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 IELTS 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.

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.

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.

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 2020 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 2019 / S 2020)
French 101 or 102 $7,200
French 201, 203 or 204 $7,500
Head TA $9,900
Lit Trans 360 $8,400
Lit Trans 360 Head TA $10,000
Double section French 101, 102 $13,000
Double section French 203, 204 $13,334
Non-teaching Assignments Stipend per semester (F 2019 / S 2020)
Technology TA $10,000
Assessment TA $10,000
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 2019 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 $11,000 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 semester or 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.

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French 672: Le Vrai amour est une fable (c’est pourquoi il est vrai)

Credits: 3

Contact: Professor Jan Miernowski

Meets-with French 430

Le Vrai amour est une fable (c’est pourquoi il est vrai)

True Love is a Fable (That Is Why It Is True)

Love in Western culture relies on the following syllogism:

To be true, love must be a story.

The most meaningful love story is a fictional narrative.

Thus, a true love is a fiction (and, conversely, only a well-crafted fictional love story can really be true).

We will study this paradoxical intertwining of love and narrative fiction in French literature between the 13th and the 16th century. During that pivotal period, French literature produced highly symbolic narratives that were not merely allegorical representations of love but indeed textual devices aimed at perfecting the erotic passions of their readers.

The reading list includes canonical texts and authors of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance: Le Roman de la Rose, Guillaume Machaut, Christine de Pizan, Charles d’Orléans, Clément Marot, Maurice Scève, Louise Labé, and Pierre de Ronsard. The medieval readings will be available in modern French translations.

During class meetings, we will discuss the readings assigned for the meeting. I will provide the students with necessary historical information. The course will have two tracks: the Fr 430 track will be an in-depth survey of literature and culture (music and art) of that period; the Fr 672 track will include exercises specifically designed for graduate students: training in philological and intertextual reading of literary text; elements of bibliographical research and analysis of secondary literature. Graduate students will be able to fulfill their breadth requirement in medieval or in 16th-century literature.

True love; Fiction; Literary Allegory; Middle Ages; Renaissance

Learning outcomes:

  • Knowledge of medieval and early modern love culture
  • Literary interpretation of late medieval and Renaissance French literature
  • Theoretical reflection on the relationship between truth and artistic myth

TR 1:00-2:15

French 820: College Teaching of French

Credits: 3

Contact: Professor Heather Willis Allen

Meets-with Italian 821

Intended for instructors of elementary- and intermediate-level collegiate French/Italian courses, the goal of FRE 820 / ITA 821 is to help you understand key concepts of communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching and related techniques for classroom instruction of French/Italian. Course objectives include the following: understanding key concepts of communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching; understanding classroom techniques for communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching; applying key concepts related to communicative, literacy-oriented language teaching to designing instructional materials, lessons, and assessment tools; and increasing engagement in pedagogical discourse on collegiate foreign language teaching and learning.

Fridays 10AM-12PM

French 901: Seminar: Materials and Methods of Research

Credits: 3

Contact: Professor Florence Vatan

Intended for Dissertators

The purpose of this seminar is to facilitate writing of the dissertation through individual feedback and collective class discussions. In the first half of the semester, students will share previously completed work or ongoing research on their dissertation. In the second half of the semester, students will present the chapter they are currently working on. All seminar members will offer comments and suggestions. Students will also have the opportunity to explore effective writing techniques and to be introduced to research tools tailored to their dissertation projects. The seminar is open to advanced graduate students who are at the dissertation stage.

French 947: Le récit exemplaire de la Renaissance au Classicisme

Credits: 3

Contact: Professor Martine Debaisieux

Topic: Le récit exemplaire de la Renaissance au Classicisme

Dans ce séminaire, il s’agira d’examiner les modalités de l’exemplarité dans des textes narratifs (sens large) du XVIe et du XVIIe siècle.  Pour saisir les enjeux de leur visée morale, nous serons amené·e·s à considérer la distanciation de chaque auteur·e par rapport à l’argumentation édifiante propre au genre de « récit exemplaire » adopté (roman ; fables et contes de fées ; nouvelles et histoires tragiques ; autoportrait/essai).  L’analyse de certaines dérives de l’exemplarité et de l’émulation morale dans les textes au programme soulèvera les questions suivantes :

  • Sur quels fondements idéologiques et esthétiques repose l’exemplarité ?
  • Quelles dissonances ou contradictions peuvent être perçues entre le niveau narratif et le discours moralisateur?
  • Quelles sont les particularités du traitement des modèles et de l’édification dans la fiction féminine ?
  • Comment la formule dialogique ou la pluralité de la morale déstabilisent-t-elles la visée édificatrice ?
  • Quelle est la fonction du contre-modèle dans les histoires tragiques ou le récit libertin?
  • Quelles sont les limites de la rhétorique de dissuasion par rapport au potentiel de séduction du vice ?
  • Dans quelle mesure le principe de conformité et la portée universelle impliqués dans la didactique de l’exemple sont-ils susceptibles d’être détournées (et perverties) par l’expression du cas « singulier », de l’ « inimitable », de l’insolite, voire du monstrueux.
  • Etc.

Selon leurs intérêts de recherches, les étudiant·e·s seront encouragé·e·s  à considérer la problématique du séminaire au-delà des limites de la Renaissance et du XVIIe siècle.

Textes primaires (liste provisoire)

Hélisenne de Crenne, Les Angoisses douloureuses qui procèdent d’amours (Première partie)

Marguerite de Navarre, L’Heptaméron (extraits).

Michel de Montaigne, Essais (extraits).

Marie de Gournay, Le Promenoir de M. de Montaigne.

François de Rosset, Histoires tragiques (extraits).

Théophile de Viau, Première journée.

René Descartes, Discours de la méthode.

Jean de La Fontaine, La Vie d’Esope le Phrygien; Fables (extraits)

Mme de La Fayette, La Princesse de Clèves ou La Princesse de Montpensier.

Charles Perrault,  Histoires ou contes du temps passé (extraits).

Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, Les Contes de fées (« Finette Cendron » ; « L’Oiseau bleu »).

French 948: Écologies étranges 

Credits: 3 Contact: Joshua Armstrong

Topic: Écologies étranges

When we humans imagine our existence as part of a finite species in a world that existed before us and will go on existing after we are gone, what does it look like? What does it feel like when we repress this thought? Today it beckons as never before, as ecological upheaval confronts us with a menacing temporality which “asks us to accept the ethical proximity between the most fleeting act in our present and planet-shaping effects that will play out over millennia” (Farrier). Philosophy engages as never before with the search for new ways to meaningfully situate human subjectivity outside the traditional Western chronotopes suggested by metaphysics and humanism. Human subjectivity is confronted with its mycological other (Tsing), cast into “slow” and “deep time” (Gee, Wood), re-envisioned in terms of animal and vegetal being (Marder, Coccia, Irigaray), asked to abandon its strong subjecthood and to sediment: that is “to consciously enter into a lithic temporality, and to engage the future of our fossilization” (Duperrex) and to “act against the antimaterialism of power” (LeMenager). In this course, we will read several contemporary French novels and watch some films in which non-human members of ecologies, from vegetation to fungi to the soils and sediments in which they grow, are paramount. The reader or viewer is asked to imagine the temporality of a lichen (Keiller), to abandon any clear distinction between life and death and identify with characters who live for centuries in vegetative states (Volodine), to enter a strange, dreamlike world inhabited by “obscure flowers,” where microaggressions attach themselves like an environmental pollution to characters and where the border between human, plant, and animal is blurred (NDiaye), to operate the absurd reversal of an epidemic in a form of writing that is a permanent, perverse “excavation” and an “exhumation” (Daoud), to obsessively contemplate the “absolute irreversibility of all processes of decay” (Houellebecq). We will complement these readings with more canonical works by Beckett, Camus, and Kafka, as well as a variety of excerpts from the philosophical/critical texts mentioned above. Seminar conducted in French.

Selected Bibliography:

Primary Works

Beckett, Samuel. 1951. Molloy. Paris: Minuit.

Daoud, Kamel. 2017. Zabor. Arles: Actes Sud.

Del Curto, Mario. 2019. Humanité végétale. Arles: Actes Sud.

Draeger, Manuela. 2012. Herbes et golems. Paris: L’Olivier.

Houellebecq, Michel. 2019. Sérotonine. Paris: Flammarion.

Kafka, Franz. 1995. “Children on a Country Road.” Trans. Willa and edwin Muir. Franz

Kafka: The Complete Stories. Ed. Nahum N. Glatzer. New York: Schocken. 379-382.

Keiller, Patrick. 2010. Robinson in Ruins. British Film Institute.

NDiaye, Marie. 2013. Ladivine. Paris: Gallimard.

Volodine, Antoine. 2014. Terminus radieux. Paris: Seuil.

Von Trier, Lars. 2011. Melancholia. Zentropa.

Philosophy/Critical Works

Coccia, Emanuele. 2019. The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture. Cambridge: Polity.

Duperrex, Matthieu. 2019. Voyages en sol incertain: enquête dans les deltas du Rhône et du

Mississippi. Marseille: Wildproject.

Farrier, David. 2019. Anthropocene Poetics: Deep Time, Sacrifice Zones, and Extinction. Minneapolis: Minnesota


Gee, Henry. 1999. In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life. Ithaca. Cornell


Irigaray, Luce and Michael Marder. 2017. Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives. New York:

Columbia UP.

LeMenager, Stephanie. 2017. “Sediment.” Veer Ecology. Ed. Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Minneapolis: U Minnesota

  1. 168-182.

Marder, Michael. 2020. Dump Philosophy: A Phenomenology of Devastation. New York: Bloomsbury.

–. 2013. Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. New York: Columbia UP.

Mbembe, Achille. 2019. Necropolitics. Durham: Duke UP.

Morton, Timothy. 2016. Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. New York: Columbia UP.

Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.

Princeton: Princeton UP.

Spring 2022 – TBD