Graduate Program

Yale’s Department of French offers the Ph.D. in French literature, criticism, theory, and culture from the early Middle Ages to the present, and the French-language literatures of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Maghreb. The Department also participates in combined Ph.D. programs with the Department of African American Studies, the Program in Film and Media Studies, and the Program in Renaissance Studies.

The Yale French Department has for decades been the top ranked department of French in the country. Generations of scholars have been trained here. Alumni of the department form a vital community throughout the United States and beyond, which includes many of the finest and most influential members of the profession.

The Department prides itself on the diversity of fields and approaches represented by its faculty. Each is involved in fiercely independent research that is quite unlike that of any other scholars, least of all that of our own colleagues. The result is that students here benefit from as many different perspectives and areas of expertise as there are members of the faculty. In addition, most faculty are involved in programs outside the department, including African and African-American Studies, Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, Medieval Studies, and Renaissance Studies. These institutional affiliations and many other less formal ties provide natural departmental bridges to any number of related disciplines around the campus. 

For students interested in a fully integrated inter-disciplinary program the Department offers combined degrees with four other departments and programs: African American Studies, Film and Media Studies, Renaissance Studies and Medieval Studies.

Students are encouraged (and indeed required) to take at least two courses outside the department, in ancillary fields related to their interests in French literature. In this connection Yale’s distinguished faculty in English, Classics, Italian, Spanish, film and media, philosophy, German, history, history of art, music, etc., are an invaluable asset that makes graduate study in French even more stimulating and rewarding at Yale.

The libraries are another resource that makes Yale an ideal place to pursue graduate study in literature. The holdings of Sterling Memorial Library are among the richest in the world. 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 incunabula, to first editions of masterpieces of modernism.

The program is typically five or six years long, depending on whether the student completes the dissertation in two or three years. The first two years are devoted to course work and the fulfillment of the Old French and language requirements. The third year is devoted to the qualifying oral examination and preparation of the dissertation prospectus. During the third and fourth years students typically teach one course per semester of first or second-year French.

The Department also has an exchange program with the Ecole Normale Supérieure , rue d’Ulm, in Paris and is able to offer a position as pensionnaire étranger to four students per year.

All students receive full financial support (tuition plus full stipend, including health insurance coverage) for five years of graduate study. This support consists of two years of a university fellowship, two years of a teaching fellowship, and one year of a dissertation fellowship. The Department of French is usually able to arrange a third year of teaching fellowship for students who desire it.

Basic Program requirements
  1. Sixteen 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.

  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 Rules and Regulations for Graduate Studies in French (in the right sidebar.)

Students are reminded that the policies of the Graduate School must be followed.  Any questions regarding these policies should be addressed to your assistant or associate dean.

Policies of the Graduate School can be found at