The M.A. and Ph.D. programs in French offer a first-rate faculty in all the areas of French and Francophone literature and culture. The program emphasizes broad coverage as well as specialization, and is organized so as to take advantage of the quality and range of the faculty. A Wisconsin Ph.D. has the ability to teach not only a very focused topic of research, but also much of the French literary tradition.

The French graduate program offers a wide array of courses and seminars each semester, providing a fairly even distribution across the various literary periods in most academic years. Courses typically meet two or three times a week and are quite broad in focus, generally exploring well-defined periods or genres, while seminars are held once a week for two hours and take up narrower topics in greater depth. Both the offerings and the requirements of the M.A. and Ph.D. programs are designed to give students not only the tools necessary for specialization, but also an excellent knowledge of these extremely rich literary traditions.

Strong emphasis is placed on the practice of the language. French is the usual language of instruction in graduate courses and seminars. The department offers possibilities for international stay through exchange programs and further promotes the use of French through lectures, films, theater, and events at the French House.

The French Ph.D. program has a fine job placement record. Its students' solid foundation in the French and Francophone literary tradition is increasingly rare among North American literature programs, as is the extensive training students receive in language pedagogy.

Fall Deadline December 20
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Our graduate program offers training for teaching and research in all areas of French and Francophone literature and literary history, in critical theory, film, gender and queer studies, romance philology, and foreign language pedagogy.  Our large and varied faculty teach graduate courses in all areas and at regular intervals. Consequently, students for the M.A. degree can fulfill course requirements in any given two-year period, and candidates for the Ph.D. can complete course requirements for the Ph.D. within two years of obtaining their M.A. Our program is designed to allow well-qualified students to complete the M.A. in three semesters, and all other requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation in four more semesters.  Applicants for the MA or PhD in French must submit all application materials by the application deadline of December 20.

The Graduate School sets minimum requirements for admissions.

Graduate School Application
Please refer to the following links: 

  • Consult the Graduate School website for complete information about graduate education opportunities at UW–Madison. This site is especially helpful in understanding Admissions Requirements developing a Timeline for application.

​Materials to Upload to the Online Application:

  • You will need to list three people who will write letters of recommendation for you. They should be in faculty or permanent academic staff positions. Since the Graduate School will contact your recommenders directly via e-mail once you have completed your online application, you should be sure to contact each recommender at least a month prior to when the letter of recommendation is needed to let them know that they will be contacted directly by the Graduate School. If your referees are unable to upload your letter of recommendation to the online application, the letters should be sent to the  the Graduate Coordinator at
  • Statement of purpose, preferably written in English
  • CV
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Submit the online Graduate School Application for Admission and pay the application fee.
  • GRE (optional) institution code 1846 for UW–Madison
  • Non-native English speakers must also submit results for the TOEFL or IELTS exams. There are few exceptions. Please note that the Graduate School requires that these scores be no older than two years old. This is calculated from the start of the term for which you are applying, NOT the date on which we receive your application.

Supplemental Materials: 

  • TA/Fellowship Application: To be considered for teaching assistantship or fellowship support, you must submit to the department a document listing all relevant experience since you began studying French. There is no specific application form—it is a document, much like a CV, that you put together yourself. Include travel, study, or residence abroad. For teaching experience, be specific about subject, level, actual classroom hours/week, and age of students. Also indicate undergraduate and graduate honors, and how you would support yourself if UW was not able to offer support.
  • Writing Sample (essay or paper in French—usually between 7 and 12 pages in length)
  • List of French Literature and/or Civilization courses taken and grades received

Questions? Please contact Graduate Coordinator Shawn Ramer.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Other Resources

The Department of French & Italian is committed to providing full funding to all graduate students. Students who accept our offer of admission therefore receive fellowships or assistantships that cover tuition and provide eligibility to enroll in excellent comprehensive health insurance and other benefits. Funding is guaranteed for a minimum of 5 years of study for students entering with a B.A., and a minimum of 4 years for those entering with an M.A. Moreover, it has been our departmental practice to continue to offer funding beyond guarantee as possible for students in good academic standing.

Teaching assistantships, the most common form of support in our department, offer the pedagogical experience and training necessary to be competitive on the academic job market. The teaching assignment is usually one course per semester, but double sections (two sections of the same course) can also be requested for an increased stipend, when available. While the guarantee of support means students in good standing will receive funding, the exact assignments are based on need, merit, and experience. Generally, a graduate student will, over the course of study, hold a variety of positions from French 101-204, which are available every semester. Teaching assistantships to provide technology and assessment support to the French MA/Ph.D. program are also available every semester. Students may also have the opportunity to teach more advanced courses, such as FRENCH 228 and FRENCH 271, and LITTRANS 360 depending on departmental need. For more information about our teaching assistantships, please visit our website.

There are also fellowships available from several sources on campus each year, including the Chancellor’s fellowship, which starts at around $10,000 per semester. Advanced Opportunity Fellowships are also available to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population, as well as support economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students. The department also offers a number of monetary awards every year, for academic performance and for teaching. Graduate students can also take advantage of our excellent exchange programs during the course of their study.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Over half of degree coursework (18 credits out of 30 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements No other grade requirements.
Assessments and Examinations 1. Oral Proficiency Exam: Non-native speakers of French must take an Oral Proficiency Interview administered by the department and receive a rating of at least “advanced low” during their first semester. Depending on the results of this test, up to 6 credits of advanced French language courses and phonetics may be required.
2. M.A. Thesis: There is no M.A. thesis for the M.A.
3. M.A. Examination:
  • Purpose, Timing, Content, Sign-up Period: The M.A. exam is usually taken by the end of the fourth semester of study, although earlier is possible; should be taken before the fifth semester of study. Given three times a year, it tests students’ mastery of a broad range of texts fundamental to French and Francophone studies and their ability to analyze texts, answer questions, and present arguments. The exam is based on a reading list available in 611 Van Hise and from the graduate coordinator. To take the exam, students sign up with the Graduate Coordinator by April 30th for the August exam; for the January and April exams they will be informed of sign-up deadlines.
  • Format: The written part of the M.A. exam lasts a total of 5 hours. In Part I (1 hour), students must choose one of three broad essay topics. Part I may be answered in English or in French. In Part II (3 hours), students are given a choice of two questions within each of the seven areas in our program. They must answer one question in each of six of the seven areas (30 minutes per answer). Part II must be answered in French. It is recommended the last of the 5 hours allotted for the exam be spent on revision.
  • Use of Materials, Academic Misconduct: Students are not allowed any notes, documents, electronic files, or books (with the exception of a dictionary). M.A. exams can be handwritten, but if students prefer to use their laptop computers or department computers, they should be aware that they are not allowed to consult any files or websites. As with all other methods of evaluating students’ performance in the program, such as course assignments, the department conforms to university regulations governing academic misconduct. Students should refer to the following university website to familiarize themselves with the definition of and the serious consequences of academic misconduct:
  • Oral Exam: A student who fails the written part of the M.A. exam will not take the oral part. The oral usually takes place within a week after the written examination and is conducted entirely in French. It lasts about 45 minutes. Forty-eight hours before the oral, the candidate will be told which three books from the M.A. list will be used for selections and for the oral exam. THREE hours before the exam, the student will receive three short extracts, one from each of the books, and s/he will inform the graduate coordinator which extract s/he will analyze. The candidate will prepare an analysis of this extract in a classroom reserved for this purpose. There s/he will not have access to a computer but will write notes by hand that may be brought to the exam, and may use a dictionary in the preparation of these notes. During the exam the candidate will give an analysis in French of the extract chosen, lasting approximately twenty minutes. Students should avoid reading a text word for word but will be able to use notes. This will be followed by 10–15 minutes of discussion of the student's analysis of the chosen extract, and then by a period of questions (lasting approximately 25 minutes). Some of these questions may pertain to the candidate's written exam, but others may involve other texts on the M.A. reading list, from other periods.
  • Weak Passes, Failures: Students who are passable but weak on the oral part of the M.A. exam receive the M.A. degree but are not be accepted into the Ph.D. program. In some cases, these students may be allowed to retake the oral exam one time if they wish to be reconsidered for admission into the Ph.D. program. If a student fails either part of the M.A. exam, s/he has one chance to retake it at the next exam session. In order to postpone the retake until a later session, the student must make a written request to the Graduate Studies Committee.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

FRENCH 569 Critical Approaches to Literature and Culture: French and Francophone Perspectives3
FRENCH 820 College Teaching of French3
FRENCH 825 Cours de Grammaire Et de Style3
or FRENCH 826 Cours de Grammaire Et de Style

Distribution Requirement: For the M.A., students must take a course or seminar in four of the seven areas of our program (Medieval, 16th through 20th centuries, and Francophonie).

Exchange Program Course Work: Please note that courses taken while graduate students are participating in one of our exchange programs abroad do not usually count toward the completion of departmental degree requirements, although exceptions may be considered if students can provide adequate documentation of their written work, and if the Graduate Studies Committee finds the work completed abroad to be comparable to a graduate course or seminar offered in our department.

Seminars: There is no seminar requirement for the M.A.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Upon entering the department, students are alphabetically assigned to one of two graduate advisors.  Students consult their advisor each semester about which courses to take.

By the time they take the M.A. exam, students must choose a faculty member as a mentor and inform the Graduate Studies Committee of their choice. Mentors help students explore areas of interest and give advice about professional development.  Although students may change mentors until they begin preparing the Special Topic preliminary exam, they should inform a faculty member if they have chosen another mentor.  Students should plan to remain with the mentors they have chosen by the time they write the Special Topic proposal, since the mentor will usually be a member of the Special Topic Committee and the Dissertation Committee.

All students are required to conduct a yearly progress report meeting with their advisor.

All students are required to discuss courses each term with their advisor.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Timely completion of M.A. requirements: The M.A. exam is usually taken by the end of the 4th semester of study, although earlier is possible. All requirements including the M.A. exam should be satisfied before the beginning of the 5th semester of graduate studies.

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances.


Fellowships are available for high-ranking incoming students and dissertators. The department has a number of teaching assistantships which are granted on the basis of a candidate's previous academic record, knowledge of French, and seriousness of purpose in pursuing the Ph.D.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The Department of French and Italian hosts several professional development workshops for our students each semester. Workshops focus on academic and non-academic professional development. Previous workshop materials are available to all students in the department.

  1. Show broad knowledge of French and Francophone literature and culture.
  2. Master a broad range of texts fundamental to French and Francophone studies.
  3. Demonstrate critical understanding of the major works in literature and the history of ideas that have been written in French from the Middle Ages up to the present.
  4. Show the ability to analyze literary texts of various genres, and to formulate well-informed, interpretive arguments about them.
  5. Identify, select, and retrieve primary and secondary sources pertaining to questions in French and Francophone literature.
  6. Analyze and interpret the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry in this discipline.
  7. Demonstrate adequate proficiency in French to lead a well-informed discussion of literature and culture.
  8. Communicate clearly and appropriately in both written and spoken French
  9. Demonstrate skills as teachers of the French language and French/Francophone culture at the college level: the ability to create level- and course-appropriate instructional objectives, activities, and assessments for teaching language, literature, and culture; the ability to use instructional technologies appropriately to enhance the teaching of language, literature, and culture; the capacity to incorporate insights from second language acquisition theory and current best practices in foreign language teaching into instruction.
  10. Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct.

French Faculty and Academic Staff

Professors Bousquet, Debaisieux, Goodkin, Langer, Miernowski, Tochon, Vatan and Vila

Associate Professors Armstrong, Dima, El Nossery and Willis Allen

Assistant Professor Gipson

Faculty Associate Deitz

Senior Lecturer Miernowska