Apr 12, 2021  
Graduate Record 2007-2008 
Graduate Record 2007-2008 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

French Language and Literature

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Degree Requirements

Master of Arts

Whether an end in itself, or a preparation for the Ph.D, the M.A. is a broad and general degree, drawing upon the materials and methods of French (and closely allied) studies to extend and deepen the candidate’s humanistic background and competencies. The program’s prime goals thus include the following: broad knowledge and understanding of French culture from its origins to the present; effective teaching skills built through training and experience; tools of intellectual inquiry necessary for further study, including abstract thinking and research skills; mastery of the French language.

Course Requirements

Coursework (ten courses or thirty credits) and a comprehensive examination (with both written and oral components) are the essential elements of our M.A. degree. A minimum of twenty-four credits (usually eight courses) must be taken in the department. Nine courses must focus on pre-1800 topics; nine on post-1750 topics.  The Proseminar (FREN 700) is required.  All courses are selected in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and with the student’s faculty advisor. We also offer the opportunity to work with individual faculty directors on a research thesis at the M.A. level.

Comprehensive Examination

The M.A. exam consists of a two-part written and an oral, covering a broad chronological spectrum of French and Francophone Studies from the Middle Ages to the present. Students are responsible for familiarity with two reading lists: List A (Pre-1800) and List B (Post-1750). The exams are typically taken in the spring semester of the student’s second year. One of the three parts of the oral exam is conducted in English. No student passes whose French and English are not deemed by the examining committee to be sufficiently fluent and correct.

All parts of the examination must be passed; in case of failure, any part of the comprehensive examination may be retaken only once, normally at a make-up session held two weeks later.

Part One of the written examination (List A or List B) is a 2-hour textual commentary based on the close reading of a passage distributed to exam candidates 72 hours prior to the examination date. Part Two is a 4-hour written exam, based upon the same reading list elected for the textual commentary. Questions will be distributed on Monday afternoon. The examination is to be completed and returned by Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m.

The 75-minute oral examination, scheduled typically two weeks after the written exams, covers the list not examined in the written. It includes: (1) a twenty-minute oral presentation, based either on a course paper or on independent research; (2) followed by discussion of that paper and; (3) by general questions on the reading list elected for this examination.

Time Limit

The M.A. degree is normally completed in four semesters. The graduate studies committee must be petitioned for any extension. By GSAS regulations, the absolute time limit for completion of the degree is five years.

Review and Permission to Take Further Course Work

At the end of the first year, individual progress is reviewed and a second-year calendar prepared by the director of graduate studies in consultation with the candidate. The director submits to the faculty a report and evidence of insufficient progress, if the need arises.

Immediately after completion of the master’s comprehensive examination, each candidate who wishes to take further course work must petition the director for consideration by the faculty. Evidence to be considered includes grades, M.A. examination results, and faculty reports. Prior to admission to the Ph.D. program, appointment to a graduate teaching assistantship does not entail, nor should it be construed as implying, such admission. Continuance is conditional upon satisfactory progress toward completion of the doctoral program; permission to take further course work does not entail admission to candidacy for the degree of Ph.D., which follows upon successful completion of the Ph.D. preliminary examinations.

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. is a closely supervised research degree, emphasizing (1) extensive advanced work in at least two related fields; (2) a high degree of sophistication in appropriate aspects of theory and methods; and (3) proficiency in the expository, investigative and linguistic skills required in the chief modes of professional writing.


To begin doctoral work, the prospective candidate normally holds the University of Virginia M.A. degree in French and has permission to take further course work, as outlined above.

A student entering with an M.A. degree (or the equivalent) from another institution is considered for permission to take further course work after completing all requirements for the University of Virginia M.A. in French not satisfied by courses taken (or proficiency achieved) elsewhere. A student admitted without deficiency shall be considered for permission to take further course work after two semesters (eighteen hours) of doctoral courses completed in this department.

Advisory Board

Students with an M.A. from outside UVA will be appointed a faculty advisor for their first semester at UVA.

All students entering the Ph.D. program (with an M.A. from UVA or elsewhere) will declare their Advisory Board by the end of their first semester of doctoral coursework. At that time, they are required to complete an Advisory Board Declaration Form (available on the Departmental website) and to return it to Cabell 302, where it will be kept on file.

Students with an M.A. from outside UVA will first secure the agreement of a faculty member in the Department to serve as their Advisory Board Director.  All students are responsible for obtaining approval of their Advisory Board from their Advisory Board Director. The Advisory Board will consist of two or three members of the Graduate Faculty in French or officially affiliated faculty in other Departments. Faculty members who are not officially affiliated with the Department may serve on an Advisory Board with the consent of the Advisory Board Director. (Effective summer 2006)

Experience tells us that members of the advisory boards have played an important part in guiding and challenging students outside of the formal confines of the classroom. As mentors, they help students focus on their academic and intellectual goals from the start.

The Board confers with the student each term on such matters as long-range goals, choice of major and adjunct fields, selection and timing of courses, deadlines and strategies for the satisfaction of degree requirements, as well as the rate and quality of the student’s progress. In addition, the Board is responsible for administering the preliminary examination. After each meeting with the candidate, the Director of the Advisory Board reports to the Director of Graduate Studies. As the need arises, the advisory board may be changed by petition to the GSC from the student or any faculty member on the advisory board.

Upon the candidate’s successful completion of the preliminary examinations, the Advisory Board is replaced by the Departmental Dissertation Committee. A period of at least three months must elapse (1) between changes in the composition of the Advisory Board and the taking of the preliminary examinations, and (2) between any change in Dissertation Director and the defense of the dissertation.

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

(1) A minimum of eight courses beyond the M.A., including the Proseminar (up to three courses may be taken in other departments); course selection by consultation with the advisory board; (2) a preliminary examination (see below for details); (3) dissertation and final oral examination defense.

Language and professional development courses and a course in French civilization, Francophone literature, or both, are recommended.

By GSAS rule, total time in the Ph.D. program after the B.A. must be at least three sessions (academic years) and total credits of graduate study (excluding non-topical research, but including independent study) must be at least 54 (eighteen three-credit courses).

Ph.D. students are normally required to serve as graduate instructors and may therefore expect to take the practicum, FREN 704 (Theories and Methods of Language Teaching), which is required of all teaching assistants in the first semester of teaching. 

Language Requirement

To fulfill the general reading knowledge requirement of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the student pursuing the Ph.D. in French may not present that language, but should present another Romance language or German, or any other language approved by the advisory board. Two options are available:

  1. Two literature courses, not in translation, at the 300-level or above, selected with the consent of the advisory board and completed with a grade of B or better; or
  2. satisfactory performance on a written translation test, part of which is completed with, and part without, a dictionary.

Preliminary Examination

After the student has completed course work and language requirements, the advisory board determines readiness for the preliminary examination, successful completion of which admits the student to candidacy for the Ph.D. The examination consists of a six-hour written exam on the reading list of the major field, a three-hour written exam on that of the adjunct field, and a one-to-two hour oral exam. The oral consists of a thirty minute presentation of an aspect of the dissertation topic, a discussion of the presentation, questions arising from the written examination, and other issues related to the student’s work. Admission to the oral is contingent on the quality of the written. The written exams are to be completed on non-consecutive days, normally in the same week; the oral exam occurs the following week. The major field is composed in French; the adjunct field in English.

No student passes whose French or English is deemed by the advisory board to be inadequate. All parts of the examination must be passed. In case of unsatisfactory performance, only the part failed must be retaken. Only one reexamination is permitted on any part.


Upon completion of preliminary examinations, the Advisory Board is replaced by the departmental Dissertation Committee consisting of the prospective dissertation director and a colleague, both chosen by the candidate. Within three months after admission to candidacy, the student will present a prospectus of his or her dissertation to the Dissertation Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee for discussion, approval, and possible amendment by both bodies. As the dissertation progresses, the Dissertation Committee will be joined by a third reader from the Department and a dean’s representative for the final examination, an oral defense.

Course Descriptions

Note: To enroll in courses numbered 500 or above, all graduate or special students must have completed the equivalent of three years in the appropriate foreign language at the college level. All 500-level courses are taught on the graduate level; Prerequisite for undergraduates to enroll in 500-level courses is successful completion of two 400-level courses with a grade of B or higher and permission of the instructor. For courses numbered 800 or above, graduate status in the department or special permission is required.

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