Graduate Programs in French


Our M.A. and Ph.D. programs offer training for teaching and research in all areas of French and Francophone literature and literary history, in critical theory, film, gender and queer studies, romance philology, and foreign language pedagogy.  Our large and varied faculty teach graduate courses in all areas and at regular intervals.  Consequently, students for the M.A. degree can fulfill course requirements in any given two-year period, and candidates for the Ph.D. can complete course requirements for the Ph.D. within two years of obtaining their M.A.  For a detailed M.A. reading list, please refer to the French MA Reading List.  Our program is designed to allow well-qualified students to complete the M.A. in three semesters, and all other requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation in four more semesters.  For detailed information regarding our M.A./Ph.D. program in French, please refer to the Guidelines for the French M.A./Ph.D.

Fellowships are available for high-ranking incoming students and dissertators. The department has a number of teaching assistantships which are granted on the basis of a candidate’s previous academic record, knowledge of French, and seriousness of purpose in pursuing the Ph.D. For those students who have no teaching experience, a carefully supervised in-service training program is provided, which is particularly valuable for future career placement. Normally, a graduate student will be able to take advantage of study fellowships in Paris, in Geneva, and in Aix-en-Provence, and we are exploring further possibilities for funded graduate study in France.  The department has a residential French House adjacent to Madison’s picturesque Lake Mendota. The House supports a wide variety of scholarly and cultural activities, including lectures by international scholars and writers, colloquia by faculty and graduate students, and regularly scheduled festivities. A graduate symposium held each spring allows students to gain experience in giving scholarly lectures.

Our graduate program offers training for teaching and research in all areas of French and Francophone literature and literary history, in critical theory, film, gender and queer studies, romance philology, and foreign language pedagogy.  Our large and varied faculty teach graduate courses in all areas and at regular intervals.  Consequently, students for the M.A. degree can fulfill course requirements in any given two-year period, and candidates for the Ph.D. can complete course requirements for the Ph.D. within two years of obtaining their M.A. Our program is designed to allow well-qualified students to complete the M.A. in three semesters, and all other requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation in four more semesters.  Applicants for the MA or PhD in French must submit all application materials by the application deadline of December 20.

Graduate School Electronic Application
Please refer to the following links:

  • Consult the Graduate School website for complete information about graduate education opportunities at UW-Madison. This site is especially helpful in understanding Admissions Requirements developing a Timeline for application.
  • You will need to list 3 people who will write letters of recommendation for you. They should be in faculty or permanent academic staff positions. Since the Graduate School will contact your recommenders directly via e-mail once you have completed your online application, you should be sure to contact each recommender at least a month prior to when the letter of recommendation is needed to let them know that they will be contacted directly by the Graduate School
  • Submit the on-line Graduate School Application for Admission and pay the application fee.
  • GRE (optional) institution code 1846 for UW-Madison
  • Non-native English speakers must also submit results for the TOEFL or MELAB exams. Please note that the Graduate School requires that these scores be no older than 2 years old. This is calculated from the start of the term for which you are applying, NOT the date on which we receive your application.
  • TA/Fellowship Application: To be considered for Teaching Assistantship or Fellowship support, you must submit to the department a document listing all relevant experience since you began studying French. There is no specific application form – it is a document, much like a CV, that you put together yourself. Include travel, study, or residence abroad. For teaching experience, be specific about subject, level, actual classroom hours/week, and age of students. Also indicate undergraduate and graduate honors, and how you would support yourself if UW was not able to offer support.
  • Writing Sample (essay or paper in French – usually between 7-12 pages in length)
  • List of French Literature and/or Civilization courses taken and Grades received

Materials to be sent to the Department:

  • If your referees are sending hard copies of your letters of recommendation to the department and are not electing to submit the letters electronically, you must print, fill out, and send a recommendation form to your recommender, who needs to include it with their letter.

Application materials should be sent to:

Graduate Program Coordinator
Department of French and Italian
608 Van Hise Hall
1220 Linden Drive
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706

 Questions? Please contact Graduate Coordinator Shawn Ramer.


Course requirements (to be completed prior to taking the special topic prelim)

  1. Distribution Requirement: Students must complete the seven-area (Medieval, five-century, and Francophonie) distribution requirement started in the M.A., that is, they must complete a course or seminar in each of the remaining areas.
  2. Breadth Requirement: Students must take a second course or seminar in two of the five areas outside those of their preliminary examinations.
  3. Seminar Requirement: Students must take at least three seminars in the French section.
  4. Medieval Specialists: Students intending to write a dissertation on the medieval period must take additional courses in philology and paleography, as indicated by their advisor.
  5. Foreign-Language Reading Requirement:
  • 17th- through 20th-Centuries and Francophonie: Students must demonstrate reading proficiency in a language other than French or English. The language will be selected in consultation with the graduate advisor and a faculty member in the intended area of specialization. The foreign language reading requirement should be completed before the preliminary examinations unless advisor approval has been given. In all cases, the foreign language reading requirement must be completed before dissertator status can be granted.
Acceptable UW-Madison courses:
  • A three-credit 300-level course or above conducted completely in the target language. Students must receive at least a B.
  • Reading Knowledge Courses: “A” in Italian 301, “A” in Spanish 301,“A” in German 391 (see note) *, “A” in Latin 391 (see note)*

*If a student takes German 391 or Latin 391 and does not receive an A, then they must take German 392 or Latin 392 and receive at least a B.

Courses Taken Elsewhere:
  • Upon submission of proper documentation, credit may be granted by the Graduate Studies Committee for a 300-level course taken elsewhere.
Other Ways of Fulfilling the Requirement:
  • Students can be granted credit for passing outreach exams in Spanish or German with a score of “advanced.”
  • For less commonly taught languages, students can take an individual examination administered by a faculty member, with the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee. In these cases, the examining professor should be asked to fill out a Language Reading Competence Evaluation form, available from the Graduate Coordinator in 612 Van Hise.
  • Medieval and 16 th-Century Specialists: Students writing a dissertation on the medieval period or the sixteenth century must demonstrate reading proficiency in two languages other than English and French, reaching maximum proficiency in one language and mininum proficiency in the other. The languages for medieval specialists are Latin and German; for 16 th-Century specialists they are Italian and Latin, with Italian usually being taken for maximum proficiency. Students should complete at least the maximum-proficiency language before taking prelims, unless advisor approval has been given. In all cases, both languages must be completed before dissertator status can be granted.
Acceptable UW-Madison courses:
  • Maximum Proficiency
  • A three-credit 300-level course or above conducted completely in the target language. Students must receive at least a B.
  • Reading Knowledge Courses:“AB” in Italian 301, “B” in German 392, “B” in Latin 392.
  • Minimum Proficiency:
  • A three-credit 300-level course or above conducted completely in the target language. Students must receive at least a B.
  • Reading Knowledge Courses:“B” in Italian 301, “B” in German 391, “B” in Latin 391.
Other Ways of Fulfilling the Requirement:
  • As with the other areas of specialization, credit toward these requirements may be granted through outreach exams (in German, for example), individual exams for less-commonly-taught languages, or, with the approval of Graduate Studies, for courses taken elsewhere, upon submission of proper documentation.

A complete statement of the general requirements for the Ph.D. degree can be found here under the headings listed above. Please take particular note of references to credit requirements and to Minor Options.

If you have questions regarding the Ph.D. in French that are not addressed here on the website, please e-mail the French Admissions & Fellowships Committee Co-Chair.

The Department of French & Italian is committed to providing full funding to all graduate students. Students who accept our offer of admission therefore receive fellowships or assistantships that cover tuition and provide eligibility to enroll in excellent comprehensive health insurance and other benefits. Funding for Fall 2019 and beyond is projected to be guaranteed for a minimum of 5 years of study for students entering with a B.A., and a minimum of 4 years for those entering with an M.A. Moreover, it has been our departmental practice to continue to offer funding beyond guarantee as possible for students in good academic standing.

Teaching assistantships, the most common form of support in our department, offer the pedagogical experience and training necessary to be competitive on the academic job market. On average, students with teaching assistantships in our department earned $18,867 during academic year 2017-2018 (including summer pay). The teaching assignment is usually one course per semester, but double sections (two sections of the same course) can also be requested for an increased stipend, when available. While the guarantee of support means students in good standing will receive funding, the exact assignments are based on need, merit, and experience. Generally, a graduate student will, over the course of study, hold a variety of the following positions, which are available every semester:


Teaching Assignments Stipend per semester (F 2018 / S 2019)
French 101 or 102 $6,606
French 201, 203 or 204 $6,881
Head TA $9,083
Lit Trans 360 $7,707
Lit Trans 360 Head TA $9,175
Double section French 101, 102 $11,927
Double section French 203, 204 $12,233
Non-teaching Assignments Stipend per semester (F 2018 / S 2019)
Technology TA $9,175
Assessment TA $9,175
Summer Teaching Assignments Stipend for Summer 2019
French 101 or 102 (4-week session) $2,936
French 203 or 204 (4-week session) $3,058
Lit Trans 360 (8-week session) $3,058


Students may also have the opportunity to teach more advanced courses, such as French 227, French 228 and French 271, depending on departmental need. Note that all stipend amounts described here are as of Fall 2018 and that they typically increase each year. It should also be noted that international students are not eligible to teach double sections at this time due to visa restrictions; they are, however, eligible for all other teaching assignments listed above.

There are also fellowships available from several sources on campus each year, including the Chancellor’s fellowship, which starts at around $10,000 per semester. Advanced Opportunity Fellowships are also available to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population, as well as support economically disadvantaged and first generation college students. The department also offers a number of monetary awards every year, for academic performance and for teaching. Graduate students can also take advantage of our excellent exchange programs during the course of their study.


Teaching is not required for the M.A., but students in the Department must complete 4 credits of teaching methodology, including French 820, Teaching College French (3 credits), and French 821, Issues in Methods of Teaching French (1 credit; French 821 may be taken any time before dissertator status is granted). TAs may take French 820 prior to teaching in the Department or concurrently with their first semester of teaching.

To be exempted from French 820, a TA must have had one of the following preparations (to request an exemption, see the instructor of French 820, who will forward your request to the Chair of Graduate Studies)

  • A 3-credit methods course that covers the essential content of French 820, plus at least 2 semesters of college-level teaching experience in the United States.
  • At least 3 years of full-time teaching experience at the high-school level, plus courses in pedagogy.
  • Experience teaching abroad that meets one of the above criteria, plus familiarity with American students, institutions, and practices of foreign language teaching.

Students who are not TAs in the Department are encouraged to take French 820 and 821, but they may request that that requirement be waived if they have no intention of teaching.


The Department of French and Italian occasionally hires dissertators for lectureships when there is a need. It is the policy of the Department to limit the hiring of short-term lecturers to a maximum period of three years. Employment as a lecturer in either semester of an academic year counts as one of these three years. -Graduate Studies Committee, 03/14/2007

The Department of French and Italian offers several student exchange and study abroad opportunities for our students.  These programs offer opportunities for students to live, teach and research in French-speaking cities and higher learning institutions.

The Aix-Marseille exchange program is a year-long exchange program, offered yearly, that provides an opportunity for students to research and teach for a year at Aix-Marseille University.

The Geneva exchange is a year-long exchange program, offered yearly, that provides an opportunity for students who have achieved dissertator status to research their topic while living and studying in Geneva, Switzerland at the University of Geneva.

The Bryn Mawr Summer Study program, also known as the Institut d’Avignon, offered yearly as funding allows, is a six-week intensive program in French Literature, History, and Theater studies, founded in 1962 by Michel Guggenheim and René Girard under the auspices of Bryn Mawr College in Avignon.

Please refer to the Departmental Policy Document for Graduate Student International Exchanges for more information on each program.

The department also provided a budget document to assist participants in planning for their participation in the Aix-Marseille exchange program.

Contact the Department of French and Italian Graduate Coordinator, Shawn Ramer for more information.

The Ph.D. minor requirement is a Graduate School rule that requires students to do substantial work outside their field of specialization. The minor is fulfilled by a minimum of 9 credits. The minor must be completed before dissertator status is granted. The two types of minors are:

Option A

 1.    Name of Doctoral Minor: Ph.D. with a Minor in French

2.    Overview

Our graduate program offers training for teaching and research in all areas of French and Francophone literature and literary history, in critical theory, film, gender and queer studies, romance philology, and foreign language pedagogy.

Learning outcomes:

  • Analyze and interpret several theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry in this discipline
  • Demonstrate adequate proficiency in French to lead a well-informed discussion of literature and culture
  • Communicate clearly and appropriately in both written and spoken French

3.    Requirements 

A student must take a minimum of 9 credits in advanced (300-level and above) French literature, culture, language, and film, taught in French, including at least 3 credits at the 500 level or above.  Neither French 391 (“French for Reading Knowledge”) nor French 365 (“Topics in French/Francophone Literature and Culture [in translation])” nor any other course taught in English may be counted toward the Ph.D. Minor in French.

Transfer of Credits

Students may be given credit for graduate or advanced undergraduate (300 level or above) courses in French literature taken at other universities, to be determined by the French Instructional Committee. No more than 3 such credits may be transferred.

4.    Admissions 

To be accepted for graduate work in French toward the Minor, a student should have had the equivalent of not less than 4 semesters of college French, and be capable of taking courses at the 300 level.

Interested students should consult with the graduate coordinator and have the minor plan approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Ph.D. with a Minor in French Declaration form: French Minor Option A Form

Option B, or the “Distributed Minor”

In this option, students take 9 or more credits in one or more departments, which may or may not include the major department. Students obtain the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee to complete an Option B minor by writing a description of the courses they wish to include in their minor, a rationale that groups them under a common theme, and reasons why the proposed minor is different from their field of specialization.

Fall 2019

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French 467 / 567

Credits: 3 Contact: Professor Joshua Armstrong

Lucidity and Madness in Modern and Contemporary French Literature

This course, taught in French, is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. In it, we will examine the fine line between lucidity and madness that is often drawn when authors (and also artists and filmmakers) push the limits of expression in their search for artistic truth. Readings will include classics of the 20th century, such as the Surrealist novel Nadja by André Breton in which strange coincidences seem to reveal a hidden logic to reality, and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Le voyeur, in which we plumb the psychological depths of a paranoid protagonist. We well also read more recent highly-acclaimed works such as Marie Darrieussecq’s dystopian novel Truismes, in which a woman finds herself inexplicably transforming into a pig, Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce, in which the perfect nanny turns out to be anything but, and Yannick Haenel’s Tiens ferme ta couronne, the humorous tale of down-on-his-luck author who contemplates the madness of our modern-day society. I am inviting Yannick Haenel to campus in the fall, so students in this course should have a chance to meet the author and discuss the novel with him. We will also draw upon Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, and other thinkers as we interrogate dichotomies such as true/false, coherent/incoherent, sane/insane.

French 640: La Littérature Du XVIIe Siècle

Credits: 3 Contact: Richard Goodkin

The goal of this course is to familiarize the students with a series of texts indispensable for a good knowledge of the classical period in France, which more or less corresponds to the second half of the seventeenth century. I will generally make a short presentation of each text before we begin to study it together, but the main component of the course will be comprised of group discussion of the texts. I plan to do a lot of close reading—obviously, we will not have the time to examine every line of each text, but we will certainly do detailed analysis of key passages. Our discussion will also touch upon other passages referred to in support of my own and the students’ interpretations of the works.

The written and oral work of the class will be a 90-minute exam that will provide practice for the French MA exam ; a six-page paper ; a choice between a final exam and a final paper ; and one or two oral presentations (depending on the size of the class). We will spend more than half of the semester studying plays by Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine, and Molière (three plays each); we will read Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves, considered by many to be the first modern European novel ; other writers covered will be chosen among La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère, Pascal, and La Fontaine. The reading list for the course will largely overlap the French M.A. exam reading list for the seventeenth-century.

The class will be conducted in French. Students from outside the Department are most welcome to attend as long as they are able to follow lectures and discussions in French and do the reading in French ; in most cases they may do their written work and oral presentations in English.

French 820: College Teaching of French and Italian

Credits: 3 Contact: Heather Willis Allen

Intended for instructors of elementary- and intermediate-level collegiate foreign language courses, the goal of FRE 820 is to help participants understand key concepts of communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching and related techniques for classroom instruction. Course objectives include:

  1. Understanding of key theoretical concepts of communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching
  2. Understanding of classroom techniques for communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching
  3. Ability to apply key concepts related to communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching to designing instructional materials, lesson plans, and assessment tools
  4. Increasing engagement in pedagogical discourse on collegiate foreign language teaching and learning

French 901: Seminar-Materials and Methods of Research

Credits: 3 Contact: Richard Goodkin

Dissertators only

French 901 will be organized in a way as to facilitate writing of the dissertation, and will not have an independent thematic content of its own. At the beginning of the semester, the dissertator will present one chapter of the dissertation to the seminar, and toward the end of the semester, another chapter will be presented.  The seminar members will offer critiques and suggestions to each other, and the seminar leader will introduce research techniques tailored to the participants’ dissertation projects.  In preparing guidance for the individual dissertator, the seminar leader will be in close touch with the dissertation advisor.  Students off-campus may register and participate via real-time video conferencing.  The seminar will be graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis only.

French 951: Seminar: Questions de Littérature

Credits: 3 Contact: Jennifer Gipson

Et sur l’Académie, aïeule et douairière,
Cachant sous ses jupons les tropes effarés,
Et sur les bataillons d’alexandrins carrés,

Je fis souffler un vent révolutionnaire.
Je mis un bonnet rouge au vieux dictionnaire. (Hugo, “Réponse à un acte d’accusation”)

Sans prendre garde à l’ouragan
Qui fouettait mes vitres fermées,
Moi, j’ai fait Émaux et Camées.  (Gautier, Emaux et Camées)

Quel est celui de nous qui n’a pas, dans ses jours d’ambition, rêvé le miracle d’une prose poétique, musicale sans rythme et sans rime, assez souple et assez heurtée pour s’adapter aux mouvements lyriques de l’âme, aux ondulations de la rêverie, aux soubresauts de la conscience ? C’est surtout de la fréquentation des villes énormes, c’est du croisement de leurs innombrables rapports que naît cet idéal obsédant.  (Baudelaire, “A Arsène Houssaye”)

Nineteenth-Century France is born of the French Revolution and plays hosts to a series of revolutions, both political, social, technological, industrial—and political.  In this class, we will study shifts in poetic production in nineteenth-century France and shifts in the notion of poetry itself, in the face of formal challenges of legal proceedings or critical censure as well as social and cultural forces of new readers and writers from an increasingly literate working class. We will explore movements to preserve poésies populaires or traditional folkloric materials, and technological forces like the mass production of daily newspapers that would shape urban space, for example Baudelaire’s prose poems, which first appeared in the daily press.  From Victor Hugo, who claimed the Revolution for poetry and embodied the notion of the socially engaged poetic, to Théophile Gautier, who famously claimed to ignore the Revolution of 1848 outside of his windows, and the Parnassian notion of art for art’s sake, how do we evaluate writers’ claims to or rejections of their own (revolutionary) historical contexts as means of communicating their own poetic revolutions?  Throughout we will be attentive to both la forme (form and structure) and le fond (content), how the interaction of these creates meaning, and how deviation from neo-classical models, including strict rules of versification, can be read as somewhat of a revolutionary act itself.

While we will strive to situate texts in their cultural and historical contexts and attain an overview of this time period, this seminar, above all, focuses on close reading and the articulation of careful detailed analysis.  A condensed form like poetry lends itself to close reading, which will help students to hone a practical transferable skills, essential to future course work, teaching, professional preparation, exam preparation, and scholarly writing.  In view of this and in response to graduate student feedback, this course will cover many of the texts on the M.A. reading list and allow students to develop and practice the skills needed for the M.A. exam with an option for post-M.A. students to complete alternative assignments.  This iteration of the seminar will also integrate some features of “blended” learning to help practice close reading in self-paced exercises.

No materials to purchase.

Spring 2019

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French 462 / 567: Undergraduate Seminar - French Literary Study

Credits: 3 Contact: Professor Stéphane Lojkine

Présentation du cours

Il n’y a pas de littérature sans événements, qu’on raconte ou qu’on passe sous silence, qu’on imagine, qu’on décrit, qu’on travestit. Mais qu’est-ce au fait qu’un événement ? Et comment un événement vient-il à faire ou à ne pas faire image, dans le texte, à côté du texte, sans texte ? Avant de fournir le matériau essentiel de la machine médiatique, l’événement a constitué le paradigme de la représentation picturale. La sémiotique de la peinture d’histoire classique, avant même de traiter des figures, est une sémiotique de l’événement. Comment passe-t-on, au XVIIIe siècle, de l’histoire de la peinture d’histoire, avec ses événements mythologiques et bibliques, aux événements qui constituent une histoire collective et des histoires personnelles, dans le temps présent ? Comment l’événement se politise-t-il au XIXe siècle ? Pourquoi se désémiotise-t-il ensuite, pour ne plus se laisser appréhender que comme brutalité incompréhensible du réel ?


On travaillera chaque semaine à partir d’un événement et de sa représentation dans le texte et dans l’image. L’objectif est d’acquérir les outils d’analyse de ce qui constitue, au-delà de ses supports, un dispositif  de représentation.

French 569: Critical Approaches to Literature and Culture: French and Francophone Perspectives

Credits: 3 Contact: Professor Vlad Dima

An introduction to theoretical and critical thinking about literary and visual texts, meant to accompany and supplement interpretative skills. Fundamental notions of rhétorique (figures et versification) and principles of narratology designed to improve the practice of close reading in poetry, drama, prose, and cinema across time periods. Course will serve as a capstone for advanced undergraduate students, and a review of methodology and theory for incoming graduate students.

French 821: Issues in Methods of Teaching French and Italian

Credits: 1-3 Contact: Professor Francois Tochon

Projects engage students in interrelated activities of individual or cooperative nature to accomplish series of tasks that are both open and concrete. They facilitate interpersonal exchanges thereby increasing motivation and creating environments that are rich in meaningful second language use. Real-world themes, issues, problems and actions stimulate intrinsic motivation and create reflective situations to solve problems in their context, in a way that respects the autonomy of the student and is conducive to proficiency.

French 947: Littérature et politique sous l’Ancien Régime (XVIe-XVIIe siècles)

Credits: 3 Contact: Professor Ullrich Langer

Ce séminaire nous permettra de lire tout d’abord un ensemble de textes politiques qui définissent les fondements de la monarchie d’Ancien Régime et qui permettent sa mise en question: la Monarchie de France de Claude de Seyssel, l’Éducation du prince chrétien d’Érasme, le Prince de Machiavel, quelques extraits des Livres de la République de Jean Bodin, des textes protestants des premières contestations, des textes des Monarchomaques, la Politique de Bossuet, un article du Dictionnaire de Pierre Bayle, et quelques articles de l’Encyclopédie concernant l’autorité politique. En parallèle nous nous pencherons sur différents ouvrages littéraires qui imaginent les rapports politiques: les livres de Rabelais (extraits), certaines nouvelles de Marguerite de Navarre, les Discours de Ronsard, quelques chapitres des Essais de Montaigne, une pièce ligueuse de Pierre Matthieu, la tragédie classique (Britannicus et Rodogune). Nos travaux sont conçus comme une étude des valeurs culturelles et politiques de la monarchie d’Ancien Régime et comme une étude de l’apport de la fiction dans l’imagination politique de la première modernité.

Quelques thèmes ou sujets qui nous intéresseront au cours du semestre: la définition et la représentation du lien social, les notions de pouvoir, les types de régime, l’individu face au pouvoir, la fiction comme transmission de valeurs politiques, la fiction comme subversion de valeurs politiques, la différence entre l’époque contemporaine et celle d’avant la fin de l’Ancien Régime.

Les travaux du séminaire comprendront: participation régulière à la discussion, préparation d’interventions courtes, travaux écrits (un travail préliminaire, un travail de recherche plus approfondi). Aucune connaissance préalable des textes en question ni de la littérature des 16e/17e/18e siècles ne sera exigée. Pour les textes en français du 16e siècle, nous consacrerons une partie de la séance à la langue, pour en assurer une compréhension générale.