Information on the Undergraduate Major in French


Le voyage n’est nĂ©cessaire qu’aux imaginations courtes.

— Colette

French Major

The purpose of this guide is to answer questions for those students who are considering an undergraduate major in French, and to serve as a source of information for students who have already decided upon the French Major. It presents a general definition of the major, a summary of both Lower Division and Upper Division requirements, and a description of various educational opportunities offered in connection with the departmental program. Students considering declaring a major in French are encouraged to read the Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative (USLI) page to learn more about the learning goals of the French program.


Definition of the Major Prerequisites to Enrollment
Declaring the Major Residence Requirements
French Major Requirements The Honors Program
Courses in Other Departments

Definition of the French Major

The undergraduate major in French is designed to allow students to acquire a considerable degree of competence in the written and spoken language as well as a familiarity with the literature and culture of France and the French-speaking world. It aims to develop the student’s critical appreciation of texts in French in both literary and cultural contexts. The Department thus offers a large selection of courses in different periods and criticism, as well as courses in composition, stylistics, translation, and linguistics. Further, it encourages interdisciplinary studies in French through courses emphasizing the relation between literature and the other arts and between literature, history and society. Particularly attractive for many students is the opportunity for the historical and critical study of French film. Most courses are conducted in French, and majors are expected to write papers and examinations in that language.

Given the breadth of its program, the French major may interest students desiring a general humanistic education based on the language and literature of the French-speaking world; students planning to teach French at the elementary or secondary level; students who intend to pursue graduate work in preparation for teaching and research at the college level; and students preparing for careers in such areas as international law, business, or government service, which require both training in a major foreign language and/or a general background in a humanistic discipline.

Declaring the Major

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Students may declare the major at any point in their French studies, provided they have completed a minimum of 30 units of coursework. To declare a major in French, students complete the departmental application form and provide specific documents with the completed application. The form is available in the French Department Undergraduate Office in 4209 Dwinelle. Applications to the major are accepted Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.

Students who are considering a major in French should consult with the Undergraduate Advisor before declaring the major for help in deciding whether this major is appropriate for their academic goals, and for referrals to others who can assist in this decision. If a decision to major in French is reached, the Undergraduate Advisor will verify that all prerequisites have been met and will aid in planning the undergraduate program. The Department strongly urges all majors to establish contact early with the Undergraduate Advisor to get answers to a broad range of questions regarding the French major and other issues related to completing the Bachelor’s degree at Berkeley.

French Major Requirements

**Only courses taken for a letter grade may be applied toward French major requirements**

  • A minimum of 8 Upper Division courses totaling at least 32 Upper Division units
  • Historical Period Requirement: At least two of the Upper Division courses must cover material focusing on the 18th century or earlier. If the student takes a survey course, two-thirds of the course material must focus on the 18th century or earlier.
  • French 35 (Phonetics): This course may be taken at any point in the student’s program. It is not a prerequisite to upper division courses or admission to the major.
  • French 102 (Writing Skills in French): French 102 is a prerequisite to all other Upper Division French courses (courses numbered 103 and above). Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in French 102 before declaring the French major in order to have a better idea of the kind of work undertaken in Upper Division courses.
  • Two courses, chosen from courses numbered 145-185 (French cultural studies and French linguistics)
  • Two courses, chosen from two different periods, from the 112-120 series (French literature of various historical periods)
  • Three elective Upper Division French courses (with the exception of French H195A-B, 197, and 199), which, with the approval of the French major adviser, may include one appropriate course from another department (an “outside elective”.) Examples of outside electives approved in the past are listed below, but students may propose other courses to the Undergraduate Advisor for approval. These elective courses are designed to allow students to pursue interests of their own within the major, e.g., a concentration in linguistic study, or certain themes in literature and civilization. It is strongly recommended that all French majors take a French history course offered by the History Department. Please note that French 103 may be taken either concurrently with French 102, or after its successful completion and that French 140 courses (French Literature in English Translation) require prior approval to count toward the major.

All Upper Division courses in the French Department receive 4 units (with the exception of H195A and H195B which receive 2 units each and do not count toward the major).

General descriptions of all courses given in the Department may be found in the UC Berkeley General Catalogue. In addition, at the beginning of each enrollment period, the Department issues a complete description of courses to be offered in the coming term. This Course Description is available online and in the French Undergraduate Office, 4209 Dwinelle Hall, and on the departmental website.

Outside Courses (partial listing)

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Courses marked by an asterisk (*) will only be approved for credit toward the French major when the emphasis for that term is on France or the French-speaking world. All outside courses, whether listed below or not, require prior approval by the Undergraduate Advisor to count toward the major. Please note that only 1outside elective may be used to satisfy major requirements.

African American Studies

  • 154 Negritude: French African Literature
  • *155 Literature of the Caribbean: Significant Themes
  • *160 African Literatures
  • *161 African Theatre


  • *155A-B Medieval Europe
  • *156B Medieval Intellectual History
  • *163A-B Modern European Intellectual History
  • 166A-B-C Modern France

History of Art

  • 155 Romanesque Art
  • 156A-B Gothic Art in Northern Europe 1150-1270 and 1270-1400
  • 157 The Illuminated Book in Northern Europe
  • *176 European Art in the 18th Century
  • *180A 19th Century Europe: Age of Revolution
  • *180B 19th Century Europe: Realism and Modernity
  • *180C 19th Century Europe: The Invention of the Avant Gardes
  • 181 French Art in the 19th Century

Medieval Studies

  • 150 Studies in Medieval Culture


  • 170 Descartes
  • *187 Special Topics in the History of Philosophy
  • *188 Phenomenology
  • *189 Special Topics in Recent European Philosophy

Political Science

  • *147A-B Western European Politics

Prerequisites to Enrollment in Upper Division Courses In French

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French 1-4 (the first two years of college-level language study) or their equivalents are prerequisites to all Upper Division work in French. Students intending to major in French are strongly urged to take French 1-4 for a letter grade. A grade of “B-” or better in French 4 is prerequisite to enrolling in French 102. Students with a grade of “C+” or lower will need to obtain the instructor’s permission before enrollment in 102 is finalized. All of these prerequisites may, of course, be met prior to entering UC Berkeley.

Residence Requirements

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Students must complete a minimum of 16 Upper Division units in the french major in residence at Berkeley. In addition, the University requires students to complete 24 out of their final 30 units (the senior year) in residence at Berkeley. Those who study abroad through EAP may meet the modified senior residence requirement, in which they complete 24 of their final 60 units in residence. At least 12 of those 24 units must be completed after the student reaches 90 units.

Honors Program in French

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Senior French majors with both an overall grade point average of 3.5 and a grade point average in French of 3.5 may apply to the Honors Program in French. Students meeting these criteria may obtain the application from the Undergraduate Advisor in 4209 Dwinelle. After verification of GPA and proof that the student is in the final two semesters at Berkeley has been submitted to the Undergraduate Advisor, students prepare and submit a written proposal to both the major adviser and the supervisor of the thesis detailing the subject of the thesis. Upon admission to the Honors program, students undertake research on an approved topic of their choice. The results of this research constitute an Honors essay.

H195A-B is a two-semester sequence (2 units each semester); credit and grade are awarded upon completion of the sequence. Students should therefore begin the sequence no later than the semester before their final semester at Berkeley

The Honors Program is taken in addition to the 9 Upper Division course, 36 Upper Division unit requirement for the major and does not count toward these minimums. The thesis may not be used as a paper or thesis for any other class or department.