The French Major

The undergraduate major in French is designed for students to acquire a considerable degree of competence in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in French, as well as a familiarity with the literature and cultures 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. Students also have 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 take examinations in the 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. New York Magazine encourages you to "Pick a Practical Major, Like French".

To declare a major in French, students must be enrolled in, tested out of, or have completed French 102. With that, student then complete the Undergraduate Application for the French major and submit it in person or via email to the Undergraduate Major Advisor.  Applications to the major are accepted Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. NOTE: French 1-4, or their equivalent, are prerequisites to declaring the French major. See Placement Guidelines if you are unsure of your prerequisite status.

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. Working together, you will create an academic plan, with attention given to integration of study abroad and other majors and minors. The Undergraduate Advisor can provide answers to a broad range of questions regarding the French major and other issues related to completing the Bachelor’s degree at Berkeley; reach out early and often.

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. An outline of all requirements can be found here.**

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 Advisor 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 Faculty Advisor to count toward the major. Please note that only one 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 (“Advanced Reading and Writing Workshop”). 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, 40-50 page written research project in French over two semesters and a presentation of this project at the French Department’s Honors Panel/Senior Breakfast.  Interested students may wish to begin thinking of an appropriate honors topic during their junior year.

The Honors program in French may be undertaken during the senior year by French majors who have senior standing and 3.5 GPA both in French major and overall.  The student undertakes research on a topic of their choice which has been approved by his or her faculty sponsor. H195A-B is a two semester sequence (2 units each semester), and credit and grade are awarded upon completion of both semesters.  Students should begin the sequence no later than the first semester of their senior year.

The Honors program is undertaken IN ADDITION TO the unit requirement for the major and does not count towards the major. 

How To Apply:  To apply to the Honors program in French, a student must:

  • have senior standing at UCB (a minimum of 90 units)
  • have both a major and general GPA minimum of 3.5
  • be a declared major in French with the majority of their coursework complete. 
  • have made contact with a faculty member(s) or instructor(s) who have agreed to supervise the Honors Thesis work.
  • discuss their plan with the Undergraduate Major Advisor prior to beginning the application process.

1) Certification of Requirements: The Undergraduate Advisor will review with the student their Academic Progress Report to ensure that undertaking an Honors thesis will not deter the student from finishing the necessary coursework in the major and to affirm both the unit and GPA requirements.

2) Approval and Consent of Faculty Sponsor:  The student must then complete the application, including the thesis proposal, and submit to the faculty/instructor sponsor. In signing the application, faculty member will formally consent to sponsor the two-semester sequence. This process must be complete by the end of the third week of class of the first semester in the sequence.

3) Release of Course ID Number:  Upon obtaining required signatures, the student will submit the Honors Thesis application to the Undergraduate Advisor, who will then release the course ID number for enrollment. Students MUST enroll each semester, and it is up to the student to get the course ID for both semesters.

The Application to the Honors Program in French is below, and to discuss your plans for Honors, please contact Nina Rennert Cohen, Undergraduate Major Advisor 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 advisor throughout the two-semester sequence.

Important Notice Regarding Receipt of Honors: Students who complete the Honors Thesis are the only students who are candidates to graduate in the department with Honors. Completion of the Honors Thesis does not guarantee the conferral of Honors; Honors are assigned by the faculty advisor and are recommended as either Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors. One student is chosen each semester to receive the Departmental Citation for outstanding work, and this may or may not be a student who has completed an Honors Thesis.

Honors application form_French