JOINT PHD IN FRENCH STUDIES AND FRENCH LITERATURE
The Joint PhD 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, cultural, and political contexts. It prepares students to teach both literature and history or the social sciences 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 a background both in French literature and in history and the social sciences. The program covers France and French literature since the French Revolution, although students ordinarily develop a narrower research specialty within this time period
All candidates take a total of 18 courses, distributed as follows:
Eight courses at the IFS, including:
- 19th-Century France and Its Empire (normally fall of first year)
- A course in 20th-century French history
- Research Seminar in French Studies (counts as two courses)
- A course in methodology or theory, for instance The Meanings of Culture, or French-Speaking Migrants in New York City: A Research Seminar in Sociology.
- Three courses from the social sciences, representing different disciplines or approaches
Eight courses in the French department, including:
- Proseminar (fall of first year)
- At least five courses covering the period from 1750 to the present in French and Francophone literature. (Students who wish to take a course on another era or domain should discuss the matter with their advisor.)
- 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, anthropology, or comparative literature. Students are also encouraged to take two individual guided studies in their second year to prepare comprehensive exam fields. In this 4-credit course, students and professors meet for one hour every two weeks, for a total of eight hours per semester. At the end of the class students should hand in a paper comparable in length and scope to the kind of work they would submit for a seminar.
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.
Please refer to the roadmap at the end of this sub-section for details on progress through courses and milestones by year.
Students in the Joint PhD in French Studies and French program are required to possess near-native writing as well as oral skills in French and English. No second language is required.
MA in French Studies and French
Students wishing to be awarded the degree of MA during the course of their joint PhD program should refer to the Institute of French Studies for further information.
Advising & Independent Study
All new first-year entering students are assigned to two advisors: the French First-Year advisor and Stéphane Gerson (IFS/French). At the end of their second semester they choose a field advisor in French or at the IFS with whom they begin to plan for their qualifying exams, and with whom they may complete an independent study (guided reading) in their second year.
The second-year review takes place in the spring semester of the second year. Each student meets with the French DGS and his or her current advisor (if the latter is from French, the IFS DGS will take part as well). In addition to reviewing the student's academic record, these faculty advise about remaining courses and preparation for the Qualifying Exam. At this point, a change in field advisor may be made. Students should remain in close contact with their advisor throughout their doctoral career.
PhD Qualifying Examination
The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to prepare students to write the best possible dissertation as quickly and effectively as possible, and to equip them with the advanced knowledge and skills for the job market in their chosen field. It can be taken either in French or in English.
In the course of their second year, and certainly by their second-year review, students should identify their future research field, make progress with formulating their research topic (or problématique), and select a secondary field that will complement their research topic (for example, cross-cultural comparison, or methodology). They should also have decided on a third list that will cover the French department’s M.A. readings lists on the literature of the 19th-21st centuries.
Students should consult faculty members about each of their three lists; these three faculty will be the examiners of the Qualifying Exam and subsequently constitute the student’s provisional PhD committee. The committee will consist of at one faculty members from the French Department, one from the IFS, and a third from either academic unit. Each list should be approximately 35-40 works in length.
The research list. When designing this list, which may include primary and secondary works from a mix of disciplines, students should address questions or problems posed by the area of inquiry they plan to pursue in their eventual dissertation. Some of the work involved in compiling this list may be done in a course of Independent Study.
The second list is to be envisaged as contextualizing the research topic from one of a number of standpoints. For some students, it will be most useful to undertake a transversal study of their chosen topic across several centuries. For others, a broadly methodological or theoretical course of reading will prove most useful. For yet others, the most fruitful topic might be one that offers a comparative purchase on their research topic, e.g. another culture or another art form in the same period. It might be helpful to think of this list as a means of situating or contextualizing the main research field.
The literature list should draw from the French department’s M.A. readings lists on the 19th-21st centuries and incorporate relevant secondary sources and, at the student’s discretion, half-a-dozen literary works that do not appear on the departmental lists.
During their second year, students should finalize their lists with the help of their three committee members. All three lists should be approved and signed by their committee and submitted to the French and IFS DGS’s.
The written examination is taken during the January term of the student’s third year (or sometimes the previous September), and the oral follows as soon as practicable thereafter. Students unable to take the exam at the prescribed time may petition for a deferment.
The written exam consists of three take-home essay questions, the answers (one per list, not longer than 5,000 words each) to be written over a period of ten days (that is, a period of ten times 24 hours, typically extending over 9 full and 2 partial calendar days). A choice of questions will be provided by the relevant committee member for each list.
The oral exam. The examiners will examine the student on their written answers and on the wider reading lists. Students will be expected to demonstrate extensive and precise knowledge of primary texts and significant secondary literature on their three lists, and to be at ease thinking about the issues which they raise. The examination will typically end with a discussion of the student’s dissertation questions.
Students may receive a grade of pass or of honors on the Qualifying Examination and are then eligible for the degree of Master of Philosophy.
A dissertation prospectus presents in outline the subject of the dissertation, its rationale, and its likely contents. It may be formatted in a number of ways but should include the following (the Graduate Aide can provide sample prospectuses upon request):
1. A short description of the project (10 pages or so), to include an explanation of its topic, of its originality and relevance for the field, the questions which it raises, and the principal materials (e.g. the primary and secondary texts) with which it will engage. The approach or methodology to be deployed should also be indicated.
2. A fairly detailed (5 pages or so) outline of the proposed work plan leading to completion of the dissertation. This can, but need not, indicate the intended contents of each chapter.
3. A core bibliography (5 pages or so).
Normally the topic is the outcome of the research list of the student’s Qualifying Exam. The student is therefore not starting from scratch and the prospectus should be presented for discussion by the end of the semester following the Qualifying Exam (generally the spring semester of the third year). Extension beyond this date will require a special petition.
Dissertation Prospectus Discussion:
The prospectus discussion is an opportunity for the dissertation committee to assess the feasibility and desirability of the student’s project. During the discussion, faculty will ask questions and contribute ideas; they may suggest both points to include and some to avoid.
The discussion consists of a one-hour oral discussion of the prospectus by the student's dissertation committee. This committee, which is likely to have already taken shape in the Qualifying Exam, consists of a director and two primary readers. It must include at least one faculty member from IFS and one from French. The dissertation committee serves as a resource for the student during the elaboration of the dissertation, both before and after the prospectus discussion.
Upon successful completion of the Dissertation Prospectus discussion, the student then registers the title of the thesis (along with the names of the director and two principal readers) with the French and IFS DGS’s and Graduate Aides.
Alternatively the committee may refer the prospectus back to the student for reworking before he or she is allowed to continue to the dissertation. The committee might want to discuss the revised prospectus but they might be willing to approve a paper submission.
Writing the Dissertation
While no single approach or format is prescribed, the dissertation will be evaluated according to criteria of scholarly rigor as well as originality and methodological innovation. Dissertations are usually around three hundred pages long, divided into five to eight chapters. They may be written in either English or French. Students whose native language is English are encouraged to write in that language.
Writing the dissertation should take two to three years, during which a student should be in regular contact with his or her director, who follows the progress to completion, chapter by chapter. The dissertation director will inform the student of the positive evaluations as well as the objections and critiques her or his work might elicit. Students may consult with other readers when necessary, but are discouraged from doing so as a matter of course except when the dissertation is co-directed. Once they have completed two dissertation chapters (and at the latest during their fifth year), students will meet with their three-member PhD committee to discuss the progress of their research and writing. The director should not offer the student any work external to the direct advancement of the dissertation, including editorial projects, translations, and conference organization.
More detailed information regarding the submission and formatting requirements for the dissertation can be found on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website.
The Department also maintains a small library of dissertation writers’ guides and aids, which can be accessed through the Graduate Aide. Various research tutorials are also offered by the Elmer Homes Bobst Library.
When the student is nearing completion of his or her dissertation, the dissertation director invites two additional readers to join the committee (for a total of five) for the thesis defense. With the approval of both DGS’s, a date will be set for the defense.
At least three of the committee members must be full-time faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Science, but up to two readers from other institutions may be included. The dissertation director should formally invite any outside readers to the committee as a matter of courtesy; the department does not reimburse travel expenses for outside readers.
Should one of the readers be unable to be present at the defense, he or she may also participate via telephone or video conference. In exceptional cases, a written “absentee” report on the thesis may be submitted with prior approval from the thesis director.
A student should give a copy of his or her completed dissertation to each of the five readers at least one month before the defense date. At the defense, the student will give a short oral presentation of his or her thesis before being questioned by the committee members. Further revisions may be requested before approval, or the dissertation may be approved as it stands, with a mention of “pass” or, exceptionally, with “honors” (a departmental distinction) and the student recommended for the doctoral degree.
For additional information about dissertation submission procedures, please refer to Section IV. Administrative Information, J. Conferral of Degrees.