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M.A. Guidelines

Degree offered: French, Doctor of Philosophy

REQUIREMENTS for the Ph.D. degree include a total of 52 credit hours of course work, taken in the Department of French and Italian and in other departments with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. French 6030 and French 7060 are required as part of the 36 credit hours that make up the M.A. component of the degree. A comprehensive examination, based on a departmental reading list, must be taken no later than before the beginning of classes in student’s fourth semester of study, and students who successfully pass the exam enter the Ph.D. stage.

Requirements for the Ph.D. include 52 credit hours of course work. Students are expected to begin to register for research credit no later than their fifth semester of study. Up to 20 credit hours may be taken as research credit. Students are required to take French 7010 and 6030 during their first year of study. In addition to French and English, doctoral candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of an additional language to be determined in consultation with the student’s dissertation advisor. Other regulations governing graduate work are available from the director of graduate studies.

The Jean and Alexander Heard Library’s rich collection of French materials makes research possible in all periods of French literature. The library’s special collections department also houses the W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies, the Pascal Pia collection (nineteenth and twentieth-century literary criticism), the Gilbert Sigaux collection (twentieth-century French literature), and the Wachs collection (eighteenth-century fiction and almanacs).In 2016 the W.T. Bandy Center acquired the Hervé Velez collection of Paul Verlaine materials, one of the finest collections of Verlaine works ever amassed.

The French department has formal ties to the  Aix-Marseille Université (AMU) through its Vanderbilt in France program, and the Sorbonne through MICEFA.


The online application for graduate study is free of charge.


There are four types of courses offered at the graduate level in French.

Foundation Courses are intended as graduate-level survey courses. These courses ensure that students have been exposed to a selection of major texts in each of the four categories below. Texts for these courses will be drawn primarily from the M.A. reading list.

  • Medieval and Early Modern (to 1800)
  • Post-Eighteenth Century
  • Theory, Methods and Applied Linguistics
  • Apprenticeship in Undergraduate Teaching (Optional / not before 2nd year)

Foundation courses in Medieval/Early Modern and Post 18th-Century may be organized synchronically around a specific century or presented diachronically with a clear thematic focus within the larger time period covered in the broad category. Foundation courses may focus on hexagonal France, Francophone areas, or both.

Courses in Theory, Methods and Second Language Acquisition typically include: French 7060 (Literary Theory), French 7010 (Research Methods), French 7050 (Applied Linguistics), French 8000 (Apprenticeship, Optional / not before 2nd year).

Special Topics Courses are specialized research seminars.

Elective Courses are taken outside of the department. All elective courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. For students who have completed the M.A., electives must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the dissertation director.


The Department of French & Italian does not admit students wishing only to complete a terminal M.A. degree. Students typically earn an M.A. en route to the Ph.D.

All students entering the program take the M.A exam. Students entering the program with a M.A. in French from another institution are required to pass the M.A. exam in order to continue to the Ph.D. qualifying exams.

Students entering without a M.A. typically do not teach in their first year. Students who matriculate with a M.A. in French from another institution will begin teaching in their first year.

Per Graduate School regulations, 8 credit hours (2 courses) of previous graduate work is transferable toward required graduate credit hours at Vanderbilt. Students wishing to transfer credit hours should provide the Director of Graduate Studies copies of the syllabus and all work completed in the course(s) for which they are requesting transfer credit. The DGS will review the materials and approve or deny the credit request.

Degree Requirements

  • 36 credit hours of course work (9 courses). With the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies, students may take up to two courses in departments other than French & Italian. In the student’s first year, a minimum of three courses each semester must be taken in the department.

Required Course Distribution for the M.A.

  • French 6030 (4 credit hours)
  • French 7060 (4 credit hours)
  • 2 Foundations: Medieval/Early Modern (8 credit hours) 2 Foundations: Post 18th-Century (8 credit hours)
  • 2 Special Topics or Interdisciplinary Course (8 credit hours)
  • 1  Additional course (Foundations, TMS, Special Topics, or Elective)

M.A. Milestones (Summary)

Year One, first semester: Diagnostic Language Exam

Year Two, second semester: M.A. exam (no later than one week before classes begin)

Year Two, second semester: M.A. awarded, graduate faculty review (if necessary), admission to Ph.D. program (if appropriate)

  • Diagnostic Language Examination A diagnostic language examination will be given to all incoming graduate students. This exam, coordinated by the language program director and the Director of Graduate Studies, includes a 30-minute “free-write” and a 15-minute oral interview. The results of this test will serve to plan the student’s program of study, which may include 200-level advanced language courses. These courses will be taken in addition to the regular graduate course load and, per graduate school rules, will be non- credit bearing.
  • Comprehensive Examination The M.A. examination is based on an approved reading list. It must be taken in no later than one week before classes start in the student’s third semester of study. The format will be an overnight, take-home, open-book examination to test the student’s ability to read and interpret specific textual passages and to teach literature through thinking about works in a global fashion. The exam will be written and administered by the Director of Graduate Studies. The Director of Graduate Studies will constitute the MA committee from among the members of the Graduate Faculty.The examination will be evaluated by the MA committee according to two separate criteria: (1) quality of argument, depth and appropriate use of background knowledge, and analytic skills; and (2) linguistic competence and eloquence.The MA committee can recommend one of the following three outcomes: High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail. In the event of a failing, the graduate faculty of the Department must review and approve the evaluation by the MA committee before notifying the student of the outcome of the examination. The student will be given the option to retake the failed exam.

Graduate Faculty Review

In the event of a Low Pass, by February 1 of the student’s fourth semester in the program, graduate faculty will make a comprehensive review of the individual’s academic work, based on the following evidence: course work, examination results, as well as an evaluation from the language program director in regard to teaching performance (where applicable). Students who show clear evidence of progress will receive the M.A. and be invited to continue toward the Ph.D.

If the student completes the M.A. requirements and passes the M.A. exam but is not admitted to the Ph.D. program, they will earn a terminal M.A. degree at the end of their fourth semester.

M.A. Reading list

Useful Forms for M.A. and Ph.D. Students

M.A. Milestones (Summary)