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 20 courses, for a total of 20 course units (CUs). Please see requirement worksheet here: form_FREN.doc 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 Romance 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- Non-Service

FALL: 4 courses

SPRING: 4 courses (including FREN 500)

M.A. Exam in May


YEAR 2- Teaching Service

FALL: 3 courses and FREN 601 (Audit)

SPRING: 3 courses (including FREN 601 for credit)

Begin preparation for field statement during summer


YEAR 3- Teaching Service

FALL: 3 courses (including FREN 850)

Field Statement Discussion in October

SPRING: 3 courses (including FREN 851)

Ph.D. Exam in May

Preparation for dissertation proposal review in October of the fourth year


YEARS 4 & 5- Non-Service

During these two years, which should be devoted to dissertation research and writing, the student will be registered as "ABD" under course number 995. A written calendar for completion of the thesis work over this two-year period is to be sketched out by the student under the direction of advisor/committee, updated periodically, and kept on file for progress reviews.

Dissertation Completion and Defense by spring of Year 5 


2. Required courses.

As indicated above, four specific courses are required of all graduate students: French 500 ("Reading for the M.A. Exam"), French 601 ("Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching"), French 850 ("Field Statement"), and French 851 ("Dissertation Proposal").

  • French 500: Reading for the M.A. Exam will be taken for credit during the spring semester of the student's first year (2nd semester). The course consists of a student-led reading workshop designed to prepare for the M.A. exam. Throughout the spring semester, first-year students meeting formally once a week to discuss texts on the M.A. reading list; on occasion, faculty members or advanced PhD students may be asked to join the group in order to help in the analysis of particular texts and issues.
  • Romance Languages 690: This course in Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching will be audited by the student during his/her fall semester of the second year and will be taken for credit during the spring semester of that year after the student has completed one semester of teaching.  Transfer credit may be granted if an appropriate course has been completed at another institution while the student was enrolled in an M.A./Ph.D. program. Approval for transfer credit is at the discretion of the Graduate Chair and the Director of the Language Program.
  • French 850: During the summer of the student's second year, he or she will work with an advisor to prepare a 10-12 page Field Statement (including a preliminary bibliography) on his or her prospective areas of specialization (e.g., Rabelais and Humanism, 17th-century theater and feminist theory, 19th-century realist novel and history of science, or 20th-century poetry and film studies) from which a dissertation topic will later be developed. Copies of the Field Statement will be presented at the beginning of the fall semester to a three-person reading committee (consisting of the primary advisor and two readers selected by the student in consultation and agreement with the primary advisor and the Graduate Chair). An oral discussion and review of the field statement with the committee will take place in October of the student's third year (5th semester). The student may obtain samples from the Graduate Coordinator for field statement samples.
  • French 851: The student will register for this course during the spring of the third year, and will complete the Dissertation Proposal/Prospectus during the following fall (7th semester). The student will work with his or her advisor to prepare a proposal of at least 10-15 pages. The proposal should set forth the following as clearly as possible: 1) the dissertation topic and its presumed value within the field of study, 2) the critical instrument(s) chosen to approach the topic, 3) existing scholarship on the topic as well as scholarship relevant to it, and 4) some indication of how the dissertation arguments will be structured, along with a tentative table of contents. The student may obtain samples from the Graduate Coordinator for dissertation proposal samples. N.B. Although this course appears in registration for the fall of the student's third year, please note that the majority of work for it is to be completed during the summer between the second and third year. 


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.


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 examination based on the Master's Reading List will be given at the conclusion of the spring semester of the student’s first year (2nd semester).

The written portion of the exam will be a take-home exam and the student will have three days to complete it. The exam will be written in English or in French (if French is the student’s native language). One month in advance of the date of the written exam, students will be given three texts to prepare; they will be selected from the Masters Reading List by the Graduate Chair. The exam will consist of one essay question apposite to the three texts. The length of the answer shall be approximately 15 pages. The grade for the written exam will be pass/fail. Failure on the written exam will disqualify students from taking the oral exam.  

Students will be scheduled individually for a one-hour oral exam within two weeks of the written exam. The oral exam will be conducted by the examining committee partially in French and partially in English and will test students' general knowledge of the Masters Reading List. Some questions may further probe the written examination. The grade for the oral exam will be pass/fail.


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. Field Statement.

During the summer after the student's second year, he or she will work with an advisor to prepare a 10-12 page Field Statement (with bibliography) on his or her prospective areas of specialization, to be presented at the beginning of the Fall semester of the student's third year to a committee. An oral review of the Field Statement with the committee will take place in October of the student's third year. Note: the preparation of the Field Statement will count as one of the required courses in the program and should be registered for as "French 850" (See "Required Courses").


8. Ph.D. examination.

The Ph.D. exam will be taken in May of the third year (or the 6th semester), upon the completion of course work. 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.


9. Dissertation.

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.

Dissertation Prospectus. Students will begin work for an eventual dissertation topic in connection with French 850 (see above). The work completed in this course will be expanded upon in French 851, to be completed during the summer after the student's third year. As part of French 851, students will prepare a proposal of at least 10-15 pages with an appended bibliography (see description of French 851 above). Each student will discuss the proposal with the members of his or her dissertation committee in October of the fourth year. This discussion will last about one hour and will be conducted mainly in the language in which the dissertation will be written. 

Dissertation Defense. A public, oral defense of the dissertation will take place during the semester in which the student will graduate. The defense will be open to the public; the student, the thesis advisor, and the dissertation committee members are required to attend. The defense will include both a short presentation given by the student and an oral discussion 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 stipend--$32,255 in 2021-2022) to students who continue in good academic standing. Students will also receive summer stipends (July and August) in their first three years on the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship. 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: