The Major in French

The major in French is a liberal arts major, designed for those who wish to study one of the world’s greatest and richest literatures in depth. The department offers courses devoted to authors, works, and literary and cultural movements that span ten centuries and four continents. The curriculum also includes interdisciplinary courses on relations between literature and other areas of study such as history, law, religion, politics, and the arts. Majors are encouraged to explore all periods and genres of literature in French, as well as a wide variety of critical approaches.

Excellent knowledge of a foreign language and a mature, informed appreciation of a foreign literature open doors to many professions. The French major provides ideal preparation for careers not only in academics but also in a wide range of fields from law and diplomacy to journalism and the arts. Recent graduates have gone on to selective law schools and graduate programs in French and comparative literature. Others work in primary and secondary education, business, government, and a variety of nongovernmental agencies and international organizations.

French can be taken either as a primary major or as one of two majors, in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies. Appropriate majors to combine with French might include, but are not limited to, African American Studies, African Studies, English, Film and Media Studies, Global Affairs, History, History of Art, Humanities, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Theater Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. (Regulations concerning the completion of two majors can be found in the Academic Regulations, section K.)

The major


Students in the major are encouraged to take as many advanced courses as possible in all historical periods from the Middle Ages to the present. Candidates for the major should consult the director of undergraduate studies as early as the beginning of the sophomore year and no later than the fall term of the junior year. Schedules must be approved and signed by the director of undergraduate studies. Students planning to study abroad or to petition for completion of two majors should contact the director of undergraduate studies during the sophomore year. Courses taken Credit/D/Fail may not be counted toward the requirements of the major.

Prerequisite  Candidates for the major should take FREN 150 or the equivalent during the freshman or sophomore year. Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to take at least one literature course numbered 170 or above before the end of the sophomore year.

The standard major   The standard major consists of ten term courses numbered 160 or above, including a one-term senior essay (see below). One of these ten courses must be FREN 170 or the equivalent, which should be completed early in a candidate’s studies; at least four must be Group B courses numbered 200 or above. Students may count no more than two courses in the FREN 180–199 range and no more than two courses conducted in English (Group C) toward the major. With prior approval of the director of undergraduate studies, a maximum of four term courses taught outside the Yale Department of French but bearing directly on the student’s principal interest may be counted toward the major. Up to two of these may be taken in other departments at Yale, and up to four may be taken as part of a Year or Term Abroad or summer study abroad program. However, the combined number of courses from other departments and from study abroad may not exceed four. (The director of undergraduate studies may grant exceptions to this limit for students who spend two academic terms in an approved study abroad program.) Relevant freshman seminars may count toward the major, with permission of the director of undergraduate studies.

The intensive major   The intensive major is designed for students who wish to undertake a more concentrated study of literature in French. It is recommended for students considering graduate study in French or in comparative literature. The intensive major consists of twelve term courses numbered 160 or above, including a one-term or two-term senior essay (see below). At least five courses must be from Group B and numbered 200 or above. The requirement of FREN 170 and the stipulations for courses in the 180–199 range, courses conducted in English, and courses taken outside the department are identical to those for the standard major.

Senior requirement   All majors must write a senior essay showing evidence of careful reading and research and substantial independent thought. Essays may be written in either French or English and must be prepared under the direction of a ladder faculty member in the Department of French. Students planning to pursue advanced work in French after graduation are encouraged to write their senior essay in French.

Students writing a one-term essay enroll in FREN 491 in the senior year. A one-term essay may be written in either the fall or the spring term and should be approximately thirty pages in length. A preliminary statement indicating the general area to be addressed and the name of the adviser must be submitted to the director of undergraduate studies by September 16 (fall-term essay) or November 11 (spring-term essay). A one-page prospectus and bibliography are due September 23 (fall term) or January 27 (spring term). A rough draft must be submitted to the adviser by November 4 (fall term) or March 31 (spring term). Two copies of the final essay are due in the department by December 5 (fall term) or April 24 (spring term).

Students electing a two-term essay for the intensive major must select their subject and adviser by the end of the junior year and enroll in FREN 493 and 494 during the senior year. The essay should be approximately sixty pages in length. A preliminary statement indicating the general area to be addressed and the name of the adviser must be submitted to the director of undergraduate studies by September 16. A one-page prospectus and bibliography are due September 23. Students must submit an initial rough draft to their adviser by January 27 and a complete draft by March 31. Two copies of the final essay are due in the department by April 24.

Special Divisional Major


The department will support the application of qualified students who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary course in French studies. Under the provisions of the Special Divisional Major, students may combine courses offered by the French department with subjects elected from other departments. Close consultation with departmental advisers is required; candidates for a Special Divisional Major should consult the director of undergraduate studies in French by the fall term of the junior year. For further information about the Special Divisional Major see under that heading.

Study Abroad