong to the Graduate group. Whatever the composition of their Committee, all students are encouraged to consult informally and widely with the faculty beyond the Committee, both inside and outside the department. In consultation with the Committee, the candidate will prepare a draft of the dissertation proposal, which will serve as the basis for an informal oral presentation of the dissertation topic to the French & Francophone faculty in the Spring of their third year.

b. Dissertation

The presentation of a dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D. The dissertation must represent the organized result of an investigation into some area or aspect of literature or culture that was previously unknown or at least insufficiently explored. Candidates must be thoroughly acquainted with all University regulations governing the writing and presentation of a dissertation, and should refer to the Doctoral Dissertation Manual. (Copies are available at the Graduate Division, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 322A, or from the Graduate Coordinator.)

c. Dissertation Defense

A public, oral presentation of the dissertation will take place during the semester in which the student will graduate. The defense is open to all members of the University community. The defense will include both a short presentation given by the student and an oral examination of the thesis material.

II. Advising and Evaluation of Students

Upon entering the graduate program in French and Francophone Studies, each student will be advised by the Graduate Chair for French and Francophone Studies. Thereafter, the Graduate Chair will continue to review graduate student course registration and give general advice, but students are encouraged to consult other faculty members as well. When a general area of concentration is identified as a possible source of a dissertation topic, the appropriate professor will become, de facto, the student's principal advisor, and, normally, the dissertation supervisor.

After each course, students will receive a "Graduate Progress Report" which will evaluate their work in the course and will also record whether they wrote their papers in French or in English. In addition, the faculty may meet with students individually each year to provide an assessment of overall performance with respect to grades, class participation, quality of written material, and teaching. Because the faculty does not wish to encourage any student who may not be able to complete the degree with distinction, students who have not shown adequate command of oral and/or written French, have failed a course, have a grade point average lower than 3.5, or have generally performed below expectations may be placed on departmental probation, asked to finish the requirements for a terminal M.A., or asked to leave the program.



III. Study and Teaching Abroad

It is expected that graduate students in French and Francophone Studies will take advantage of our exchange programs with the Universities of Paris and Geneva. In most cases, students will spend their fourth or fifth year abroad according to whichever exchange program best fits their research needs. The exchange program with the University of Geneva allows students to take course work and write a substantial paper in fulfillment of the D.E.S. degree. The exchange programs with the Universities of Paris generally require students to teach and allow for independent research. Information on the different programs is available from the Graduate Coordinator. While abroad, students are expected to make steady progress on their dissertation research and writing and to maintain regular contact with the Graduate Chair and the dissertation advisor.

First-year students are invited to apply for competitive selection to attend Bryn Mawr College's Institut d'Études Françaises d'Avignon. The Avignon program, held in June and July, is a six-week course of study in which students take two graduate-level seminars:

Students in their third year and above are invited to apply for competitive selection to attend Dartmouth's Institute of French Cultural Studies. The Dartmouth program, held every other year, is a summer program organized around a specific topic and designed for advanced graduate students and junior faculty:


Students interested in applying to the Avignon or Dartmouth programs should consult with the Graduate Coordinator and the Graduate Chair.


IV. Funding

All students admitted to the Graduate Program in French & Francophone Studies receive a Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, which guarantees five years of financial support (tuition remission, Penn's health insurance, and a 12-month stipend) to students who continue in good academic standing. The fellowship requires a two-year teaching assistantship as service to the department.

In addition, the Graduate School has made funds available to the Department to subsidize students' travel and research expenses as follows:

  • Up to $500 per conference for a limited number of students delivering papers at scholarly conferences, to be awarded competitively on a yearly basis. A student may receive up to three such awards from the department during his/her graduate career. Students should first apply for Graduate Student Travel Subvention through the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), which grants a maximum of $500. Students are then eligible for up to $500 beyond the SAS award if their travel expenses exceed that award.
  • Financial assistance for a limited number of students undertaking short-term research abroad or summer academic programs to be awarded competitively on a yearly basis. Funds may not be used solely for the purposes of enhancing language proficiency.
  • Up to $600 each for students attending the MLA Convention for the purpose of job interviews (awarded once to all such students).

Please see the Graduate Coordinator for application details.

Students can also apply for travel grants from GAPSA.

Students who have finished all pre-dissertation requirements and who no longer receive fellowship support are eligible for a lectureship. These awards provide a stipend for every course taught and may cover the dissertation tuition. The Department also has a small number of one-year, non-renewable full-time lectureships reserved for recent graduates.

Both forms of financial support described above are awarded on the basis of academic merit.  For need-based financial assistance, such as student loans, please contact Student Financial Services at (215) 898-1988; E-mail: