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Ph.D. Program in Modern French Studies (FRMS)

Our Ph.D. program combines training in literary, cultural and language studies with individualized research to open new, innovative understandings of the French-speaking world of yesterday and today. 

The Ph.D. in modern French studies at the University of Maryland offers comprehensive training in French and Francophone studies, including teaching, research and professionalization. The program offers seminars in French and Francophone literature, culture and film, in addition to French language and linguistics. With the guidance of internationally recognized faculty specializing in a range of genres and issues and reflective of the diversity and complexity of the French-speaking world, students develop competencies in innovative research methods and approaches such as critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, colonial and post-colonial studies, cultural and media criticism, ecocriticism and digital humanities, among others. The French Ph.D. program fosters collaborative work across disciplines, languages, media, centuries and fields. Students may pursue graduate certificates in affiliated programs such as women, gender and sexuality studies, comparative literature and digital humanities, as well as participate in Graduate School field committees in film studies and in medieval and early modern studies. Students are encouraged to pursue independent and innovative thinking through individualized curricula and research projects with the support of the French program’s intellectual community.

Students are normally granted full funding for four years, with the possibility of an additional year, contingent upon availability of funds. Annual renewal of financial support is based on satisfactory performance and progress in the program. The program also provides thorough pedagogical training and teaching experience in French language, literature and culture courses.

Students who have graduated from our program have pursued careers in higher education and beyond. For a complete list of Ph.D. graduate placements.

Admissions Information

Entry into the Ph.D. program is open to students who have already completed an M.A. in a field related to French studies. Students with a B.A. in French or a related field should begin with the M.A.

All foreign applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the TOEFL examination (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Course Requirements

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 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

Apart from those core courses, with the help of the director of graduate studies and their advisor, students will create an individually-tailored program of study that best matches their interests to complete the course requirements towards their degree.

Additionally, graduate teaching assistants are expected to take a 1-credit practicum in their first semester (FREN709) and FREN611 (The Structure of the French Language) in their second (spring) semester.

For additional information, please see the Graduate Student Handbook.

Language Requirement

All Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate a sound reading knowledge of one other language in addition to French and English. 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.

For additional information on how to fulfill this requirement, please see the Graduate Student Handbook.


Entering students are advised in their first semester by the director of graduate studies or by some other designated professor. By the end of their second semester, students should choose a permanent advisor and register this choice with the director of graduate studies. Final responsibility for meeting Graduate School requirements and deadlines rests solely with the student.

Qualifying Examinations

In order to advance to candidacy, Ph.D. students are required to pass two Qualifying Examinations consisting of:

 a) one two-part Comprehensive Examination; and
 b) one Prospectus Defense.

In both cases, the committee will be composed of three members of the French faculty. An additional fourth member from outside the department is possible for the prospectus defense if the topic warrants it.

A ) The first Qualifying Examination is a two-part comprehensive exam, first written, then oral, taken over two consecutive days. It assesses whether students have acquired sufficiently broad knowledge of French and Francophone literature as well as of a range of theoretical approaches to be able to successfully take on the dissertation project. This exam should be taken by the end of the student’s third semester in the Ph.D. program. If students choose to submit their written response in English, the oral portion will be in French, and vice versa.

For the written part of the examination, students will have four hours to respond to one of two questions based on the standard Ph.D. reading list. The exam is taken without notes, in an examination room with a computer provided by the department.

For the oral part of the examination, which lasts approximately an hour, students will be asked to discuss their written response and the reading list with their committee.

To obtain the current reading list for the Ph.D. examination, contact the director of graduate studies.

B) The second Qualifying Examination is the oral defense of a written dissertation prospectus (approx. 5,000 words) and accompanying bibliography. The prospectus is a formal project proposal for the dissertation. The prospectus should lay out the proposed area and object of study, explain the relevant context, a research question, how your project is inscribed within the larger field (what has and has not been done in this area), a theoretical approach and a description of the methodology to be adopted, as well as a bibliography.

*Please note that, following a successful prospectus defense, 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 to six weeks.


Doctoral 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, which can be expected to last about two hours.

Application Instructions

Application deadline is January 15 for admission in the fall and may be submitted here. Before completing the application, applicants are asked to check the Admissions Requirements site for specific instructions about the Ph.D. program.

As required by the Graduate School, all application materials must be submitted electronically through the Graduate Application Portal:

  • Non-refundable application fee for each program
  • Statement of Purpose. The statement should address relevant aspects of your educational experience, the focus of your academic interests and reasons for applying to our program.
  • Unofficial transcripts of your entire college/university record (undergraduate and graduate), including records of any advanced work done at another institution. Electronic copies of these unofficial transcripts must be uploaded along with your online application.
  • Three letters of recommendation. In your online application, please fully complete the information requested for your recommenders and ask them to submit their letters electronically.
  • Two samples of critical writing in French. While we encourage you to submit your best writing sample, we prefer a writing sample in your declared field of interest. If you are submitting an excerpted selection, please include a brief description or introduction to the selection. The MLA citation format is preferred.
  • Description of Research/Work Experience (optional)
  • Publications/Presentations (optional)
  • Academic CV/Resume

Completed applications are reviewed by an admissions committee in each graduate degree program. The recommendations of the committees are submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School, who will make the final admission decision. To ensure the integrity of the application process, the University of Maryland authenticates submitted materials through TurnItIn for Admissions.
For questions related to the admissions process, prospective students may contact the Graduate School.

Information for International Graduate Students

The University of Maryland is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant international graduate student community. International applicants are encouraged to contact the office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS), a valuable source of information and assistance for prospective and current international students. Admitted international students will receive instructions about obtaining the appropriate visa to study at the University of Maryland which will require submission of additional documents. International students admitted by the Graduate School are responsible for obtaining the appropriate visa in order to enroll.

English Proficiency Requirement

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.

Please see the Graduate Admissions Process for International applicants for more information.

Program Contact

Brandie Shackelford

Student Affairs Coordinator, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

(301) 405-4023

Director of Graduate Studies

Sarah Benharrech

Associate Professor, French
Affiliate, Classics
Associate Professor, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

3125 Jimenez Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-1644