Francophone, Italian and Germanic Studies: French and Francophone Studies, PhD

The University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Program in French and Francophone Studies (FIGS) offers a five-year Ph.D. program.  All students admitted to the program are awarded full financial support through the University's Benjamin Franklin Fellowships, including summer funding for the first three years.  The overarching goal of the program is to train students for productive scholarship and for effective college or university teaching. We have an outstanding faculty committed to scholarly excellence and we have an impressive record in placing candidates on the job market.

In addition to our faculty having interest in a broad range of centuries, individual expertise include science studies, popular culture, film noir, fashion, travel writing, poetry, anthropology, gender, postcolonial studies, cultural history, narratology, and history of the book. Students are encouraged to incorporate new critical approaches into their dissertation topics.

Interdisciplinary study is encouraged through participation in the wide range of seminars, lectures, and colloquia sponsored by the various Graduate Groups and affiliated research institutes and centers at Penn. Students may complement their studies by taking up to four courses outside the Francophone section. Graduate students in French and Francophone Studies may also participate in The Penn Humanities Forum which also provides a venue for doctoral students to interact with colleagues from across the disciplines.


The Ph.D. program in French and Francophone Studies (FIGS) is planned as a five-year sequence. Requirements for the Ph.D. include:

  • A total of seventeen (17) graduate courses including:

    • FREN 7770 Francophone, Italian and Germanic Proseminar: Reading for the M.A. Exam will be taken for credit during the spring semester of the student's first year.

    • A FIGS topics course—a content course (topic varies every year) taken in the second semester of the first year.

    • The M.A. Exam Preparation Course—taken in the second semester of the student's first year.

    • FREN 5990 Teaching and Learning: This course in Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching will be audited in the fall semester of the second year and will be taken for credit during the spring semester of that year after the student has completed one semester of teaching.

    • A Literary Theory course— taken in the student's first or second year.

    • Up to 3 courses outside French and Francophone Studies in another field pertinent to the student's area of specialization.

      Students are permitted to continue coursework past 17 course units with Graduate Chair approval.

  • M.A. Examination— an oral examination based on the Master's Reading List will be given at the conclusion of the spring semester of the student’s first year.

  • Qualifying Evaluation—In order to be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must successfully pass a qualifying evaluation. At the beginning of the second year, the faculty will evaluate all aspects of the student's performance during his or her first year in the program.

  • Foreign Language Requirement—a translation exam in one foreign language appropriate to the student's prospective field of specialization. For example, students specializing in Medieval or Renaissance studies should choose Latin.

  • Ph.D. Examination— The Ph.D. exam will be taken in May of the third year (or the 6th semester), upon the completion of course work. It will be devised by an examination committee organized by the student in consultation with the student’s primary advisor and the Graduate Chair. It will consist of the following:

    • A take-home exam essay, to be completed within four days. The exam will be on a topic formulated by the student’s advisor (in consultation with the committee). The topic will be in the student's field but will not be directly related to the proposed dissertation topic. It will be based on the texts from the student’s field of specialization on the Ph.D. reading list (e.g. 17th-century Theater, 19th-century realist novel, 20th-century poetry). It will be written in the language to be used for the student’s dissertation and the length of the answer will be approximately 15-20 pages. The grade for the written Ph.D. examination will be pass/fail.

    • An oral exam to follow within one week will further probe questions from the written exam and also address texts from the Ph.D. Reading List, which will consist of the comprehensive general list as well as 20-25 texts relating to the student's chosen specialized field. The exam will last about one and one-half hours and will be conducted mainly in French. The grade for the oral Ph.D. examination will be pass/fail.

  • Dissertation Proposal—Students will begin work for an eventual dissertation topic (i.e., the Dissertation Prospectus or Proposal) to be completed during the summer after the student's third year.

  • Dissertation Defense—a public, oral presentation of the dissertation will take place during the semester in which the student will graduate.

Students who enter the program with previous graduate work may be eligible to transfer some credits toward the Ph.D.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.