The French Department’s doctoral program reflects the interdisciplinary priorities that have long defined the pursuit of knowledge here at Berkeley. We are committed not only to providing students strong coverage of the field of French and francophone literature and culture, but also to doing so through the critical application of innovative methodologies, and by continually bringing French studies into productive dialogue with developments in parallel disciplines. Our faculty’s interests are both historically and methodologically diverse; their strengths are complemented by a variety of programs—centers, working groups, and so on—that regularly bring scholars of the humanities together across campus. And the relaxed and non-hierarchical atmosphere lends itself to free and passionate inquiry. We invite you to explore our offerings.
The doctoral program in French is designed to train students to undertake original research, to engage in scholarly and critical writing, and to prepare for teaching careers at the college and university level. The following information is intended only to provide a brief overview of the program’s main features and requirements. For complete information, please see the Guide to Higher Degrees in French. Visit our application page for information on the application process.
For students entering with a B.A. in French, the French doctoral program normally takes six years to complete. (Students entering with the M.A. will typically spend five years in the program.) This time may vary, depending on each individual student’s preparation; it is divided as follows:
The M.A. Phase
During the first four semesters of graduate study students complete a minimum of eight courses, six of which must be graduate level (200-level). All M.A.-level coursework must be completed with at least a 3.5 GPA. In the fourth semester students take a written M.A. exam, based on a tailored list of representative works from the French and francophone traditions. Upon successful completion of coursework and the M.A. exam, candidates are awarded the M.A. and then considered for admission to the Ph.D. phase of the program.
Please note that the French Department does not admit applicants whose ultimate goal is the M.A. degree.
The Ph.D. Phase
In three semesters students complete four more courses at the graduate level (200-level). During the last semester in the Ph.D. phase students take their qualifying exams, based on a set of specialized reading lists developed in close consultation with faculty members. These exams, which contain both written and oral components, are intended both to test general knowledge of a period and to provide students with a chance to develop ideas that will be useful in the definition of the dissertation topic.
The Dissertation Phase
Following successful completion of the qualifying exams, students are advanced to candidacy and enter the dissertation phase of the program, which consists of four semesters. Students first write a dissertation prospectus in consultation with their dissertation committee, and then proceed with the dissertation itself.
Flexibility and Broad Competency
The Ph.D. program in French has been formulated to allow students maximum flexibility to pursue their scholarly interests while guaranteeing the acquisition of broad competency in the discipline of French and francophone literature and culture. Students are expected to acquire expertise in works of all periods but are also encouraged to develop interdisciplinary and specialized perspectives.
Incoming students are assigned a faculty mentor as well as a graduate student “buddy” so as to ease their transition into departmental and professional life. We view student-faculty contact as one of the cornerstones of our program’s success.
In-Depth Pedagogical Training
The department provides all Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) with in-depth pedagogical training, including pilot classes and pedagogical theory. Many of our students find themselves wanting to do supplementary work in planning innovative new language courses, and are able do so through the resources provided by the Berkeley Language Center. Many advanced graduate students develop their own reading and composition courses or serve as instructors in neighboring departments such as Art History, English, and Comparative Literature; these instructorships often offer the opportunity to plan and execute a literature or culture course of your own design.
The GSI Teaching and Resource Center provides weekly teacher-training workshops throughout the semester; individual teaching consultations; grants for GSIs to improve the quality of teaching at Berkeley; and a summer institute for preparing future faculty.
Romance Languages and Literatures Program
The Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) is a doctorate in three Romance languages and literatures (French, Italian and Spanish, including Spanish-American), prepared with emphasis in the literature or in the linguistics or philological history of one of the three. The RLL Program offers students the opportunity to tailor a course of study in French, Spanish and Italian to their interests. Applicants to the RLL program with a French emphasis are evaluated by French Department faculty and the program’s requirements are different from those listed above.
The Designated Emphasis
Students may consider the option of pursuing a Designated Emphasis (DE) in Critical Theory, Film Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, European Studies or New Media. Students pursuing a Designated Emphasis take certain prescribed courses within these disciplines, and write a dissertation that partially encompasses the chosen field of study. In addition to providing students an institutional mechanism for incorporating this sort of work into the Ph.D. program, the Designated Emphasis assures prospective employers that you have demonstrated expertise in an auxiliary field, and it will appear on your final degree. The Program in Medieval Studies also offers a joint degree in French and Medieval Studies.
Interdisciplinary Centers and Working Groups
A number of interdisciplinary centers and groups regularly bring noted scholars and artists to campus. The Center for the Study of Sexual Culture, brings together researchers with a common interest in the ways sexuality takes on different meanings in different cultural contexts.
The French Studies Program organizes lectures, visits by scholars, and conferences involving France and the French tradition(s) across the disciplines of the Humanities and the Social Sciences.
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies promotes the interdisciplinary study of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the University of California, Berkeley, and beyond, raising public awareness of the region’s diverse peoples, languages, cultures and their connection to wider global contexts.
The Townsend Center for the Humanities promotes research and ongoing conversation among and within academic disciplines. It hosts art exhibits, lectures, and conferences and sponsors a large number of working groups, which meet informally and are run and attended by both graduate students and faculty. The Center also provides funding to support student journals.
Fostering intellectual life among students is a priority. Click here for information on current student interests.
The Department is committed to helping graduates secure employment. This includes workshops on aspects of the job market in both spring and fall, reviewing and editing of curriculum vitae and letters of application, mock interviews, and works-in-progress talks that help candidates learn to present their research.
The Department has an excellent record in placing students who apply nationally and internationally for positions; in the last several years our students have been offered tenure-track appointments at Middlebury College; Davidson College; Macalester College; Scripps College; Wellesley College; University of Texas, Austin; University of Texas, San Antonio; University of Michigan; University of MInnesota; Pomona College; University of Texas, El Paso; and the University of Washington.
Each year, a limited number of outstanding admission candidates are nominated to the campus-wide multi-year fellowship competition. Successful nominees receive two years of fellowship support and two additional years of appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in French. Students who are not awarded a multi-year fellowship may be awarded a one year fellowship or a Graduate Student Instructorship in French with coverage of non-resident tuition, when appropriate.
Applicants should note that there are a few non-UC Berkeley sources of funding for graduate education. These include the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowships, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Javits Fellowship Program, and the Soros Fellowships for New Americans.
The Department offers a number of resources for financing graduate study, including fellowship packages, fellowships for continuing students, and Graduate Student Instructorships. It also awards grants for summer study and travel.
UC Berkeley also provides funding support on a competitive basis to humanities students at various points in their graduate career. The Graduate Division Summer Grant provides summer financial support. The Doctoral Completion Fellowship provides a full year of fellowship support for students who advance to candidacy within normative time (four years in humanities departments). The Townsend Center funds a competitive dissertation fellowship for humanities students.
Graduate students in French are encouraged to spend time studying in France and the Department has three yearly exchange programs — with the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), the Institut d’Anglais at the Université de Paris VII, and the Université de Tours François-Rabelais. The Department usually selects advanced students to participate in these exchange programs, but from time to time students who have fulfilled almost all of their other requirements and have not yet taken the Qualifying Exam are selected.
These programs have always been sufficient to assure every student the opportunity to study abroad.
Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) Exchange
Students selected to participate in the ENS exchange receive a Department Traveling Fellowship, which provides support to cover living expenses. ENS provides students with free housing and library privileges for the duration of the exchange.
Paris VII Exchange
Students selected to participate in the Paris VII exchange are hired by Paris VII to teach English language courses. Students are paid a monthly salary in euros for 12 months. Students also receive health coverage under the general conditions of the National French Health Insurance System. Unlike the ENS exchange, Paris VII participants must make their own housing arrangements. Only native English speakers are eligible for this exchange program.
Université de Tours François-Rabelais
Students selected to participate in the Tours exchange are hired by Tours to teach English language courses. Students are paid a monthly salary in euros for 12 months. Students also receive health coverage under the general conditions of the National French Health Insurance System. As in the Paris VII exchange, Tours participants must make their own housing arrangements. Only native English speakers are eligible for this exchange program.
Additional Opportunities for Research/Travel in France
Fulbright IIE Fellowship
Applicants must be U.S. citizens holding a B.A. degree or equivalent before the beginning date of the grant. Provides round-trip travel, tuition, books, and stipend for one academic year. Approximately 1,300 awards are available for study in over 140 countries. Applies to coursework, master’s or dissertation research.
Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Grants
This program provides grants to colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students who conduct research in other countries, in modern foreign languages and area studies for periods of 6 to 12 months.
Georges Lurcy Fellowship Program for Study in France
This fellowship is for advanced Ph.D. students who are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and whose research topic is unique to France and can only be pursued in that country. The fellowship provides a stipend (currently $25,300) to cover educational fees, necessary travel, and living expenses while in France. Students must be enrolled at UC Berkeley or at an educational institution in France during the tenure of the fellowship. Interested students should submit their application materials to the Graduate Fellowships Office (318 Sproul Hall) by the deadline. One UC Berkeley graduate student is nominated for this fellowship each year.
GSI at the UC Study Center in Paris
For a number of years the French Department has had the opportunity to send an advanced graduate student to serve as a Graduate Student Instructor in French in the Education Abroad Program (EAP) at the UC Study Center in Paris. This GSI position is only available in the fall semester.
Walter J. Jensen Fellowship for French Language, Literature, and Culture
This fellowship provides a a stipend of at least $10,000 for a minimum of six months of study in France. Phi Beta Kappa will also cover a single round-trip, economy-class ticket for the recipient to travel to France; some additional support may be available to those with dependents. The purpose of the award is to help educators and researchers improve education in standard French language, literature and culture and in the study of standard French in the United States.
Students in the doctoral program must complete 12 courses, including one course in the history of French language (French 201) and one course in literary criticism (French 270 or French 274). Courses completed at Berkeley for the M.A. phase count toward the 12 course requirement.
Students must also fulfill a historical comprehensiveness requirement. This entails completion of a graduate seminar in Medieval literature; three seminars in 16th-, 17th-, 18th-century or early modern studies; three seminars in 19th-, 20th-century, Francophone Studies, or Modern Studies. Outside of these requirements, students are allowed, and indeed encouraged, to pursue their interests in other departments. Students wanting to improve their general background are also permitted to take up to two undergraduate courses for credit towards their degree.
The proseminar (French 200) is taken during the first semester of graduate study at Berkeley. This one-hour-a-week class, which does not count toward the Ph.D. requirement, is designed to give new graduate students a broad view of the Department’s faculty, the courses they teach, and their fields of research. In addition, it introduces students to aspects of their graduate career, issues pertaining to research methodologies, and critical debates across the profession.
Foreign Language Requirement
Students may fulfill the foreign language requirement either by demonstrating a reading knowledge of two languages (Option I) or by demonstrating an exceptionally thorough reading knowledge and an adequate knowledge of the grammatical structure of one language (Option II). If you have questions about how to fulfill the foreign language requirement, contact the Graduate Student Services Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The language(s) will be chosen after consultation with the Head Graduate Advisor, and in view of the student’s intended Ph.D. Program Proposal. For example, for students intending to work in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, it would be advisable to choose Latin, or perhaps Italian. For students interested in modern philosophy, German might be wise. Whatever the choice, it should have an intellectual or scholarly relationship to the student’s area of specialization, or with the field of Romance languages more broadly.
Doctoral students must fulfill additional requirements, including passing the Qualifying Exams and composing a dissertation prospectus, which must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee. For more information on additional requirements, consult the Guide to Higher Degrees in French.