PhD Program in Modern French Studies (FRMS)

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The Ph.D. in Modern French Studies covers the Early Modern Period to the present. Ph.D.
students are required to take for credit a minimum of eight courses beyond the M.A. at the 600-level or above. All students take three core courses to receive the same fundamental analytical training; then, in consultation with their advisors, they work out an individually-tailored program of study consisting of five courses that best match their interests. (French 898, doctoral exam preparation, may count as one of these five courses.) Some students may be advised to take one or more additional courses to be better prepared for their comprehensive examinations and dissertation topic.

Core Courses

All students must take one course in each of the three following core categories:
1. History of Ideas
2. Issues in Literature
3. History of the French Language

Each category includes several different courses from which a student may choose. Recent offerings have included:
• Seminars on the History of Ideas might include courses on feminism, intellectualism, reflections on literature, or Francophone thinkers.
• Seminars on Issues in Literature could focus on the concept of tragedy, utopia, autobiography, women’s identity, the art of persuasion, the evolution of a specific genre, etc.
• Seminars on the History of the French Language might focus on philology, diachronic linguistics, or sociolinguistics.

To see a list of some of the courses offered and their descriptions click here

Courses taken outside the Department: Students may take two courses out of the five
comprising their individual program with affiliate faculty outside the department. Other units with faculty expertise in relevant issues include: Art History, Comparative Literature, English, German, Linguistics, Sociology, and Spanish.

In accordance with Graduate School policy, students may be granted permission to take courses at local universities belonging to the Consortium. The request must be approved by the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.


Language Proficiency Requirement

English Non-native speakers of English must submit TOEFL exam results to the Graduate School with their application. Based on these results, students may be advised to take a written expression course from the Maryland English Institute or a basic writing course given by the English Department. This course will not count towards the degree.

Second Foreign Language

All Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate a sound reading knowledge of one other foreign language in addition to French. Students should choose a language that provides an appropriate background for the projected dissertation. The fulfillment of this requirement is one of the prerequisites for advancement to candidacy. In exceptional circumstances, a student having an advanced degree or diploma in a subsidiary area such as Music, Economics, Political Science, etc, and who plans to make substantial use of this body of knowledge in the dissertation, may be permitted, with the approval of the Graduate Programs Committee, to substitute such degree or diploma for the additional foreign language requirement.

To fulfill the additional foreign language requirement, students may request one of the two
options below, with the approval of their Committee of Advisors.

Option a: One semester of a college language course at the 300-level, or its equivalent, with a grade of B or higher, taken within 3 years of entrance into the Ph.D. Program or any time

Option b: A Foreign Language Translation Examination which consists of a translation from the foreign language into English or French. The passage normally relates to literary, cultural or historical criticism, and is 800-1000 words in length. The use of one dictionary is permitted. The maximum length of time allowed is two hours. Only the grade "Pass" or "Fail" is assigned, with the understanding that the minimum level for passing is the letter grade "B." The Foreign Language Examination must be taken before advancement to candidacy. It may be repeated once.


Qualifying Examinations

Ph.D. students are required to pass two Qualifying Examinations consisting of a) one two-part Comprehensive Examination and b) one Prospectus Defense before being advanced to candidacy. In both cases, three members of the French Department faculty will comprise the committee. An additional, fourth member from outside the Department is possible for the prospectus defense if the topic warrants it.

The first Qualifying Examination

a)Is a two-part comprehensive exam, first written, then oral, taken over two consecutive days. This exam should be taken by the end of the student’s third semester in the PhD program. For the written part, students will be handed two questions, based on the PhD reading list. Students have four hours to write their response to one of these questions, without notes, in an examination room with a computer provided by the Department. If they choose to write their response in English, the oral portion will be in French, or vice versa. 
The written response and the reading list provide the starting point for the oral portion of the exam. The duration of the oral examination is approximately one hour. 
Goal is to ensure that students have sufficiently broad knowledge of French literature as well as of a range of theoretical approaches (beyond what they acquired at the MA stage).

To obtain a list of the readings for the first Ph.D. examination, contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

The second Qualifying Examination

b) Is the defense of written dissertation prospectus, in which the student demonstrates sufficient knowledge of the relevant scholarship and outlines what his/her intervention will be.  The prospectus should be a formal proposal in some detail (ca. 5000 words), laying out the proposed area and subject of the intended research, a statement of what has and has not been done in this field, a description of the methodology to be pursued, plus an appended annotated bibliography. The committee will then meet with the student in order to offer guidance and feedback. When the prospectus receives the committee's final approval, copies will be distributed to all members of the graduate faculty for their information.

Note on Committees

It is expected that the exam committees will remain constant for the two exams (with the exception of the optional additional outside member for the prospectus exam). After advancement to candidacy, the student is expected to constitute his or her dissertation committee in consultation with a faculty advisor and with the DGS, and to register the choice of committee members in writing with the DGS on the form designed for that end, available on the Graduate School web site.

Doctoral students are required to submit the most recent version of their dissertation draft as an email attachment to the three Departmental members of their Dissertation Committee one year date-to-date after their prospectus defense, and every six months thereafter until the submission of the final version of their dissertation two weeks prior to the defense date. As a rule, students will receive written feedback on these drafts within four-six weeks. 


Ph.D. Dissertation

Ph.D. dissertations must receive the preliminary approval of the three departmental members of the Dissertation Committee before being submitted to other readers. All readers must be given at least two weeks in which to read the dissertation. At the beginning of the semester in which the dissertation will be defended, the dissertation director will ask the Dean of the Graduate School to approve the Examining Committee. At least one member of this five-person committee (normally the Dean's Representative) will be external to the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and one may be drawn from another university. A date will then be set for the oral defense. It can be expected to last about two hours.


Requirements for Students Receiving Financial Support

TEACHING ASSISTANTS: A description of the duties and requirements of students holding a Graduate Teaching Assistantship is forwarded to the student at the time the offer of an assistantship is made.

1. All Graduate Students receiving financial support should register, no later than the end of the Drop-Add period each semester, for the full number of credits for which they have received remission of tuition (e.g., five credits for half-time TA's, 10 credits for full-time TA's, 12 credits for Fellows). These credits may be taken as course work or as research hours (i.e. 798, 799, 898, 899).

2. For students working towards the Ph.D., the total number of years, including the M.A. years, during which financial support (i.e., graduate assistantship, fellowship, or part-time instructorship) will normally be granted, will not exceed six years (or four years for students entering the program with an M.A. from another institution). One of these years may be spent as a lecteur at the Université de Nice. On the recommendation of the student's advisor and the concurrence of the department Chair, and contingent upon available resources, an additional period may be granted by the Graduate Admissions Committee to students who have been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D.

3. Graduate Teaching Assistantships are only granted provided students take the required number of courses (typically 3 courses per semester for full-time TA’s) or prepare actively for their comprehensive or qualifying examinations.

 4. Graduate Teaching Assistants are expected to take a 1-credit practicum in their first (fall) semester (FREN 709) and FREN611 (The Structure of the French Language) in their second (Spring) semester.

Fellowship students are expected to carry 12 credits per semester unless the fellowship specifically stipulates otherwise.

Courses taken on an “audit” basis may not be counted towards the course requirements.

While program requirements are measured in “credits” (30 credits are required for the M.A. and 24 for the Ph.D.), the University of Maryland uses a different scale to verify students’ full-time status. Students who hold fellowships should pay close attention to this requirement (as well as foreign students who do not receive financial aid). Note that depending on their numbering (400-level, 600-level, 800-level), courses do not carry the same number of “units” (see the University Schedule of Classes for details).



MERCEDES BAILLARGEON (Ph.D., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) Associate Professor: 20th & 21st century French literature; women’s writing; autofiction; critical theory; gender & queer studies; cultural studies; Québec cinema

MARIA BELIAEVA SOLOMON (Ph.D., New York University) Assistant Professor: 19th-century French literature, media and mass culture; digital humanities; medical humanities; gender studies

SARAH BENHARRECH (Ph.D., Princeton University) Associate Professor: Enlightenment studies; 18th-Century fiction and drama; ecocriticism; women in science; plant studies.

HERVÉ-THOMAS CAMPANGNE (Ph.D., Rutgers University)  Professor: Renaissance and 17th Century Literature and Culture, France-United States relations 

LAURETTA CLOUGH (Ph.D., University of Maryland) Associate Director SLLC: Translation Theory and Practice

CAROLINE EADES (Doctorat, Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle) Associate Professor: Film, Contemporary Culture

GIUSEPPE FALVO (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University) Associate Professor of Italian: Renaissance, Cinema

ANDREA FRISCH (Ph.D., Berkeley) Professor: Renaissance and 17th Century Literature and Culture

VALERIE ORLANDO (Ph.D., Brown University) Professor: Francophone Literatures of Africa and the Caribbean, African Cinema, 20th-21st Century French Literature

MARY ELLEN (MEL) SCULLEN (Ph.D., Indiana University) Associate Professor: French Linguistics, Linguistic Theory, Second Language Acquisition and Language Pedagogy


PROFESSORS EMERITI (Research Directors)

JOSEPH BRAMI (Ph.D., New York University) Professor: Poetry, Fiction, Autobiography, History of Ideas

MADELEINE COTTENET-HAGE (Doctorat, Université de Nancy) Professor: Feminist Criticism, Cultural Studies (Distinguished Scholar Teacher 1996-97)

CAROL MOSSMAN (Phd. Rice University) Professor: 19th Century literature, Women’s Studies.

CHARLES C. RUSSELL (Ph.D., Harvard University) Professor of Italian: Dante, Opera Libretto

PIERRE VERDAGUER (Ph.D., University of Virginia) Professor: 20th Century Fiction, French Cultural Studies, History of Ideas



MARILYN MATAR (Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park), Program Director, Language House, SLLC: Francophone literature, media, and culture of the Mashrek; theatre; literary theory; postcolonialism

CHARLES BUTTERWORTH (Ph.D., University of Chicago; Doctorat, Université de Nancy), Professor Emeritus, Department of Government & Politics: Political Philosophy, Law and Society

ISABELLE GOURNAY (Ph.D., Yale University) Associate Professor Emerita, School of Architecture, Cross-currents between Western Europe and North America, Modern and Contemporary Architecture

MARTIN HEISLER (Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles) Professor Emeritus, Department of Government & Politics Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Sociology

CHRISTINE JONES (Ph.D., Princeton University) Assistant Director for Academic Affairs, University Honors, Honors College; early-modern French fairy tales, trades, decorative arts

PIOTR H. KOSICKI (Ph.D., Princeton University) Associate Professor, Department of History; modern French intellectual and cultural history, political and religious thought in Europe

FRANÇOIS LOUP (Conservatoire de Musique, Fribourg) Associate Professor Emeritus, School of Music

DONALD SUTHERLAND (Ph.D., University of London) Professor Emeritus, Department of History The French Revolution and Counterrevolution