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.

To declare a major in French, students complete the Undergraduate Application for the French major and submit it in person or via email to the Undergraduate Adviser.  Applications to the major are accepted Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.  There are no course prerequisites to declaring the French major, but you should be nearly ready for upper division work in French (French 102 or above) when you do so.

Students who wish to major in French should consult with the Undergraduate Advisor for help in deciding whether this major is appropriate for their academic goals. The Undergraduate Advisor will aid them in creating an academic plan, with attention given to integration of study abroad and other majors and minors. 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.

I.  Course Requirement: 

A minimum of 8 Upper Division courses totaling at least 32 Upper Division units.  These courses (including French 102 or its equivalent) must be chosen from 3 different categories, as listed below.  A maximum of 2 courses taught in English may be taken for major credit.  Only courses taken for a letter grade may be applied toward French major requirements.**

General descriptions of all courses given in the French Department may be found in the UC Berkeley Academic Guide. In addition, at the beginning of each enrollment period, the Department posts a complete description of courses to be offered in the coming term. This Course Description is available on the departmental website .

  • French 102 (Writing Skills in French): French 102 is a prerequisite to all other Upper Division French courses (courses numbered 103 and above).  French 4 at UC Berkeley or the equivalent must be completed for enrollment in French 102. Students who do not complete French 4 at Berkeley will need to take a 102 Placement Exam or receive instructor permission before enrollment in 102 is finalized.


  • Two courses, chosen from courses numbered French 141-185 (French cultural studies/French linguistics)*
  • Two courses, chosen from courses numbered French 112-126; French 140A-D (French literary/genre studies)*
  • Three courses, chosen from courses numbered between French 103 – 185 (Electives).*  This category includes all upper division courses in the French Department, including any additional courses taken in the Cultural Studies or Literary/Genre Studies categories.  In addition, one course in the elective category may, with approval from the Undergraduate Adviser, include one appropriate course taught in English 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 Adviser for approval. These elective courses are designed to allow students to pursue interdisciplinary interests of their own within the French major.

*No more than 2 courses may be taken from courses numbered French 140 – 142AC in any category.  Maximum of 2 courses taught in English.

**French majors can apply a maximum of one P/NP course per semester of study abroad in a full immersion study abroad program toward satisfaction of French major requirements.  The P/NP option may not be applied to mandatory courses within the UCEAP program.

II.  Historical Period Requirement

One of the required upper division French courses (excluding French 102) must focus on material from the 18th century or earlier. If the course is a survey course, 2/3 of the course must focus on material prior to 1800.

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 1 outside elective may be used to satisfy major requirements.


  • *155A-B Medieval Europe
  • *164A-B -C  Modern European Intellectual History
  • 166A-B-C Modern France

History of Art

  • 155A  Relics, Reliquaries and Cult Images
  • 156A-B Gothic Art in Northern Europe
  • 175  Visual Culture in Early Modern France
  • *180A 19th Century Europe: Age of Revolution
  • *180B 19th Century Europe: Realism and Modernity
  • *180C 19th Century Europe: The Invention of the Avant Gardes
  • N181 French Art in the 19th Century
  • 185  From Manet to Mondrian

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

French 1-4 (the first two years of college-level language study) or their equivalents are required for enrollment in upper division (100-level) courses in French.  Completion of French 4 at UC Berkeley is required for enrollment in French 102 (“Reading and Writing in French”). These requirements may be met prior to entering UC Berkeley.  Students who do not complete French 4 at Berkeley will take a 102 Placement Exam or receive instructor permission before enrollment in 102 is finalized.  Additional information is available in our Placement Guidelines.

When determining equivalent coursework for courses taken in study abroad programs,  the Department looks for equivalent content at an equivalent level. Courses must correspond in content and level to UCB upper division French courses required for the Major.  Please see our list of study abroad courses pre-approved for the major or minor in French.

Criteria for determining if coursework is “equivalent”

  •  Course must be taught in French.
  •  Course must be taken for a Letter Grade, with one exception.  French majors can apply a maximum of one P/NP course per semester of study abroad in a full- immersion study abroad program toward satisfaction of French major requirements.  The P/NP option may not be applied to mandatory courses within the UCEAP program.
  •  Content of the course must be equivalent to upper division French courses offered at UCB. This means most courses in French Literature, French Linguistics, French Film and Advanced French Language Study will be good candidates. A complete listing of French Dept. Courses can be found in the UC Berkeley Academic Guide.
  •  Course hours must be (approximately) equivalent to upper division French courses offered at UCB (about 4 semester units)
  •  Final approval of equivalent coursework is granted after the student returns from study abroad, and the course grades and units have been posted to the student’s UC Berkeley transcript.
  • Equivalent courses from study abroad can satisfy a maximum of 4 French Major course requirements.

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.

Eligible Students completing a major in French are encouraged to participate  in the Honors Program in French.  This involves completion of an in-depth written research project in French, and a presentation of this project at the French Department’s Honors Panel.  Interested students may wish to begin thinking of an appropriate honors topic during their junior year of study.

The Honors program in French may be undertaken during the senior year by French majors who meet specific criteria (senior standing and 3.5 GPA both in French major and overall.)  The student undertakes research on a topic of his or her choice in French literature or applied language study which has been approved by his or her faculty sponsor.  The results of this research constitute an Honors thesis of approximately 40 to 50 typed pages, written in French.  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 first semester of their senior year and consult with the necessary faculty members and the Undergraduate Adviser before enrolling.

The Honors program is undertaken IN ADDITION TO the unit requirement for the major and does not count towards the unit minimum.  Therefore, students who are considering enrolling in the Honors program must have finished a substantial amount of upper-division course work in the major in order that the completion of the major requirements not be delayed.

How To Apply:  To apply to the Honors program in French, a student must have senior standing at UCB (a minimum of 90 units), must be a declared major in French, and must be in the final 2 semesters at Berkeley.  IN ADDITION, Student must have an overall grade point average and a grade point average in the French major of  3.5. (Application form is available at bottom of this page)

1) Certification Of Requirements:  The student must receive the approval and signature of the Undergraduate Adviser.  The Undergraduate Adviser will review, with the student, his or her record in French to insure that undertaking an Honors thesis will not deter the student from finishing the necessary coursework in the major.   Student must have an overall grade point average and a grade point average in the French major of 3.5.  The GPA and number of units completed must be verified by the Undergraduate Adviser:

2) Approval And Consent Of Faculty Sponsor:  The student must receive the written consent of the department faculty member with whom he wishes to work.  Before Friday of the third week of classes, the student will submit to the French Department faculty member with whom he or she wishes to work a written proposal detailing the proposed thesis topic (please see page 2 of attached application.)  The faculty member will review the student’s written proposal for an honors thesis and, upon signing the application, will formally consent to sponsor the 2-semester sequence.

3) Release Of Course ID Number:  Upon obtaining required signatures, student will submit the attached application to the Undergraduate Assistant, who will then release the course ID number.

To  request an Application to the Honors Program in French, please contact Nina Rennert Cohen, Undergraduate Major Adviser in French.

Important Notice Regarding Incompletes:   Students should be aware that if they graduate with an Incomplete in the Honors sequence they cannot later receive honors by completing the project and making up the Incomplete.  It is the responsibility of the student to complete the work on the honors thesis on time and to consult with his faculty adviser throughout the two semester sequence.

Honors application form_French