The Louvre in Paris illuminated at night

The MA and PhD 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 PhD 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 MA and PhD 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 PhD 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 exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy:
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants for the PhD in French must submit all application materials by the fall application deadline.

The Graduate School sets minimum requirements for admissions.

Graduate School Application

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 email 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 on-line Graduate School Application for Admission and pay the application fee.
  • GRE (optional) institution code 1846 for UW–Madison
  • English proficiency for international degree-seeking applicants. See the Graduate School Requirements for more information.

​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.


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.

Program 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 BA, and a minimum of 4 years for those entering with an MA. 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/PhD 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

Mode of Instruction

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.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement 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/​INTL BUS  313, etc.).

2) Qualifying Examination: For students entering with an MA from outside of UW-Madison. Instead of the MA examination, students are required to take a qualifying examination identical to the oral part of the MA examination. The qualifying exam will be held at the start of the second semester and administered by the Qualifying exam committee. Candidates who fail will be asked to take the regular MA exam that is administered by the Department at the next exam session or during their fourth semester of study.

3) Preliminary Exams
- Field Exam: The goals of the Field Exam are twofold: 1) to guide students toward a deeper knowledge and understanding of a minimum of one area (two maximum; if two, the two areas must be clearly connected to the rationale of the chosen topic of research) of French and Francophone studies than is afforded by the MA exam; and 2) to enable them to define and narrow their interests in preparation for the greater specialization required for the dissertation.
The exam is a forty-eight-hour open-book take-home exam, consisting of three questions, one of which is necessarily not interpretative. For this question, students will be asked to summarize and critique a limited number of important critical/theory texts from their list(s). The other two essays are interpretative, either on the various rubrics within one field, or on the lists and rubrics from two areas. All the questions should be given in French, and at least one of the three responses should be written in French; the other two may be in French or English. There are no specific length requirements, but students typically write between 5 and 8 double-spaced pages per essay.
- Dissertation Proposal and Oral Exam: The goal of the exam is to evaluate students’ ability to articulate the constituent elements of their dissertation topic coherently and convincingly; to test their awareness of various questions, problems, and limitations implied by their framing of their topic; and to assess their skill in defending original ideas in a well-informed and effective way. The exam may be in French or English, depending on the student’s preference, but it is recommended that at least one question be asked and answered in French. Finally, the proposal should emphasize what the student brings to their chosen field that is new and exciting. Having already dealt with plenty of secondary/critical literature, the student should be able to identify what “gaps” there are in the respective field(s) and what their contribution might be.
After passing their Field Exam, students choose a thesis advisor and form their dissertation committee; draft their dissertation proposal; and draw up a working bibliography. Students normally take the dissertation oral exam only after completing all other requirements, including the PhD minor and language requirements. Students are reminded that dissertator status is not granted until the beginning of the semester following the one in which all requirements have been fulfilled. As with the Field Exam, it is up to the advisor, in consultation with the student and the other two committee members, to decide on the exact deadline for the submission of the dissertation proposal and bibliography, but that date should not be later than one month before the exam itself. The precise scheduling of the oral exam is arranged by the student and committee in consultation with the graduate coordinator.

4) Dissertation and Dissertation Defense: Our French program expects the minimum length of the dissertation to be approximately 200 pages, not including bibliography and annexes. Dissertations may be written in English or French.
In the oral examination, students will first present an overview of how they came to their dissertation topic, how it evolved during the research and writing process, what challenges the topic posed and how those challenges were met, and how the dissertation fits into their broader interests. They will then be questioned by the committee about topics relating to the dissertation, including its conceptualization, contextualization, and content.
Language Requirements PhD language requirements vary according to field chosen.
Graduate School Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy:

Required Courses

Students must complete the following courses.
FRENCH 569 Critical Approaches to Literature and Culture: French and Francophone Perspectives (must be taken in the first semester offered)3
FRENCH 752 Research Laboratory II: Producing Professional Research (first fall semester following master's completion)3
French and Francophone Studies
Students in this category who receive teaching assistantship support must complete the following.
FRENCH 820 College Teaching of French (before teaching in Department or concurrently in first semster of teaching)3
FRENCH/​ITALIAN  821 Issues in Methods of Teaching French and Italian (taken any time before dissertator status)1
Medieval Specialists
Students writing a dissertation on the medieval period must take additional courses in philology and paleography, indicated by advisor.
Seminar Distribution / Breadth Requirements
Students must complete at least 9 seminars in the department, including at least two in each of the following areas.
Middle Ages - 16th to 17th
18th to 19th
20th to 21st - Francophone and Global French Studies
Students in dissertator status must complete the following courses.
FRENCH 901 Seminar-Materials and Methods of Research3
FRENCH 990 Individual Research1-12

Dissertator Status

Students in dissertator status may register for 3 credits of FRENCH 901 in place of FRENCH 990 more than once.

Research Seminar

FRENCH 901 Seminar-Materials and Methods of Research facilitates dissertation writing. The modalities of this course is decided by the instructor. Generally, the seminar will start with students’ sharing and commenting on previously completed work on the dissertation. In the second half of the semester, students present one new chapter written in the course of the semester, also to be commented on by all of the members of the seminar. The seminar members will offer critiques and suggestions to each other, and the seminar leader will introduce research techniques tailored to the participants’ dissertation projects. In preparing guidance for the individual dissertator, the seminar leader will be in close touch with the dissertation advisor. 

Seminar Distribution / Breadth Requirements

Proseminars and research labs do not satisfy this requirement. Seminars taken during the course of the MA are applied towards this requirement. Note: seminars whose topics span more than one of these areas may only be counted for one of the areas they cover. See the lists below for courses.

Middle Ages - 16th to 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 to 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 to 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

Academic Portfolio

Starting in a student’s second year of courses (third semester), the student will begin keeping a portfolio of work accomplished academically. 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. 

Teaching Portfolio

Students are required to collaborate once with a faculty member of their choice with regard to a non-TA taught undergraduate course the faculty member is teaching that semester. A list of undergraduate courses available for this collaboration will be communicated to students each semester by the Graduate Coordinator or the Director of graduate studies. The collaboration may be carried out as part of the work of FRENCH/​ITALIAN  821 Issues in Methods of Teaching French and Italian with the agreement of the instructor, or it may be undertaken independently.

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 Credits Earned at Other Institutions

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

Students may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for course equivalencies. A maximum of three graduate courses completed during an MA degree at other institutions may be requested. Proper documentation, including syllabi, transcripts, and written work, is necessary. Equivalencies are granted only if the committee believes the work completed to be comparable to graduate courses or seminars offered in the Department.

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

No credits from an undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison

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


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

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 MA. 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 MA, 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.

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

Preliminary Examinations: The Field Exam is to be taken preferably two semesters, and definitely no later than five semesters, after completion of the MA. Academic probation will be considered if the Field Exam is not taken by the beginning of the sixth semester, after completion of the MA.  The Dissertation Proposal oral exam is to be taken within nine months of the successful completion of the Field Exam.

Foreign Language Requirement: Candidates must complete their foreign language reading requirement before being granted dissertator status.

PhD Breadth: Candidates must complete the PhD breadth requirement before being granted dissertator status.

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

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 PhD.

Professional Development

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.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate thorough knowledge and critical understanding of two areas of French and Francophone literature, and of the historical and social contexts that have influenced the works examined in their dissertation.
  2. Show the ability to synthesize and define a field of inquiry in a persuasive, coherent, and original way.
  3. Make effective use of research sources, tools, and strategies in the field of French and Francophone literature.
  4. Demonstrate, in the writing of their Ph.D. dissertation, an originality of thinking and insight that reaches beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  5. Articulate awareness of various questions, problems, and limitations implied by their framing of their topic.
  6. Contribute substantially to their area of specialization, and be able to engage in a dialogue with other experts in that area.
  7. Communicate and defend complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner, in both French and English.
  8. Be capable of applying their investigative skills to a variety of fields within French-speaking literature and cultures.
  9. Show reading knowledge of a second foreign language pertinent to their research specialty (and, for specialists of Medieval and 16th-century French literature, a third foreign language).
  10. Be prepared to be effective teachers of French/Francophone literature, culture, and language at the college and university levels.
  11. Foster 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