Department of French and Romance Philology  


Ph.D. in French and Comparative Literature

M.A. in French

M.A. in History and Literature

M.A. in Global French Studies

Course Descriptions and Directory of Classes



Ph.D. in French (sequential)

Graduate Student Policy
Master of Arts Degree
Master of Philosophy Degree
Explication de texte
Doctoral Oral Examination
Post-MPhil Research Spaces
Fellowship, Teaching and Financial Aid
French Graduate Student Association
Resources for Research at Columbia
Maison Française


The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Bulletin contains essential information about course and degree requirements, the entire bulletin is available online. Degree requirements for the M.A. and Ph.D. in French are outlined in the bulletin. The French and Romance Philology Graduate Student Checklist is a print-ready file.

If you hold an M.A. degree when you enter Columbia, find out as soon as possible what equivalencies you may receive for graduate course work done elsewhere. No equivalence is automatic: the DGS makes the decision on an ad hoc basis, in consultation with other faculty. Consult with the Director of Graduate Studies, who will specify what equivalencies you should request (in writing) from the Department Chair. If your M.A. degree is accepted, ask the Graduate Coordinator for the Application for Advanced Standing form. Advanced standing will give you two Residence Units for your previous M.A. work. A "Residence Unit" is simply the University's designation of your semester status, as a full-time student enrolled in courses.

After completing the six required Residence Units, you then register for Extended Residence Units.

If you plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, you will want to become familiar with the special course requirements.  Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies for the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. The requirements for the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature can be viewed online.


Please examine carefully the Graduate Student Checklist for a detailed breakdown of course requirements.  All incoming students are required to take the Proseminar, which is a theoretical and practical introduction to research in French and Francophone Studies.

There are two basic categories of graduate courses offered by the Department, roughly distinguished as lectures (4000-level courses) and seminars (6000- and 8000-level courses). These distinctions correspond to the course number designations in the bulletin and registration listings. The 4000-level lecture courses, which typically allow for discussion, cover broad aspects of a given period. The 6000- and 8000-level seminars are specialized courses. These courses focus on particular writers, themes, genres, movements or theories.  

Reading and Credit for Coursework
You may take courses for a grade or for "R" credit. For "R" credit, you receive no letter grade.  Make sure you consult with the professor about requirements and submit the Proof of Agreement for R Credit form. If you take the class for a grade, you complete the required work/term papers, oral presentations, examinations and receive either a letter grade or a mark of Pass/Fail. With the latter option, no letter grade is recorded (other than P or F), but a written evaluation of the coursework is entered in your file (available upon request).

The Department of French is a member of the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC), which provides for cross-registration among member institutions. Participating schools are CUNY Graduate Center, Fordham University, New School for Social Research, New York University (including the Institute of Fine Arts), Princeton University, Rutgers University, and Stony Brook University. Teachers College (TC) is also a member of the IUDC, but Columbia students interested in TC classes should cross-register within Columbia rather than use the IUDC. M.A. students are not eligible for this program. Please consult the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


Developing a good and productive relationship with your advisor is the key to your success as a graduate student. First-year students are assigned an individual advisor who will guide them with their choice of courses and will help them with the first steps towards the choice of a research field. Please bear in mind that first and second-year students should have their program of study approved by the Director of Graduate Studies at the beginning of each semester. 

Once you have settled on an MA, Orals, or dissertation topic, your main advisor is your MA, Orals, or dissertation advisor. Pick a faculty member with whom you feel you will have a good rapport, intellectually and personally.

Perhaps the most important step is the choice and conceptualization of the research topic. This may require several meetings with your advisor.  When you submit an essay, a chapter or a bibliography to your advisor, please bear in mind that he or she usually has several other advisees.  Please do not burden your advisor with unfinished chapters or drafts.  After you have submitted a chapter, it is a good idea to make an appointment to discuss it with your advisor two or three weeks later. You should receive feedback from your advisor within a reasonable period of time (two to three weeks).  Do not be shy about reminding your advisor that you're waiting for feedback.  If you feel that your advisor is not sufficiently responsive, you should talk to the Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Chair who will intervene on your behalf.


The M.A. degree is awarded in October, January and May. Please consult with the Graduate Coordinator, Benita Dace, for all questions concerning deadlines for applying. In order to get credit for the MA, students should register for G8092 M.A. Essay Direction.  The M.A. degree must be completed by the end of your second year, but is usually completed after 3 semesters; if not, you must petition the Chair for permission to continue in the program. Upon completion of the M.A., the Departmental Committee on Higher Degrees reviews your record, and decides whether you are eligible to pursue the M.Phil. Degree.


Over the course of two years, students must take 8 courses that fulfill Department requirements, and must write and defend an MA essay.


  • Proseminar (an introduction to methods and critical approaches)
  • Stylistics (techniques of close reading)
  • 6 electives (two of which may be taken outside of the Department with permission of the DGS; one elective may be taken for R credit)

As you are scheduling your classes, please keep in mind the Department’s distribution requirements. Over the course of the MA, students must take classes in at least four of the following fields: "Middle Ages," "Renaissance," "Classical," "Enlightenment," "Nineteenth Century," "Twentieth and Twenty First Century," and "Francophone."

MA Essay:

  • The M.A. Essay will give you practice in carrying out a research project that, while necessarily limited in length and in scope (30 to 40 pages), presents a problem of greater complexity than a term paper. Under the guidance of a sponsor, you compile an adequate bibliography, choose the appropriate methodological approach, organize the material, and present it in a scholarly (as well as readable) fashion.  The essay should be viewed as preparation for the Ph.D. dissertation.
  • A subject for the essay should be chosen early. It is often helpful to draw upon material dealt with in courses.  You should begin exploring and discussing possible subjects during the first year of graduate study. 
  • The essay should be written according to the specifications of the MLA Style Sheet. When your sponsor has approved the essay, provide the sponsor, the other jury member and the Graduate Coordinator with final copies. The essay will be defended orally before the jury consisting of your sponsor and one other member of the faculty, one of whom must be a tenured associate or full professor.


You are awarded the M.Phil. degree upon completion of six Residence Units and all departmental requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation. You have a four-year time limit to earn the M.Phil. If you allow this deadline to expire, you must formally apply for an extension. The M.Phil. Degree is awarded on given dates in October, January and May.


In order to complete the M.Phil degree, students must take 8 (24 credits) courses beyond the MA, complete the language requirements and pass the oral exams.  We encourage students to finish coursework for the M.A and the M.Phil in 2 ½ years (5 semesters).


  • Theories of Literature
  • Practicum in French Language Pedagogy
  • 6 electives (two of which may be taken outside of the Department with permission of the DGS; one elective may be taken for R credit)


Over the course of the MA and MPhil, students must take classes in six of the following seven fields: "Middle Ages," "Renaissance," "Classical," "Enlightenment," "Nineteenth Century," "Twentieth and Twenty First Century," and "Francophone."


  • Reading proficiency in Latin (Ancient Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic may be substituted with permission of the DGS).
  • Reading proficiency in a modern language
  • Explication de texte
  • Doctoral oral examination


To fulfill the language requirement students must either pass the translation exam administered by the relevant department, or receive a grade of "B" (or better) in the fourth semester language course.


You may do the required explication de texte at any time you wish. Your preferred field of study dictates from which century the text is selected. You are given a week to work on the text before the explication, which is administered in French by two faculty members. The explication consists in the oral presentation of a close reading of a literary text, usually a poem or a relatively brief prose passage.  The explication de texte is scheduled to last one hour.  Students should take about 30 minutes to present the text, with the rest of the time set aside for questions, comments and discussion.  Students work from minimal notes and do not read a formal paper.

Students will receive a letter grade for the explication de texte.

For more details on the practice and theory of the explication de texte see Explication de texte ed. Jean Sareil (New Jersey: 1970), Roland Barthes S/Z (Paris: 1970),Michael Riffaterre Text Production (New York, 1983) and Jane Gallop The Historicization of Literary Studies and the Fate of Close Reading” in Profession 2007.

Students with Advanced Standing

Students granted Advanced Standing have to do the same program of courses as those entering in our program at the MA level. During their first year, they also take the introductory class (“Proseminar”). To be granted the MPhil, they must have pursued, during the course of their graduate work, a program of study equivalent to the one required from all graduate students in the department. Thus they must have taken either at Columbia or outside the equivalent of the following classes: "Stylistics," "Theories of Literature," "Pedagogy," and six out of the seven periods.

For students who have not covered all the MA requirements prior to coming to Columbia, Advanced Standing will be granted only if they take the relevant courses en route to the MPhil.

Students pursuing a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

Students may work toward the certificate in Comparative Literature and Society only after having completed the MA in French and Romance Philology. In order to obtain their Mphil, they must take (in addition to the classes required by the program in comparative literature) the pedagogy course and four elective courses (with no period requirements).


After completing the M.A., you will register for a 9000-level course in your selected area of specialization and thereafter work in frequent consultation with faculty members to develop your subjects and reading lists for the orals. The oral examination is two hours long and divided among three fields, a major field and two minor fields.  By the end of the sixth semester, you should be ready to take the oral examination in your chosen field.  The exam is supervised by three faculty members, one in each field.  The goal of the oral examinations is to develop a deep familiarity with three separate fields, and to help you refine and synthesize your knowledge of these fields.  

The major field of the orals serves as a launching pad for the dissertation and as preparation for a job market in which specializations are largely constituted by major periods of literary history and/or geographic areas.  In consultation with a faculty advisor, you create a reading list of approximately 30 books.  The context for the major field should be fairly broad, and not limited to what will become the dissertation topic or problématique.

The first minor field is constituted of a bibliography of approximately 15 books and articles.  This bibliography can serve as a theoretical basis for the work done for the dissertation.  The second minor field is based on a bibliography of approximately 15 books and articles.  This field need not be related to your dissertation topic but can serve as selective survey of material from an author, a period or an area of interest.

For each field, students are asked to write a short descriptive paragraph accompanying the final list of books. This paragraph should briefly describe the subject area covered as well as the most pertinent questions and issues raised by the readings.

How to determine a field?  Fields can be constituted according to historical time periods, literary movements, author, geography or genre.  Working with your advisor, you will constitute a range of works that have a fairly broad coverage.  It is important to keep in mind that the orals are, at least in part, an occasion to engage with some of the key texts of a given period, topic or nation, even if in your dissertation you end up focusing on less canonical works.    


Carrel space available to graduate students in Butler Library is extremely limited; hence, only students who are in need of using library resources and who are sure that their work habits will adapt effectively to the carrel situation should consider applying. The GSAS has provided a basic set of requirements for awarding carrels, and has further requested that departments develop criteria for assigning them on a yearly basis.

The GSAS guidelines are as follows:

  • students must have earned the M.Phil.
  • the department must support the students' application
  • students must be within six years of first date of registration in the Ph.D. program, and must have submitted an approved academic progress form to the GSAS during the current academic year through SSOL
  • students must claim carrel space granted to them on the 7th and 8th floor of Butler Library. The space will be reassigned to another student if unclaimed after a month.  
  • Toward the end of the spring semester, the DGS will make a call for proposals for carrel space for the following year. Students who meet the above criteria and who wish to apply for a carrel assignment must write a brief proposal to the DGS detailing the work to be accomplished during the year and the reasons for needing carrel space. Priority will be given to students who will have a Dissertation Writing Fellowship (DWF) during the year of award.


Within 6 months of receiving the M.Phil. degree, you will submit a dissertation prospectus for approval by three faculty members. The prospectus should be approximately 10 pages long, should include a presentation of the need and relevance of the subject, a brief survey of the extant criticism on the subject, a description of your approach and methodology, an outline of your projected chapters and a bibliography and a tentative schedule for completion.  When the prospectus has been put together, the student and the faculty committee will meet to discuss the dissertation project.  Once the prospectus has been approved by the faculty advisors, the students will file the prospectus with the Department.  Please consult with the DGS about filing the prospectus.

The Dissertation committee consists of five faculty members, three from the Department of French and two outside readers.  The sponsor of the Dissertation committee is a tenured faculty member in French who is responsible for overseeing your work and convening meetings.  The Second and Third Readers can be from inside or outside the Department and act as full advisors.  The final two members of the dissertation committee participate in the dissertation defense.

Please consult GSAS guidelines for the make-up of the PhD committee. 

In order to insure that students receive feedback from their advisors in a timely fashion, faculty should return chapters with comments within three weeks.  The Department schedules yearly meetings between student and dissertation committee to discuss progress towards the completion of the dissertation. 

Dissertations are written in English. Advisable length is 250-300 pages. If you have exceptionally compelling reasons to write your dissertation in French, then carefully attend to the procedures stipulated by the GSAS Dean's Office. The Dean's Office also provides a set of guidelines for students preparing the five copies of their dissertation for the pre-defense deposit. This deposit should not be done until the sponsor, second reader and third reader have approved the final draft. Please note the deadlines for applying for a defense and for submission of the five copies. After the copies are deposited, the Chair, upon the recommendation of the sponsor, appoints an examining committee of five faculty members (the three who approved the dissertation and two from other departments). The defense of the dissertation is an oral examination lasting no longer than two hours.


  • Year 1: Coursework
  • Year 2: Coursework and MA defense (usually by the end of the first week in May)
  • Year 3: Coursework, Orals preparation, Explication de texte, and Doctoral Oral Exam
  • Year 4: Prospectus, dissertation research and writing
  • Year 5: Dissertation research and writing
  • Year 6: Dissertation completion and defense


A comprehensive program of financial aid, including fellowships and appointments in teaching, is available to Ph.D. students. All Ph.D. students admitted to the program receive full funding, which includes the prevailing stipend and appropriate tuition and health fees through the fifth year, provided that they remain in good academic standing.  If students receive a year of advanced standing, they are entitled to four years of  fellowship funding.  Fellowships are awarded to students in the Ph.D. program in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success.  Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students.  Thus, graduate fellowships include some teaching and research apprenticeship.

You should explore all possible channels for additional financial assistance by informing yourself about Foundations that offer support. For further information, consult the Financial Aid Office of the Graduate School located in 107 Low Library.

FGSA Guide to Fellowships for Students in the Department of French and Romance Philology, Columbia University

Teaching Responsibilities

All students are expected to teach as part of their training for the Ph.D.  Students usually do not teach during their first year.  An interview is conducted in March before the first semester of teaching in order to assess the student’s proficiency in French.  New Teaching Fellows must enroll in the Practicum in Foreign Language Pedagogy, which explores methodological issues.  Teaching Fellows for the 1101-1202 courses work with Coordinators, meeting weekly to discuss teaching strategies and to compose the weekly quizzes, Mid-term Exam and Final Exam.  The Coordinators, who will also acquaint you with teaching responsibilities, policies and procedures, will provide course syllabi.


Students are encouraged to present papers at national and international conferences as they are completing their dissertations.  The Department and the Graduate School have very limited funding to help students defray the cost of travel to conferences. Please consult with the Department’s Financial Assistant Meritza Moss for all questions related to travel reimbursement.  However, it is the opinion of the Department that you should not present at conferences too early in your career and that conference presentations should be focused on your dissertation research.  Conferences can be extremely time consuming (and expensive!) and the time and energy may be better spent furthering your dissertation research. 


The Department and the French Graduate Student Association organize a number of seminars to help students prepare for the job market.  We have workshops on applying for fellowships, writing a job letter, putting together a cv, constituting a dossier and preparing for the MLA interview.  Students should be aware that the process of applying for, interviewing for and landing a job takes the better part of a year, in the best of circumstances.

The Office of Academic Placement and Career Services is responsible for maintaining and sending out dossiers of candidates seeking jobs at other institutions. The dossier service is available online.  It is a good idea to set up your dossier as early as possible in the academic year.  Most colleges and universities begin as early as October or November to consider candidates for positions available for the following year. The MLA job list is available online.  The job list usually comes online early October for jobs beginning the following fall.  Please ask the Departmental Administrator or the Graduate Coordinator for the password. Job openings are also posted on the office bulletin boards.


All registered students in the department are members of the French Graduate Student Association. The FGSA devises its own by-laws and elects its own officers. The FGSA provides the channel through which students are able to express opinions, register complaints, and offer suggestions to the faculty. Students are urged to participate actively in its functions and to acquaint themselves with its officers. The FGSA provides a Buddy-System to help new students familiarize themselves with the Department, the University and New York City. With the participation of faculty, FGSA offers professionalism workshops, which address the MLA Job Search, the Art of Writing Abstracts, and Publishing. New suggestions are always welcome for these workshops. The FGSA organizes an annual Graduate Student Conference on French Literature. All students are invited to submit abstracts. The FGSA plans social functions such as the annual Holiday Party. The FGSA representatives can be reached by emailing:


Many resources are available to graduate students to help in research, teaching, and professional development skills. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Teaching Center offers orientations and workshops regularly on fellowship applications, grant proposals, and teaching portfolios.

Early in the fall semester, Butler library offers orientations on research at Columbia and navigating the numerous databases available to Columbia students.

The Departmental Administrator, Isabelle Chagnon is available for help in solving problems which may come up about University or Department regulations or a student's dealings with other campus offices.

Please consult with the Graduate Coordinator, Benita Dace for all questions related to graduate records, scheduling of exams and defenses, deadlines for applying for graduation, etc.

Financial Assistant, Meritza Moss can help you with reimbursements for travel to conferences, etc.


The Maison Française serves as a center for the extra-curricular activities of the French Department.  Its many activities include lectures by prominent scholars, informal talks, recitals of French music, screening of French films, exhibitions of French art. You will receive a schedule of activities from the Maison regularly.




Columbia University in the City of New York
© The Department of French and Romance Philology, Columbia University |
home | events | faculty | contacts and services | admissions | graduate | undergraduate
columbia university | maison française | romanic review

back to top