French and Italian

Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

East Pyne

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Department for program:

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The aim of the Department of French and Italian is to train students to become effective teachers and scholars of French language and literature. (The department does not offer a graduate program in Italian; it does, however, teach graduate-level courses in Italian literature for suitably qualified students in this and other departments.) Instruction and supervision are so arranged as to ensure that students acquire a broad understanding of the whole field of French studies as well as a specialized grasp of its sub-fields, and are well-prepared to develop independently as scholars.

The program combines courses (or seminars) with independent study and research, and is punctuated by periodic examinations. It is hoped that students will proceed to the defense of the dissertation at the end of the fifth year.



Application deadline
December 15, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - not accepted

Additional departmental requirements

Sample of written work, 25 page maximum, preferably in French.

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.


The first two years are primarily devoted to taking courses (normally, a total of 13, distributed as broadly as possible), satisfying language requirements, and preparing and taking the general examination. At the end of the second year, students are expected to specialize. Normally, by the end of their fifth term of study, students should have taken a total of 15 courses or seminars.  In their third year, students will continue to take a limited number of courses as they prepare their dissertation proposal.


Students are normally required to demonstrate a reading proficiency in one language additional to French and English before beginning the fall semester of the third year and before taking the second part of the General Examination. Following discussion with the Director of Graduate Studies, students should select a language relevant to their research interests (e.g., Latin for medievalists and students specializing in the Renaissance, or German for 19th-century studies, etc.). 

Additional pre-generals requirements

Oral Presentation
The oral presentation, required of all first-year students at the end of the first term, consists of a brief critical reading of a literary text in French, followed by questioning related to the text. Students are allowed a choice from three texts. The presentation is given in French. Answers are to be given in the language in which they are asked.

General exam

General Exam:

The purpose of the examination is to test students’ knowledge and capacity to conduct research across the six periods taught in the department: Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th-21st centuries, as well as “Francophonie.”

Generals I
Students will study a common list of about 50 literary works, selected from the periods taught in the department and reflecting a broad range of genres. The list will include a selection of key theoretical works. A written exam will test students’ familiarity with the material. It will take place at the end of the third semester, during the January Reading Period of the second year, over a period of five days, and will take the form of two essay questions.  These essays must not exceed 2,500 words each; one must be written in French, the other in English. The exam will be graded by the department’s Graduate Studies Committee.

Generals II
In consultation with the director of graduate studies (DGS) and with the assistance of faculty in the relevant fields, students will formulate an individual topic and develop an accompanying reading list that will form the basis of the examination. The topic is broadly conceived and could center on a specific author, period, genre, problem, or movement. The reading list, featuring approximately 70 items, should be divided into three components: (i) primary literary works; (ii) relevant scholarship providing context (historical, literary, or cultural); and (iii) theoretical apparatus (literary theory, critical theory, philosophy…).  A statement accompanying the list (1-2 pages) should describe the topic, justify the corpus selected, and articulate the importance of the contextual and theoretical frames for approaching the primary list. The written exam, usually taken at the beginning of the fifth semester (early in the fall of the third year), extends over a period of five days, during which the student will answer two questions (one in French, one in English, not to exceed 2,500 words each) bringing the context and theory to bear on the primary list. The oral examination will usually take place two days after the submission of the written part, and will consist of a discussion pertaining to the written exam that may be extended to the rest of the list. The exam will be graded by a committee composed of faculty members chosen by the student in consultation with the DGS.

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes the first-year oral presentation and Generals I and II and meets course work and language requirements.  It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.


As a matter of policy, the department requires its graduate students to gain experience in undergraduate teaching. Most students are appointed as part-time teaching assistants each year they are in residence, starting in the second year. In the spring of their first year, students are trained to teach the French language; in the fall of their second year, they teach one language course. In the third and fifth years, they normally teach one course per semester, although schedules vary depending on student or departmental needs and on fellowships that provide relief from teaching duties. Normally, students do not teach during their first year or in their fourth term, when they are preparing for the general examination. They also don’t teach in their fourth year. Opportunities to teach in literature courses sometimes arise. This teaching is guided and supervised by a faculty member who confers with the student and reports to the department chair on his or her classroom performance.

Dissertation and FPO

The third through fifth years are devoted to the conceptualization and writing of the dissertation. It is not uncommon for students to spend the fourth year conducting research abroad, for example in Paris where we have guaranteed studentships at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. The dissertation is in the chosen field. Students may, however, choose to bridge fields in selecting a dissertation topic.

Oral Examination on the Dissertation Proposal
Taken no later than February of the third year, the oral examination on the dissertation proposal consists of a 60-minute exercise comprising (1) a 20-minute presentation in French of the student’s dissertation proposal and (2) comprehensive questioning dealing with the implications of the proposal and the student’s general program of study. The questions focus on matters such as literary history and bibliography as well as on critical methods. In order to be admitted to this oral examination, students are required to submit, no later than one week prior to the exercise, a written text of the proposal outlining the issues they propose to explore, the methods of analysis they propose to adopt, and the bibliography of the topic. Students may not sustain the oral examination on the dissertation proposal until they have successfully passed the special field examination. The faculty will make suggestions concerning the proposal, and can approve it, recommend that it be revised and resubmitted, or, in accordance with University regulations, recommend that the candidate be awarded a terminal master’s degree.

In the event of failure to sustain the oral examination, students may present themselves on one further occasion, within a time period determined by the director of graduate studies. Departmental recommendation of graduate students for a fourth year of study is contingent on their having sustained the oral examination on the dissertation proposal.

Especially well-qualified students who have completed the language prerequisites may, upon successful application to the department’s Committee on Graduate Studies, be authorized to present themselves early for the general examination and the oral examination on the dissertation proposal.

Final Public Oral Examination
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.


  • Chair

    • Göran Magnus Blix
  • Associate Chair

    • Gaetana Marrone-Puglia
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • André Benhaïm
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Flora Champy
  • Professor

    • David M. Bellos
    • André Benhaïm
    • Göran Magnus Blix
    • Pietro Frassica
    • Simone Marchesi
    • Gaetana Marrone-Puglia
    • F. Nick Nesbitt
    • Efthymia Rentzou
    • Thomas A. Trezise
    • Christy N. Wampole
  • Associate Professor

    • Katie Chenoweth
    • Volker Schröder
  • Assistant Professor

    • Flora Champy
  • Associated Faculty

    • April Alliston, Comparative Literature
    • Bridget Alsdorf, Art and Archaeology
    • David A. Bell, History
    • M. Christine Boyer, Architecture
    • Jeff Dolven, English
    • Anthony T. Grafton, History
    • Wendy Heller, Music
    • Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature
    • Pedro Meira Monteiro, Spanish & Portuguese
    • Teresa Shawcross, History
  • Professor of the Practice

    • Florent Masse
  • University Lecturer

    • Christine M. Sagnier
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Anna Cellinese
    • Daniele De Feo
    • Murielle M. Perrier
    • Sara Teardo
  • Lecturer

    • Sandie P. Blaise
    • Vincent Chanethom
    • Elisa Dossena
    • Nicolas J. Estournel
    • Susan L. Kenney
    • Johnny Laforêt
    • Max Matukhin
    • Raphael J. Piguet
    • Carole Marithe Trévise
  • Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts

    • Andrea Capra
  • Visiting Lecturer

    • Giovanni Riotta

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

ART 561 - Painting and Literature in Nineteenth-Century France and England (also ENG 549/FRE 561)

Course explores the dynamic interplay between painting, poetry, and fiction in 19th-century France and England. The focus is twofold: painters and paintings as protagonists in novels and short stories, and paintings inspired by literature. Themes include problems of narrative, translation, and illustration; changing theories of the relative strengths of painting and literature as artistic media; realism and the importance of descriptive detail; the representation of the artist as a social (or anti-social) actor; the representation of women as artists and models; and the artist's studio as a literary trope.

COM 543 - Topics in Medieval Literature (also FRE 543)

Comparative studies in selected Latin and vernacular texts of the European Middle Ages, especially, but not exclusively, from the period 1250-1400. The seminar intends to provide an introduction to the methods of literary research in the medieval period.

COM 572 - Introduction to Critical Theory (also ENG 580/FRE 555/GER 572)

Through a comparative focus on the concepts of dialectics and difference, we read some of the formative theoretical, critical and philosophical works which continue to ground interdisciplinary critical theory today. Focal works by Lukacs, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida, de Man, Arendt, and Benjamin are included among the texts we read.

FRE 500 - Second Language Acquisition Research and Language Teaching Methodology

Practical and theoretical preparation for teachers of French. Sessions may be held in common with other language programs.

FRE 502 - Language and Style

History, theory, and practice of literary translation.

FRE 504 - Slavery and Capitalism (also AAS 503/LAS 504)

This class initiates a reading of Marx's classic critique of political economy, Capital, along with a selection of the principal philosophical readings of the mature Marx since the 1960s: Louis Althusser's Reading Capital, Michel Henry's Marx, and Moishe Postone's Time, Labor, and Social Domination. Emphasis is placed upon developing a categorial understanding of Marx's conceptual apparatus adequate to the contemporary context, in the wake of the collapse of actually-existing Socialism, industrialization, and the crisis of valorization in the Twenty-First century.

FRE 513 - Seminar in French Literature of the Renaissance

To suit the particular interests of the students and the instructor, a subject for intensive study is selected from topics such as the forms of narrative prose, poetics and logic, chamber theater and fête, Reformation and Counter-Reformation writings, travel literature, and the critical spirit.

FRE 516 - Seminar in 17th-Century French Literature

Usually a treatment of an aspect of the "other" or nonofficial culture of the 17th century; <I>pr&eacute;ciosit&eacute;</I>, parody, and burlesque; correspondence; personal memoirs; and others.

FRE 517 - Looking for the Beast: Animals in Literature, Film and Culture (also COM 512)

This course focuses on the way literature, film, but also cultural events and spaces (circus, zoo, museum) present animals as objects of admiration and subjects of performance. We consider the fascination that animals inspire in humans, which might lead to question the distinction between "us" and "them". What is at stake, what are the consequences, for us and for them, when animals are seen or shown as an elusive Other who still beckons a closer encounter? How does the poetic power of language, or the evocative nature of images, affect their agency and our empathy, and eventually our mutual relationship?

FRE 518 - The Literature of Enlightenment

The relation of aesthetic form, genre conventions, and ideology is examined through the work of one of the major 18th-century writers or through one or more of the paraliterary forms often preferred by 18th-century writers: the familiar letter, the anecdote, the scientific or critical essay, the commentary, historiography, or natural history.

FRE 521 - Romanticism

The ideological and formal problems raised by the break with classical ideals are studied in a variety of texts, documentary as well as literary. Topics include the conception of the literary work as a personal, original production; the struggle of the author for the creation of a style; and the writer's assumption of his relation to history.

FRE 522 - French Modernist Poetry

This course investigates Modernist poetics in France from mid-19th to mid-20th c. and seeks to re-evaluate Modernism in French literary history. Course treats the topic at a variety of interrelated levels by exploring French poetry as part of the broad historical phenomenon of Modernism, while examining the specific ways it materialized in France as formal innovation and as response to modernity. Poets such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Apollinaire, and Cendrars, are discussed as well as specific movements. Readings are organized around 1913 as the pivotal year for Modernism in France with a special focus on poetry in relation with other arts.

FRE 524 - 20th-Century French Narrative Prose (also HUM 524)

Development of the French novel and short story. Particular emphasis is given to Proust, Gide, Malraux, Sartre, Camus, Butor, and Robbe-Grillet. Topics such as the <I>roman fleuve,</I> the poetic novel, the anti-novel, and the <I>nouveau roman</I> are also considered.

FRE 526 - Seminar in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature

Treatment of either the works of an individual writer or a broad topic, such as the impact on literature of other forms of intellectual or artistic activity, including philosophy, the visual arts, history, and psychology.

FRE 527 - Seminar in French Civilization (also GSS 508)

The role of political, legal, and economic institutions in the development of French society of the 19th and 20th centuries. The course studies writers actively involved in the political life of the country.

FRE 532 - Charles Baudelaire (also COM 576)

This course discusses Charles Baudelaire's poetry, prose, art and literary criticism, autobiographical texts, and translations, and their pivotal role for perceptions of modernity. Baudelaire's oeuvre is approached through different perspectives, ranging from poetics, aesthetics, literary history, the political and social context of his time, sexuality and gender, popular culture, reception history, trauma studies, etc. We take into consideration influential readings of Baudelaire's work, while particular emphasis is given to Baudelaire's relevance for the 21st century and specifically in contemporary literature and art.

FRE 541 - Formal and Conceptual Experiments in the Age of Enlightenment

In this course, we explore the connection between the development of new literary forms and the burgeoning of original philosophical notions in the eighteenth century. As they questioned the political, social and ethical norms of their time, the philosophes also started a global rethinking of the literary rules they inherited from the "Grand siècle". Through a significant selection of non-classifiable works, we study how the bubbling laboratory of ideas changed the conception of literature, opening the path to multiple definitions that are still familiar to us today.

FRE 560 - Medieval Signs (also COM 557/PHI 504)

A seminar on medieval practices and theories of performative speech, from lies to oaths, promises, blessings, curses, deeds and sacraments. Readings are drawn from Old and Middle French poetry as well as earlier and later medieval grammar, logic and theology, where doctrines of "efficacious" signification and the force of words play major roles. To bring into focus the medieval treatments of speech acts, we also consider selected twentieth-century philosophical, linguistic and sociological accounts of performative speech (particularly by Austin, Benveniste and Goffman).

FRE 583 - Seminar in Romance Linguistics and/or Literary Theory (also COM 583)

An examination of either the intersection of linguistic and literary analysis as illustrated by the Romance languages or the theoretical foundations of literary study.

FRE 587 - Topics in French and Francophone Critical Theory

Course provides an introduction to key topics and thinkers in the modern and contemporary field of French and Francophone Critical Theory. Topics may include Deconstruction, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Postcolonialism, Phenomenology, or French Marxist theory. Thinkers include figures such as Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Kristeva, Glissant, Levinas, Althusser, Badiou, Ranciere, Fanon, and Balibar.

FRE 599 - Graduate Proseminar in French Studies

The goal of this seminar is to provide first-year graduate students with a formal introduction to the Department's curriculum and requirements, through practical training in the various methods of research and scholarly activities and productions. It also familiarizes students with fundamental theoretical texts and approaches to a variety of critical fields pertaining to French studies. Finally, it offers concrete outlooks on their professional future by showcasing ways of optimizing their career prospects in the realm of academia, but also in other domains.

ITA 554 - Literature of the Italian Renaissance

Currents of Italian thought and literary expression from 1321 to 1600.