Graduate Program


Yale’s graduate program in French literature offers both a rigorous grounding in French Literature and an interdisciplinary approach to French theory, thought, and culture.  The graduate curriculum covers the Middle Ages to the present, and the literatures of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Maghreb.  

Our faculty are involved in programs outside the department, including African and African-American Studies, Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, Middle East Studies, Judaic Studies, Medieval Studies, and Renaissance Studies. These institutional affiliations provide bridges to related disciplines around the campus. 

Students have at their fingertips the holdings of one of the best research libraries in the world, the Sterling Memorial Library.  The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is an incomparable resource for scholars in French, holding treasures ranging from medieval illuminated manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose, to the holograph manuscript of Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus and selections from Proust’s correspondence. 

The Program

The French Ph.D. degree normally takes five or six years.   The first two years are devoted to course work, including one required course in Old French.  Students are required to take at least two and up to four courses outside the department in departments such as Comparative Literature, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History of Science and Medicine, History of Art, and Film.  Students must also fulfill the language requirement by the end of the second year.  

Read what current students have to say about our courses

In the third year, students take their oral qualifying exam and prepare their dissertation prospectus. Students typically teach one course per semester during two of their years of graduate study, beginning in the third year.  They receive training in language teaching methodology and teach two semesters of French language. Opportunities also exist to be teaching assistants in advanced undergraduate literature courses.

Hear students talk about their teaching experiences

In the fourth or fifth year, most students choose to pursue dissertation research in France or a francophone country.  Many students partake in the exchange program with the Ecole Normale Supérieure, rue d’Ulm, in Paris.

Students complete their dissertation in the fifth or sixth year. 

To recognize expertise in a particular area of study outside French literature, Yale offers several certificates of concentration   Students may also apply to the combined Ph.D. programs with the Department of African American Studies, the Program in Film and Media Studies, and Renaissance Studies.

[click here for the calendar of progress through the program]


All Yale students receive full financial support (tuition plus full stipend, including health insurance coverage) for five years of graduate study. This includes two years of coursework without teaching, two years of teaching, and a dissertation fellowship year.  Students in the French Department who choose  to pursue dissertation research in France or a francophone country receive an additional year of support without having to teach.

Basic Program Requirements
  1. Fourteen term courses during the first two years of study. These must include Old French and at least two graduate-level term courses taken outside the department. French 670, Methods and Techniques in the French Language Classroom, is also required in the second year of study.
  2. Proficiency (defined as one year of college study) in any two languages (beyond English and French) that are relevant to the student’s research interests, to be approved by the DGS. For details, see the Rules document.
  3. At least one year of teaching experience.
  4. The qualifying oral examination, to be taken no later than the end of the sixth term.
  5. The dissertation prospectus, prepared in consultation with the student’s adviser and approved by the faculty.
  6. The doctoral dissertation, prepared in close consultation with the adviser, approved by the faculty and Graduate School, and completed by the end of the sixth year of study.

For details see the Program Guidelines for Graduate Studies in French (in the left sidebar.)

Policies of the Graduate School can be found at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs and Policies Bulletin.

Job Placement

Students in their last year of study take a seminar with the Director of Graduate Studies to prepare for the job market.  Although the market remains challenging, our students have fared remarkably well [click here for a list of recent placements].