Bienvenue! Welcome to the Department of French!

Course Work and Requirements

Students preparing the Master of Arts degree must take a total of 30 credits beyond the B.A. Course work for the M.A. concentrates primarily on literature. Coverage of all literary periods is a concern at the M.A. level, and should be a factor in course selection, which will be monitored. Students are expected to take at least one course in each period. Another three credits of work outside of but germane to the field of French may be used toward the M.A. (subject to the approval of the Graduate Director). No more than 12 credits may be transferred from graduate programs at other institutions (see the Graduate Catalog for procedures for transferring credits).

Thesis Option

In lieu of six credits of course work, the student may, with special permission, choose to write a thesis. When the thesis option is chosen, the student will take a comprehensive examination (see below) upon completion of 24 credits of course work. The M.A. thesis will be written under the direction of a member of the French Graduate Faculty and approved by two other members of the French Graduate Faculty. An oral defense of the thesis is required.

Comprehensive Examination

Students not electing the thesis option are required to take a comprehensive examination upon completion of 30 credits of course work. The examination will be conducted in French and based on the current M.A. reading list. It must be taken, in full, during three possible sessions (December/January, April/May, August/September).

Written Examination

It will consist of three segments: one three-hour exam on literature before 1600 (one 90-minute essay on Medieval literature and one 90-minute essay on 16th-century literature); one three-hour exam on ancien régime literature (one essay on the 17th century and one on the 18th century); and one three-hour exam on literature after 1800 (one essay on the 19th century, one on the 20th century). The student has a choice of two topics on each subject. Students will be expected to write well-organized essays demonstrating precise knowledge of texts on the reading list. In addition, on the second day, there will be a one-hour examination consisting of a translation from Old French into modern French. This exam will be waived if the student has completed French 611, “Old French Language and Literature,” with a grade of B or better. On the third day, the student will also be required to take a one-hour exam based on a theory reading list. This exam will be waived if the student has completed 195:501, “Introduction to Literary Theory,” with a grade of B or better.


Each of the essays will be graded Superior, Satisfactory, Low Pass, or Fail. The candidate will be considered to have failed the writtens in the following cases: two or more questions are graded Fail; one question is graded Fail and two Low Pass. Only one re-examination is allowed; it must be taken within one year after the original examination. If three questions are Low Pass, or one question is graded Fail and one Low Pass (or simply one Fail), the student may elect to retake those parts one time. A student who receives grades of Superior on two parts of the written examination and a Satisfactory on one part may be awarded Distinction by the Oral Examination Committee, upon completion of the oral exam. A student who receives grades of Superior on all three parts of the written examination may be awarded High Distinction by the Oral Examination Committee, upon completion of the oral exam. The quality of the oral exam performance is factored in the final assessment of these awards.

Oral Examination

Students who pass the written examination will advance to the oral part of the examination within two weeks. It will consist of an exercise in textual analysis (“explication de texte”), conducted in French. The name of the chosen author will be announced to the student upon completion of the writtens. On the day of the oral, the student will be given a one-page passage from one of the indicated author’s works (featured on the reading list). The student will have an hour to prepare before presenting a 15-20 minute linear commentary of the passage. The exam committee will follow up with questions. In case of failure, one re-examination is permitted, at the next exam period.


The M.A. written examinations will be prepared and graded under the supervision of the Graduate Examination Committee. Committee members may call on colleagues for any assistance they may require. For the oral examination, the Graduate Director will appoint an ad-hoc committee of three persons. The Director or a member of the Graduate Examination Committee may preside; the other two will be faculty whose interests are germane to the selected text; when possible, one of them will also be a member of the Graduate Examination Committee.

Application Forms

At least two months before the final examination is to be taken, an Application for Admission to Candidacy for the M.A. Degree must be obtained from the Graduate Office, filled out and submitted to the Graduate Director for verification and signature. The form is to be returned to the Graduate School Office by the Director, and the student must pick up the form at that office and bring it to the examination for the signatures of the examining committee.

Diploma Application Form

The form is to be obtained at the Graduate School and filed with the Registrar by April 2 for a diploma dated in May; by October 2 for a diploma dated in October; by January 2 for one dated in January.

Time Limit

Full-time students are expected to complete the M.A. in 1-3 years; part-time students, in 3-5 years. Application for time extensions must be made on an annual basis and must have the approval of the Director and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Why French?


Les Rassemblements (1896), Felix Valloton (detail)


Mona Lisa with a Pipe, by Eugène Bataille (Sapeck) (detail)

Study Abroad

Study Abroad


Student Testimonials