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French MA

Consult the Course Catalog for specific requirements.

Sample Requirements

To earn the M.A. in French and Francophone Studies, a student is required to complete a minimum of 30 credits of coursework. Students must take a comprehensive examination. They have an option of:

  1. An oral defense of a Dossier of three term papers (one hour), or
  2. A Written Examination (two sessions of three hours each)

If they choose option 1, they will be required to present and defend a dossier consisting of three term papers, revised by the student and approved by each faculty member for whom they were originally written.

The examination is normally administered during the first two weeks of December or the last two weeks of April. All students are required to take the examination no later than one semester after they have completed 30 credits of coursework. All students planning to take the oral examination must consult with their graduate advisor concerning the date of their examination.

1. Dossier Requirements for M.A in French

What is a Dossier?

A dossier is composed of three papers initially written for courses taken with three different faculty members and revised in light of their presentation as cumulative work. At least two of the papers will be written in French. One paper may come from a graduate course taken outside the French Program. All dossiers additionally include a 4-8 page paper in French in which the candidate discusses and assesses the relations of the papers to one another and to her/his general course of graduate study. This introduction is understood to serve as a self-reflexive exercise, a way of bringing together the candidate's thinking about the intellectual framework governing the papers and her/his M.A. work as a whole. All dossiers are expected to conform to MLA style (current edition). The French Program will open and maintain a file of sample dossiers for perusal by candidates.

Completion of the dossier requirement involves two steps:

  • Acceptance of the dossier in its final form by the committee
  • An oral defense of the dossier

What is a Dossier Defense?

The dossier defense is a conversation about the strengths, weaknesses, implications, assumptions, problems, and prospects of the work in an accepted dossier. It is not an examination in the usual sense. The candidate opens the defense with a 5–10 minute presentation of the dossier and the issues she/he sees for discussion in it, from which the faculty can draw additional questions and responses. The defense normally lasts 45 minutes to an hour.

In general, the purpose of the dossier defense is to allow some judgment of the work in the dossier as a foundation for further work in the profession. The committee will be interested primarily in the candidate's ability to see implications, examine assumptions, and locate her/his activity within the broader terms of disciplinary and professional engagement.

How is a Dossier Created?

The candidate is expected to meet with the graduate advisor to form a committee in the semester (usually during the third semester of graduate work) prior to the proposed oral. S/he will choose two members of the committee, one of whom will serve as convener. A third member will be appointed by the graduate advisor. The members of the dossier committee are expected to work actively with candidates in revising the course papers toward their dossier form. Students may petition the committee at any time prior to the submission of the completed dossier.

When are Dossier Defenses Held?

  • Dossier defenses may be held at any time during the fourth semester (or later) of graduate work.
  • The completed dossier must normally be submitted to the committee for its approval or disapproval at least one month in advance of the request to schedule a defense so that the candidate has enough time to revise in light of the committee's responses.
  • Dossier defenses are not usually held or scheduled during the summer.


Under What Circumstances Would A Dossier Be Rejected?

It is hard to cover all possibilities in advance, but the most likely reason would be that the candidate has failed to establish and maintain contact with her/his committee. Rejection of a dossier by a committee with which a candidate has been in active contact would, obviously, suggest some deeper special difficulty. In general, candidates are entitled to expect clear guidance from their committees and should have little occasion to be uncertain about the acceptability of their dossier prior to the oral defense.

2. Exam Option for M.A. in French

Students who elect the MA exam will sit for four area exams scheduled in two sessions of three hours each (1.5 hours per exam). For each exam, students will choose from the following six areas: 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th/21st centuries, and Francophone literature. There is also an option to substitute a Linguistics exam for one of the four area exams. Each exam will be read by two members of the French faculty. The scheduling of each exam (normally administered during the first two weeks of December or the last two weeks of April) is done in consultation with the graduate director.