University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The French Department’s doctoral program reflects the interdisciplinary priorities that have long defined the pursuit of knowledge here at Berkeley. We are thus committed not only to providing students strong coverage of the field of French and Francophone literature and culture, but also to doing so through the critical application of innovative methodologies, and by continually bringing French studies into productive dialogue with developments in parallel disciplines. Our faculty’s interests are both historically and methodologically diverse; their strengths are complemented by a variety of programs, centers, working groups, and so on that regularly bring scholars of the humanities together across campus. And the atmosphere, relaxed and non-hierarchical, lends itself to free and passionate inquiry. We invite you to explore our offerings.

The PhD program in French has been formulated to allow students maximum flexibility to pursue their scholarly interests while guaranteeing the acquisition of broad competence in the discipline of French and Francophone literature and culture. Students are both expected to acquire expertise in the works of all periods and given the freedom to develop interdisciplinary and specialized perspectives.

Students may consider the option of pursuing a designated emphasis (DE). Popular DEs for students in French include Critical Theory; Film Studies; Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Renaissance and Early Modern Studies; European Studies; and New Media. Students pursuing a Designated Emphasis take certain prescribed courses within these disciplines, and write a dissertation that partially encompasses the chosen field of study. In addition to providing students an institutional mechanism for incorporating this sort of work into the PhD program, the designated emphasis assures prospective employers that you have demonstrated expertise in these fields, and it will appear on your final degree. The Program in Medieval Studies also offers a joint degree in French and Medieval Studies.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

Criteria for the selection of applicants for graduate study in French include the following: Academic background (including grades) and interests, professional promise, evidence of intellectual initiative and commitment, potential for a successful teaching career at the university or college level, and language proficiency in French. The assessment of the applicant’s potential is based primarily on the statement of purpose (which should focus on the candidate’s intellectual interests), past record, recommendations, and a writing sample(s). The writing sample(s) should show the applicant’s thought process and style of argument.

Two samples of writing are required:

  1. 5-8 pages, typed and double-spaced, meant to provide an example of your best French, and
  2. 7-10 pages, typed and double-spaced, in French or English, meant to provide an example of your best thinking.

If both samples are the same piece of work (in French, 7-10 pages), there is no need to submit two samples.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative time to advance to doctoral candidacy is eight semesters unless a student enters the graduate program with a master’s, in which case normative time to advance to doctoral candidacy is six semesters.
Normative time in candidacy is four semesters.
Total normative time is twelve semesters.

Time to Advancement

During the first four semesters (MA phase) of the graduate program, students complete a minimum of eight courses—for a letter grade—at Berkeley, of which six must be undertaken at the graduate level (above 200). In addition, one of the eight courses must be from the series FRENCH 270AFRENCH 270B or FRENCH 274 (FRENCH 298 does not count toward the course total). These eight courses all count for the 12-course requirement for the PhD. Students are also required to participate in FRENCH 200 during their first semester.

In order to complete the MA phase, and for the MA degree to be conferred, students must complete the coursework outlined above with at least a 3.5 GPA, and also successfully complete a written MA exam by the end of the fourth semester of graduate study. (The MA is not offered on the Graduate Division's thesis plan).

Invitations to proceed to the PhD phase of the program in French are granted by the graduate committee at the end of the semester in which the student completes all the requirements of the MA phase. The graduate committee reviews the student's entire graduate record. Also considered is the written advice of the MA committee, which is based upon the timely passing of the MA exam and on the student's performance on the examination.

PhD candidates will be expected to complete at least 12 courses apart from the FRENCH 200—for a letter grade—at Berkeley prior to advancement to candidacy for the PhD. (Advancement to candidacy occurs with the constitution of a dissertation committee following the passing of the PhD qualifying examinations.) At least 10 of the 12 courses are to be taken at the graduate level (above 200), with the student taking at least six graduate courses in the first four semesters of the program (see above).

Seven of the required 12 courses will be devoted to fulfilling a requirement of historical comprehensiveness. Comprehensive knowledge of French literature will be demonstrated by taking one course at the graduate level (above 200) from the Middle Ages; three courses at the graduate level from among the following four options: 16th-century, 17th-century, 18th-century, early modern studies; and three courses at the graduate level from among the following four options: 19th-century, 20th-century, Francophone studies, modern studies. A course satisfies the historical comprehensiveness requirement if it dwells centrally on various works of literature falling substantially within the given period. Courses centering on one author’s works count for this requirement.

MA students must take FRENCH 270A, FRENCH 270Bor FRENCH 274 as part of the MA degree requirements (see above). FRENCH 201 is also a degree requirement and may be completed at any time before the qualifying exams.

Upper division or graduate courses in another language may count in satisfaction of the 12‑course requirement, whether or not they are also used to fulfill part of the foreign language requirement. Courses numbered in the 300 or the 600 series will not count toward the total.

The foreign language requirement should be completed by the end of the third year in the PhD program (second year, in the case of students entering with an MA) and the Graduate Division requires that it be completed before the student may attempt the PhD qualifying exams. Students may fulfill the foreign language requirement through either Option I or Option II, as specified by the Graduate Division.

Students are also required to take courses in pedagogy as part of their training as teachers of French.

During the first year of study at the PhD level (or, for students who enter with an MA, during their second year in the program), students submit the PhD program proposal. In the proposal, the student specifies choices for the three fields of study for the PhD qualifying examinations (author, period, genre/theme/topic) (see following section for details). The program proposal:

  1. Names the author the student has chosen;
  2. Provides a list of 35 titles to be read in the period specified; and
  3. Includes a brief description of the genre, theme, or carefully-delineated topic extending over a period of three centuries, and provides a reading list of 35 works by different authors representing the stages of its historical development and up to five secondary texts relevant to the subject.

Students who enter the program with a master's degree from another institution should take their PhD qualifying exams before or during their fifth semester in the program (seventh semester for those completing the master's degree in the Berkeley French Department).

Time in Candidacy

After completing the qualifying examination the student chooses a dissertation topic and forms the dissertation committee consisting of a director and two other committee members. At this point, the student completes the advancement to candidacy form; normally, by the end of the semester in which the qualifying exam is taken. Following advancement to candidacy, the dissertation should be completed within four semesters.

The dissertation prospectus consists of an 8-10 page essay, accompanied by a bibliography of approximately five pages. It is developed in consultation with the dissertation director, and must be approved by the director prior to submission to the dissertation committee.

Once the dissertation prospectus has been approved by the director, a one-hour prospectus conference is scheduled with all the members of the dissertation committee, to take place no later than the last week of classes during the semester following the QE.

The French Department follows the Graduate Division's Plan B for granting of the doctoral degree. The dissertation is considered accepted when the members of the candidate's dissertation committee approve it in its final form.

Required Professional Development

We encourage students to present their work at a few professional conferences during their graduate career and to submit written work for publication. We recommend one or two submissions over a student’s time in the graduate program. In the majority of cases, the work submitted will be from the dissertation, although sometimes faculty members may suggest rewriting a seminar paper for publication. Students should be proactive about consulting with faculty members about publication but should remember that neither publication nor attendance at conferences should be allowed to slow progress on the dissertation. The primary concern is progress on the dissertation. (Note that the department’s proseminar each fall includes a session on “Publishing and Conferences for Graduate Students: being realistic & writing successful proposals," and another on "Professionalization: how to do it."  All graduate students are welcome to attend these sessions as many times as they wish.)

The department organizes works-in-progress meetings throughout the year, hosted by the head graduate adviser. Graduate students in the dissertation phase will be asked to present their work at one, and perhaps even two of these events during the writing of their dissertation.

GSIs are normally assigned by the director of the French Language Program to teach language courses. The French Department also offers a limited number of reading and composition courses in English (FRENCH R1A and FRENCH R1B).

Professional Development Activities

The French Department offers a variety of professional development activities to its graduate students. In addition to the proseminar, which addresses such topics as publishing, conferences, and balancing research and teaching, and the works-in-progress series (see above), the department provides extensive guidance to students as they enter the job market.



Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Deborah Anne Blocker, Professor. Early modern French literature and history.
Research Profile

+ Karl A. Britto, Associate Professor. Africa, cultural studies, the Caribbean, literature, francophone literature, colonial and postcolonial literature, Vietnam, gender and identity.
Research Profile

Eglantine L. Colon, Assistant Professor. French.

+ Timothy Hampton, Professor. Culture, politics, English, comparative literature, French, renaissance and early modern European culture, the romance languages, the ideology of literary genre, the literary construction of nationhood, the rhetoric of historiography.
Research Profile

Richard G. Kern, Professor. Literacy, second language acquisition, writing, psycholinguistics, reading, French language, French linguistics, technology and education.
Research Profile

Michael Lucey, Professor. Pragmatics, the novel, sexuality studies, comparative literature, French, French literature, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, British literature and culture, social and literary theory, cultural studies of music, studies of language in use, theories of practice, twentieth-century American literature .
Research Profile

Susan Maslan, Associate Professor. French, early modern French literary, political history, the enlightenment, human rights.
Research Profile

Mairi Mclaughlin, Associate Professor. French linguistics, Italian linguistics, romance linguistics, translation studies, history of French, History of Italian, History of the Romance Languages, language contact, History of the Press, Speech Reporting.
Research Profile

Nicholas Paige, Professor. Cinema (French New Wave), 17th- and 18th-century French literature and culture, history and theory of the novel, quantitative literary history and digital humanities, aesthetics and image theory, subjectivity and autobiography.
Research Profile

+ Debarati Sanyal, Professor. Violence, poetry, the relationship between literary form, politics in 19th-century France, the connection between performance, performativity, ethics in modernist texts.
Research Profile

Soraya Tlatli, Associate Professor. Francophone literature, colonial and postcolonial studies, literature and psychoanalysis, twentieth-century continental philosophy.
Research Profile

Damon R. Young, Associate Professor. Film theory, digital media, global art cinema, gender and sexuality studies, critical theory.


Daniel Hoffmann, Lecturer.

Kathryn Levine, Lecturer.

Vesna Rodic, Lecturer.

Ariel Shannon, Lecturer.

Rachel Shuh, Lecturer.

Maya Sidhu, Lecturer.

Margot Szarke, Lecturer.

Claire Tourmen, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Esther Alder, Professor Emeritus.

Leo Bersani, Professor Emeritus.

Ulysse Dutoit, Professor Emeritus.

Suzanne Guerlac, Professor Emerita. Nationalism, literature, philosophy, 19th- and 20th-century literature, myths of literature and theory, contemporary cultural criticism.
Research Profile

Basil Guy, Professor Emeritus.

David Hult, Professor Emeritus. Literary theory, medieval French literature, allegory, hermeneutics, text editing, French Studies.
Research Profile

Leonard W. Johnson, Professor Emeritus.

Thomas M. Kavanagh, Professor Emeritus.

Ann Smock, Professor Emeritus. Poetry, French, France during World War II, the Algerian War, 20th-century writing by women, relations between literature and music, Jacques Roubaud, Danielle Collobert.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of French

4125 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-2712

Fax: 510-642-8852

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Nicholas Paige

4123 Dwinelle Hall

Academic Manager

Lydia Yoon

4125 Dwinelle Hall

Head Graduate Advisor

Debarati Sanyal

4211 Dwinelle Hall

Graduate Student Services Advisor

Mary Ajideh

4207 Dwinelle Hall

Faculty Undergraduate Advisor

Susan Maslan

4219 Dwinelle Hall

Undergraduate Student Services Advisor

Tony Soyka

4118 Dwinelle Hall

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