Ph.D. Program

As a multidisciplinary program, the Institute of French Studies offers two Joint Ph.D. degrees:  one in French Studies and French Literature, and the other in French Studies and History.  These degree programs combine interdisciplinary work on contemporary France, Europe, and the French-influenced world with professional training in either French or history. 

Unlike a typical Ph.D. in French, the IFS joint program enables students to complement their work in literature and literary theory with courses in history, art history, sociology and other disciplines so that they can connect their literary work to key issues in history, society, and culture. 

Similarly, the joint Ph.D. in history and French studies permits students to pursue doctoral study in European history while enriching their specialized work on the history of France and its empire or former empire with coursework in sociology, politics, anthropology, and other fields. 

By combining strong disciplinary training in French or history with interdisciplinary work in allied fields, our students develop the knowledge and tools to write dissertations that often stand out from those prepared by candidates without the benefit of interdisciplinary work. Our students also profit from the Institute’s long-established ties to France’s top institutions of higher learning: the Ecole normale supérieure, Sciences-Po, the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, and the University of Paris.  Professors from these schools teach as visitors at the IFS and then welcome our students to their classes in France, where IFS doctoral candidates make important intellectual connections to their French counterparts. 

IFS graduates do very well in the academic marketplace, finding excellent jobs in departments representing their primary discipline, either French or history.  Those who land in French departments are prepared to teach literature or French civilization or both.  Recent IFS alumni with joint degrees in French and French studies teach in French departments at Wellesley College, Rice University, Goucher College, Middlebury College, Michigan State, Penn State, Adelphi and many other top schools.  As for our French Studies/history graduates, they have acquired tenure or tenure-track positions at Harvard, LeHigh, Rice, Brooklyn College, the University of Denver, Ball State University, the University of Oklahoma, and several other leading schools.

Although we have had excellent success in placing our Ph.D. graduates in academic posts, it is important to keep in mind that positions in higher education are not the only ones open to people with Ph.Ds.  As the president of the American Historical Association has pointed out, holders of doctorates occupy a wide array of vital jobs outside the academy.  These include historical adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, museum curators, and archivists, historians in national parks, investment bankers, international business consultants, high school teachers, community college teachers, foundation officers, editors, literary agents, journalists, policy analysts, and staffers at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), among many other fields. The knowledge and skills required to earn a doctoral degree—research, analysis, conceptualization, and writing—make people with Ph.Ds desirable candidates for a great many positions in today’s knowledge-based economy.