Joint Ph.D. Program in French Studies and French Literature

The Joint Ph.D. program in French Studies and French Literature is designed for students interested in developing research expertise in the history and analysis of literary texts closely linked to their social, culture, and political contexts.  It prepares students to teach both literature and civilization in French departments, and gives them the scholarly expertise to integrate the two.  The Joint program combines strong training in literary analysis with substantial exposure to the study of France, Europe, and the Francophone world, offered by historians and social scientists.  Students applying to the program should have background both in French literature and in history and the social sciences.  The program covers 19th and 20th-Century France and French literature, although students ordinarily develop a narrower research specialty within this time period.
Please see the joint program’s roadmap for detailed information on how to complete the Ph.D. within the allotted six years.

All candidates take a total of 18 courses, distributed as follows:
• Eight courses at the IFS, including:
19th-Century French History
A course in 20th-Century French History
Research Seminar in French Studies (counts as two courses)
Approaches to French Culture or an equivalent course
At least one course in Field II (Society)
At least one course in Field III (Politics and the Economy)
• Eight courses in the French department, including:

At least five courses covering the period from 1750 to the present in French and Francophone literature.  
Teaching Workshop Orientation (second year).

Professional Writing Practices (a year-long, four-point course) is recommended in the third year.

• The two additional courses needed to meet the eighteen-course requirement may be taken, if students so choose, outside of either department, for example, in history, art history, cinema studies, or anthropology.  Students are also encouraged to take an individual guided study in their second year to prepare one of their comprehensive exam fields.

Cross-listed courses count in the primary department
In addition to formal course work, doctoral students are required to participate in the Institute’s weekly workshops, held every Tuesday.

In the course of working toward the Ph.D., students are expected to complete an M.A. in French Studies and French for which they must complete at least eight courses, including the Proseminar in the French Department and the required 19th- and 20-century history courses, plus a course in the Society field at the IFS.  The research seminar paper stands as the M.A. thesis.  When all this work is completed, students may apply for an M.A. in either French or French Studies.  To file for the degree, please call Li Cao in Graduation Services: 212-998-4845.


The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination will be administered in two parts, one written and one oral:
  • Two take-home written examinations devoted to two different problématiques, one associated with the area of dissertation research and the other covering a distinct and broader field (which might lead to a course syllabus).  Examples of problématiques are: the city and the novel; gender and sexuality; colonialism and the post-colonial world; popular culture; France during or between the world wars; literature and the media.  Each list should contain between 25 and 30 books. Each essay should be between 2500 and 3000 words (10 to 12 pages).  The essays are due by 5 p.m. on the seventh day after the questions have been picked up.  They may be written in either English or French.
  • A 1½ hour oral examination devoted to works taken from two reading lists that students devise: one on nineteenth-century literature and another on twentieth-century literature. For each one, students draw from the department relevant Master’s lists (i.e. 19th- and 20th-century) and add a focus on one author, genre, or question.  The total length of each list should be between 25 and 30 books, including ca. 7 books (primary and secondary devoted to the chosen author, genre, or question.
These four bibliographies are meant to help develop the student's own approach to and definition of the topical area. Students should prepare them in consultation with the examination committee. The committee will consist of at least two faculty members of the French Department and one or two of the IFS.

The lists should be submitted to the committee at least 3 months prior to the exam. Specific exam questions will be drawn from material in the bibliographies. The grade of Pass or Fail is determined by the combined performance on all parts of the exam.  A passing grade qualifies the student to proceed to the research and writing of the dissertation.  Students failing all or part of the exam may take it a second, and final, time.
After successfully completing all requirements for, and passing, the Ph.D. qualifying examination, students are eligible for the Master of Philosophy degree.  The degree serves as a placeholder on the résumé until the Ph.D. is awarded.  Students should file a diploma application for the M.Phil. on the semester prior to Ph.D. exams.
In the spring of the third year, students must submit a dissertation proposal to three faculty members (including at least one each from IFS and from French).  This proposal will be reviewed for approval in a meeting with this faculty committee.  This meeting is not an examination and no grade will be given.  Students are strongly urged to schedule the proposal interview PRIOR to deadline for submission to external funding agencies.
Students in the Joint Ph.D. in French Studies and French program are required to possess near-native writing as well as oral skills in French.

GSAS regulations govern the form of the Ph.D. oral defense that takes place after the dissertation has been completed.  For details see the GSAS Bulletin, “Degree Requirements.”  The oral lasts two hours.  Grades assigned are:  Pass with Distinction, Pass, Pass with Revisions, and Fail.