PhD Guidelines

Guidelines for the PhD in French Literature

I. Overview of the Program

The PhD program in French literature at the University of Colorado consists of a) course work, b) a comprehensive examination, c) a doctoral dissertation, and d) an oral defense of the doctoral dissertation.

II. Requirements for Admission

CU Aerial

1. An MA or an equivalent degree in French or a related field with a GPA of at at least 3.0 in all French courses.
2. Submit official GRE score if you would like to be considered for a fellowship nonimation.  The GRE scores are not mandatory for admission. See GRE and Fellowships
3. Submission of the student’s MA thesis or a major graduate seminar paper.
4. A one- to two-page statement of purpose.
5. Strong recommendations from three professors with whom the student has worked.
6. Good pronunciation in French as evidenced by a CD submitted by the applicant. The applicant should read one or two very short selections of prose or poetry and a short autobiographical passage composed in French by the applicant her/himself.
7. To be considered for admission, all credentials must be received in the department by February 15. (*NOTE:* Students who have earned their MA in French at the University of Colorado and who wish to work toward the PhD here must apply for admission to the PhD program; continuation after the MA is not guaranteed.)

III. Financial Aid

Financial aid for qualified PhD students is available in the form of Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Part-Time Instructorships, and Graduate School Fellowships. Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Part-Time Instructorships normally include responsibility for lower-level language classes. The average stipend for this is approximately $21000, and it carries with it a waiver of tuition costs. The exact stipend is based on the number of hours the student is teaching. Students with an excellent academic record and strong recommendations will be nominated by the department to the university-wide competition for Graduate School fellowships. If successful, such students may receive a stipend of up to $20,000 plus a waiver of tuition costs.

To be considered for these various forms of financial aid, the student must see to it that all credentials are received in the department by February15. Credentials are considered complete when the student has submitted: the Graduate School application form, two official copies of transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended, three recommendations, a copy of the student’s critical work, the cassette recording, and the application fee. All students receiving financial aid must register for a minimum of two graduate courses per semester in the program or their equivalent until they have completed course requirements and passed the doctoral comprehensive examination.

To qualify for continued aid, students must maintain their full-time status. This means that they must have completed at least 5 credit hours of graduate-level course work or 8 credit hours of combined graduate- and undergraduate-level course work at the end of each semester; or if they have completed course requirements and the comprehensive examination, they must be registered for a minimum of 5 dissertation hours. PhD students continuing in the program usually receive a maximum of four years of financial support and are expected to complete the requirements for the degree during that time. PhD students entering from outside programs usually receive a maximum of five years of financial support.

Students are encouraged to visit the financial aid website ( for additional information and requirements in obtaining aid.

IV. Language Requirement

Early in their first semester in the PhD program, each student should meet individually with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss their overall plan of study, including the ways in which they will satisfy the language requirement. The PhD language requirement is the same as that at the MA level. See details in section VI of the MA requirements.

V. Course Requirements for the PhD in French Literature

The following summary of minimum requirements is expressed in terms of courses. Additional course work may be required by the Director of Graduate Studies. *NOTE: Students and their administrators are equally responsible for making certain that their graduate curriculum satisfies all graduation requirements, both those of the department and those of the graduate school. Every student should accordingly become THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR with the section in the University of Colorado at Boulder Catalog entitled Requirements for Advanced Degrees and with the information on this page.*

1. A total of 15 courses at the 5000 level or above [includes courses taken at MA level], consisting of:
At least 12 courses (5000 level or above) in French literature and culture.
Up to 3 courses (5000 level or above) in a related field (e.g., Comparative Literature, English, Spanish, Classics, Linguistics, Romance Linguistics, Film Studies, History, Fine Arts, Education) to be determined in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.
2. 30 hours of Dissertation Guidance (Graduate School Requirement) with no more than 10 hours taken before the completion of the PhD Comprehensive Examination.

PhD students are normally allowed to take two Independent Studies courses, subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. However, they may not take more than two (including any taken at the Master’s level) except in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students must also have taken at least one course in seven of the eight major periods of French literature (Middle Ages, 16th through 20th centuries, Francophone literature, and film.) Students continuing from the MA program at CU will normally have fulfilled this requirement as part of their MA degree.

Students entering the PhD program with an MA in French or equivalent from another university can count 5 of their previous MA courses toward the requirement of 15 courses; they must take 10 courses during the first two years of candidacy, up to two of which may be in a related field. Such students must take courses covering four of the eight periods of French literature. Previous coursework will be evaluated, and if at least seven of the periods were not covered at the MA level, courses will be required to attain this coverage. In summary, for students entering from other MA programs, the requirements are: 1) at least four courses within the department to cover four time periods, with these at the candidate’s discretion except for the requirement to cover gaps from the MA program; 2) up to two courses in related fields; 3) four additional courses within the department at the discretion of the student. Students entering the PhD program without an MA in French must consult with the Director of Graduate Studies. Questions should be referred to the Director of Graduate Studies.

VI. Examination /The PhD Comprehensive Examination:

As students are finishing their required course work, they should have a good idea of the way their courses and ideas are coalescing around a given general field and a specific problem within that field. Courses taken outside the department, as well as work in the related field, should fit into this pattern. As this specification of interest toward the area of the dissertation takes place, the student should constitute a Doctoral Committee consisting of five graduate faculty members (one of whom must come from outside the student’s department) who will guide the student’s work. One of these faculty members will serve as the Director and take responsibility for co-coordinating the work of this ad hoc Doctoral Committee. Once the Doctoral Committee is formed and approved by the Graduate School, the student will begin to prepare for the PhD Comprehensive Examination.  Working in consultation with the Director and other members of the Doctoral Committee, the student will formulate a dissertation topic. He or she will prepare a list of primary texts pertaining to that topic, and a further list of secondary materials composed of critical and theoretical texts intended to inform the student's approach to the dissertation topic. Those two lists will be circulated to the Doctoral Committee before the Comprehensive Examination. The examination itself will consist of one substantial essay (the equivalent of a 30-page seminar paper) followed by an oral examination. The essay will focus on the dissertation topic. The student will have two weeks to write the essay. Once that essay is written, the Doctoral Committee will conduct the oral part of the examination as a discussion of material covered in the essay, material on the two reading lists, as well as matters pertaining to the general direction of the dissertation and the approach that the student proposes to take therein. Normally the Comprehensive Examination should be taken at the end of the student’s second year in the PhD program (for students continuing from CU’s MA program) or at the end of the third year in the program (for students entering from other MA programs). In both cases, that allows the student a full year of independent study after the conclusion of course requirements.

Upon successful completion of the PhD exams, students normally spend the next two years writing a dissertation.

VII. The PhD Dissertation

The PhD dissertation must be based upon original investigation and demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgment as well as familiarity with the tools and methods of research. It should be a worthwhile contribution to knowledge in the student’s special field. Students are expected to have submitted an approved Thesis Prospectus by the end of the semester following their PhD comprehensive exams. Students are advised to familiarize themselves thoroughly with the various Graduate School rules governing the format and deadlines for the dissertation. The dissertation is normally written in English, and all departures from this norm must be approved by the student’s committee.

VIII. The Oral Defense of the Dissertation

After the dissertation has been accepted, a final oral examination on the dissertation and related topics will be held.  The examination will be conducted by a five-member Doctoral Committee, appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, which will consist of representatives of areas in which the student has worked.  At least one member  of the committee will be from outside the student’s field of study (e.g., department). The committee should be approved by the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the oral defense. More than one negative vote will disqualify the candidate in the oral defense.

IX. Typical Six-Year Graduate Program Structure, for entering MA Students

The PhD degree is intended to be completed in six years. The MA would normally be awarded after two years in the program. The standard sequence of courses is as follows:

* First Year:
Semester 1: 2 seminars + Supervised Teaching
Semester 2: 3 seminars

* Second Year:
Semester 3: 3 seminars
Semester 4: 2 seminars; MA Comprehensive Examination

* Third Year:
Semester 5: 3 seminars
Semester 6: 2-3 seminars

* Fourth Year:
Semester 7: 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance
Semester 8: 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; PhD Comprehensive Examination

* Fifth Year:
Semester 9: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; Submission of Dissertation Prospectus
Semester 10: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance

* Sixth Year:
Semester 11: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance
Semester 12: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; Submission and Oral Defense of Dissertation

X. Typical Five-Year PhD Program for Students Who Already Hold an MA in French from Another Institution

* First Year:
Semester 1: 2-3 seminars
Semester 2: 3 seminars

* Second Year:
Semester 3: 3 seminars
Semester 4: 2-3 seminars

* Third Year:
Semester 5: 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance
Semester 6:/5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; PhD Comprehensive Exam

* Fourth Year:
Semester 7: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; Submission of Dissertation Prospectus
Semester 8: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance

* Fifth Year:
Semester 9: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance
Semester 10: at least 5 hours of Dissertation Guidance; Submission and Oral Defense of Dissertation

XI. Criteria for Satisfactory Progress

All renewals of Fellowships, Teaching Assistantships, and Graduate Part-Time Instructorships depend upon the student’s making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree and upon satisfactory teaching. Satisfactory progress is defined is staying on the schedule illustrated in sections IX and X above and performing satisfactorily as a TA or GPTI in the classroom.

Students should note that Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Part-Time Instructorships also depend in part on enrollments and may be affected in the unlikely event that expected enrollments fail to materialize.

XII. Graduate School Requirements

1. Transfer of Credit: A candidate who has done graduate work in French at another institution may, after one semester’s residence, apply for a transfer of graduate credit. Doctoral students may transfer up to 21 semester hours. The courses must be graduate level, and students must have obtained a grade of "B" or better on all work being considered for transfer.
2. Residence Requirement: All candidates for the PhD degree must spend a minimum of six full semesters in residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder as full-time students. A maximum of two semesters residence credit may be allowed for master’s degree from another institution of approved standing.
3. Grades and Grade Average: For the PhD a course mark below /B-/ is unsatisfactory and will not be counted toward fulfilling the requirements for the degree.
4. Application for Admission to Candidacy for the PhD Degree: This form, obtained from the departmental office, must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to taking the PhD Comprehensive Exam.
5. Continuous Registration: A PhD student is required to register continuously for a minimum of 5 dissertation hours in the fall and spring semesters of each year, beginning with the semester following the passing of the comprehensive examination and extending through the semester in which the dissertation is successfully defended (final examination). Students will be so registered only if they are making satisfactory progress toward the completion of their degree and are in good standing. Students away from campus (off-campus status) may petition each fall and spring to take only 3 dissertation hours. The petition for this reduced number of hours must be submitted each semester and must be received by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School *by December 15 for Spring and August 15 for Fall*. In any event, by the time they graduate, students must have a total of at least 30 hours of doctoral thesis credit.

XIII. Grievance Procedures

The department naturally hopes that students will proceed through the program without undue difficulty, but problems may arise and procedures exist for resolving them. Questions or grievances should of course always be directed in the first instance to the faculty member or (in the case of teaching assignments) to the language coordinator involved. However, if this yields no solution, the student should refer problems to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will mediate between the parties and, where necessary, will help the student prepare a written record explaining her/his grievance, to be filed with the department. Should the student be unable to obtain satisfaction with the help of the Director of Graduate Studies, the grievance will be put in writing and the matter will be referred to the department Chair. Should this yield no solution, the student may appeal either to the Ombuds Office or to the Associate Dean in the Graduate School.