The Louvre in Paris illuminated at night

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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

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 Graduate Coordinator.
  • 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 the Graduate Coordinator.

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 $11,000 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

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 18 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement Policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
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 two weeks. Depending on the results of this test, up to 6 credits of advanced French language courses and phonetics may be required (for instance: French 311, French 313, etc.).
2) Comprehensive Exams: Students will have the choice between a written and oral examination, or an M.A. thesis and an oral defense.
Option 1: M.A. Examination:
Written Examination:
  • The M.A. exam is usually taken by the end of the fourth semester of study, although taking it earlier is possible. It should be taken before the fifth semester of study. Given twice a year, it tests students’ mastery of a broad range of texts fundamental to French and Francophone studies, along with their ability to analyze texts, answer questions, and present arguments. The reading list is posted on the program website : In addition to this required list, students will add 30 titles of their choice. They may select these additional texts from the Ph.D. General Reading List, or they may add texts of their own choosing. Each student's M.A. reading list needs to be approved by the M.A. committee. The list should be completed at least 3 months before the scheduled exam. To take the exam, students sign up with the Graduate Coordinator by April 30th for the August exam; for the January exam they must sign up with the Graduate Coordinator by the November break.
  • Format: The written part of the M.A. exam lasts a total of 7 hours. In Part I (4 hours), students are given a choice of three questions within each of the three defined areas (Middle Ages - 16th - 17th; 18th - 19th; 20th - 21st - Francophone and Global French Studies). They must answer one question in each area. Students turn in their answers and take a one-hour break. In Part II (2 hours), students must choose one of three broad essay topics. Part I must be answered in French. Part II may be answered in English or in French.
  • 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 a computer provided by the Department, 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 Examination:
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 one hour. Three hours before the oral, the candidate will be given three short extracts from the M.A. Reading List, and they will inform the Graduate Coordinator which extract they will analyze. The candidate will prepare an analysis of this extract in a room reserved for this purpose. There they will not have access to a computer and access to any other electronic devices is not allowed. They will annotate the text or 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. 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 areas.
  • Weak Passes, Failures: If a student fails the written part of the exam, they will not take the oral part. They will be able to retake the entire exam at the next exam session. A student who fails the oral part of the exam may be allowed to retake the oral exam one time, at the next exam session, if s/he wishes to be reconsidered for admission into the Ph.D. program. In order to postpone the retake until a later session, the student must make a written request to the Graduate Studies Committee and have it approved.

Option 2: M.A. thesis and thesis defense
A Master’s thesis in French (40-60 pages, including notes and bibliography):
A master’s thesis is a piece of original scholarship written under the direction of a thesis advisor. Students who are interested in writing a master’s thesis should begin thinking about possible topics early in their academic program. They should contact their prospective thesis advisor by the end of their first year so that they can work on their reading and thesis plan during their third semester and write/finalize their thesis during their fourth/last semester. A Master’s Thesis project may be submitted for final approval only during fall and spring semesters—not in the summer.
Students should submit a prospectus five months before the anticipated defense. The prospectus should establish the main lines of argument and organization for the thesis, and it should spell out the methodology. It should also include a timetable and a working bibliography of major and secondary sources. The prospectus needs to be approved by the thesis advisor.
Once the prospectus is approved, students will choose a second and a third reader from the Department in consultation with their thesis advisor. The final thesis should be sent to the thesis advisor and the two readers at least three weeks before the scheduled defense.
In addition to the mentorship provided by the thesis director, students will have the opportunity to work on their M.A. thesis within the framework of a research lab.
Thesis defense:
Students selecting the M.A. thesis option will take a 60-minute oral exam that will consist of a 15-minute presentation of their findings, followed by a question and answer period. The questions raised by the members of the thesis committee will focus on the thesis but may also address broader points such as the conceptual framework, methodology, theoretical approach, and socio-historical context that contribute to the definition and elaboration of the thesis topic.
At the conclusion of the defense, the thesis may be approved in its current form or approved contingent on further revisions. If extensive revisions are required, the student will need to resubmit the thesis for final approval, and the M.A. thesis committee may request that the student do an additional thesis defense.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

FRENCH 569 Critical Approaches to Literature and Culture: French and Francophone Perspectives3
FRENCH 750 Research Laboratory I: Introduction to Graduate Research3
FRENCH 820 College Teaching of French3

Seminar Distribution Requirement: For the M.A., students must take at least one seminar in the department in each of the three defined areas:

  • Middle Ages - 16th - 17th
  • 18th - 19th
  • 20th - 21st - Francophone and Global French Studies

Note: seminars spanning more than one of these areas may be counted for only one of the areas they cover.


Middle Ages - 16th - 17th

FRENCH 639 17th-Century Literature3
FRENCH 645 16th-Century French Literature3
FRENCH/​MEDIEVAL  701 Introduction to Old French3
FRENCH/​MEDIEVAL  704 La Litterature Francaise du XIV et du XV Siecle3
FRENCH/​MEDIEVAL  705 La Litterature Francaise des Debuts Jusqu a La Fin du XIII Siecle3

18th - 19th

FRENCH 630 The Age of Reason3
FRENCH 631 17th-Century French Literature3
FRENCH 633 The 17th-Century Novel3
FRENCH 636 The French Novel: 1850-19003
FRENCH 637 19th-Century French Literature3
FRENCH 931 Seminar-18th Century3
FRENCH 951 Seminar on 19th Century French Poetry3

20th - 21st - Francophone and Global French Studies

FRENCH 647 The 20th-Century French Novel3
FRENCH 653 French and Francophone Cinema3
FRENCH 665 Introduction to Francophone Studies3

Flexible/Open-Area Courses

FRENCH 567 Undergraduate Seminar in French/Francophone Literary Studies3
FRENCH 568 Undergraduate Seminar in French/Francophone Cultural Studies3
FRENCH 672 Topics in Literature and Culture3
FRENCH 947 Seminar: Literature Questions3
FRENCH 948 Seminar: Literature Questions3

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.

academic and teaching portfolios

  • Academic Portfolio: Starting in a student’s second year of courses (third semester), the student will begin keeping a portfolio of work accomplished academically (actual contents will be explained in the research laboratory described below). Towards the end of each academic year the student will write a one-page self-evaluation that explains the portfolio accomplishments for the given year and sets goals for the year to come. The portfolio and self-evaluation will be evaluated by the student’s advisor, who will provide the student with a written evaluation of progress. For students who are TAs, they begin a separate teaching portfolio in their first semester of study and maintain it as long as they have a TAship.
  • Teaching Portfolio: A teaching portfolio will be first set up in FRENCH 820 College Teaching of French. Its purpose is to document French graduate students’ growth as instructors of language, literature, and culture as they move through each stage of the program. Materials gathered from French 820 may include statements about students’ teaching philosophy, other self-reflective materials, and may also draw upon other pertinent work from FRENCH 820 College Teaching of French. During the remaining semesters of the MA and post-MA for as long as students continue to teach as TAs, one short reflective statement per semester (during those terms during which the graduate student is teaching or holding an assessment or technology TAship) will be added to the portfolio.

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.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


Upon entering the department, students are each assigned a faculty advisor with whom they will work (in most cases) until they have completed all the requirements for the M.A. Students who wish to change advisors should speak to the Director of Graduate Studies for French. Within two months of completing the requirements for the M.A., students are requested to choose the Chair of their Prelims Committee, who may be but need not be the same as the originally assigned advisor; students’ evolving research interests, among other factors, may warrant a change. The Chair of their Prelims Committee assists students with the process of preparing for the preliminary examination. Until the students complete the last preliminary examinations, they should work with their originally assigned advisor in regards to all matters other than the content and scope of the prelims (for instance: choice of classes, etc.). Upon completion of the preliminary exams, the chair of the student’s dissertation proposal committee, to be set up by the student in consultation with faculty, usually becomes the advisor, but a change of director is also possible at that time.

Students consult their advisor at least three times a year: once in September to become acquainted and address any issues related to the start of the academic year; a second time later in the fall, before course registration for the spring, in order to discuss course selection; and a third time in the spring, before course selection for the fall. Students are encouraged to contact their advisor concerning any academic problems or issues that may arise, and to engage with their advisor on an ongoing basis about their own short- and long-term concerns, plans, and interests. Advisors will mentor their advisees as well as attending to administrative functions like course selection and requirements. Advisors will actively participate in the end-of-the-year assessment of all graduate students. Additional information and clarification about requirements can be obtained from the Director of Graduate Studies for French or the Graduate Coordinator. 


15 credits

Time Limits

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. Academic probation will be considered if all requirements including the M.A. exam are not completed by the beginning of the 6th semester.

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. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


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: Gilles Bousquet, Jan Miernowski, Florence Vatan and Anne Vila

Associate Professors: Joshua Armstrong, Nevine El Nossery and Heather Allen

Teaching Faculty II:  Dr. Ritt Deitz and Dr. Anne Theobald

Senior Lecturer: Dr. Ewa Miernowska