University of Southern California
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Graduate Degrees

The Department of French and Italian offers courses of study leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. in French. Normally the M.A. is not offered as a terminal degree but is awarded en route to the Ph.D. The vast majority of students pursue the doctorate in preparation for a career of teaching and research at the college or university level in the field of French and Francophone literature and cultural studies. While the department does not offer graduate degrees in Italian, students may pursue advanced study in comparative literature with Italian as an area of interest.

Students preparing for careers as university professors in French must obtain a broad knowledge of major French and Francophone literary texts and traditions from the Middle Ages through the present, achieved through a combination of course work and preparation for exams. At the same time they should develop the intellectual depth that allows them to produce an original dissertation in a timely manner. To help students achieve these dual goals, the curriculum is organized into three year-long themes that have profoundly influenced and been influenced by thought, literature and culture in France: Rhétoriques (des arts), Raison et Déraison and Revolutions. While there is no absolute way to distinguish the kind of works that will be studied in the theme-years, they could be said to correspond, in order, to aesthetics/poetics/French language/visual culture; subjectivity/psychology and psychoanalysis/philosophy; and politics/history/literature in social context, in the most general sense.

Admission Requirements

Requirements for admission to graduate study in French include: scores satisfactory to the department on the verbal, quantitative and analytical Graduate Record Examinations; acceptable samples of written work demonstrating competence in critical analysis of literary/cultural works and in the writing of French; a written statement of the applicant’s aims and interests in graduate work; a cumulative GPA satisfactory to the department; evidence of mastery of oral French; letters of recommendation from at least three college instructors of French or related fields. Details of the application process appear on the departmental Web site.

Degree Requirements

The M.A. and Ph.D. in French are under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

Master of Arts in French

Course Requirements
The M.A. in French is for students intending to complete the Ph.D. For the M.A., a minimum of eight courses (32 units) in French or, with permission, related departments is required. No more than eight of the 32 units counted toward the M.A. may be earned in courses at the 400 level. In addition, each student must successfully complete a series of three written field examinations testing broad knowledge of the French and Francophone literary traditions. The written exams will be followed by an oral defense. The M.A. in French does not require a thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy in French

Application deadline: January 1

Screening Procedure
To pursue the Ph.D. in French, a student must pass a screening examination, to be taken during the fourth semester (normally the spring of the second year). This will consist of an oral defense of a long paper (approximately 40 pages) developed from course work during the first year, a written literary analysis exercise and consideration of a student’s performance in course work during the first two years of study by a committee of faculty in the department.

Foreign Language Requirement
The foreign language requirement for the doctorate in French may be fulfilled under one of two options. Option one involves completing a seminar at or above the 400 level on any aspect of another national literature or culture, as long as this seminar is taught in a language other than French or English and all written work is done in the relevant foreign language (typically Latin, German or a romance language other than French). Option two consists of taking a reading examination in the relevant language (other than French or English). Students should confer with the graduate advisor to decide which option is most appropriate given their particular scholarly interests. This requirement must be completed at least 60 days before the qualifying examination.

Course Requirements
To obtain the Ph.D., students must complete at least 60 units of course work beyond the B.A. Most of these units will be earned in the French department and will include nine courses from three theme-years. In conjunction with the director of graduate studies, students may also choose courses from a wide variety of other schools and departments including Art History, Cinematic Arts, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, History, Philosophy and so on. Students are normally required to take COLT 502 Introduction to Literary Theory in the first semester of graduate study. At least four (but no more than eight) units of 794 Doctoral Dissertation are also required. No more than eight of the 60 units counted toward the Ph.D. may be earned in courses at the 400 level. No more than eight units may be earned through Directed Research (FREN 590 or FREN 790). Students with significant prior graduate study in French at other institutions may be granted up to 30 units of transfer credit. The number of units to be awarded toward the Ph.D. will be decided by the director of graduate studies in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School. It is not essential that all students participate in all three of the theme-years in order for them to advance to candidacy in the department.

Qualifying Examination
After completion of the screening procedure, language requirement and at least 52 units of course work, the student prepares a qualifying examination to be overseen by a committee of five faculty. At least one member of the committee must be from a department other than French. This examination will include a six-hour written portion with questions about the student’s knowledge of French literary culture in a broad sense based on a reading list of major texts. This will be followed by an oral discussion of a student’s preparation of a syllabus for an imaginary French undergraduate course and an oral defense of the dissertation prospectus (normally 20-25 pages). Successful completion of the qualifying examination constitutes approval of the dissertation topic.

The dissertation defense takes place upon approval from a three-member dissertation committee formed after completion of the qualifying examination. The format of the defense is determined by the candidate’s committee, but will normally consist of a brief presentation followed by questions from readers. All dissertation defenses in the Department of French are open to the public.

Three-Year Course Cycle

Rhétoriques (des Arts)
Rhetorics (of the Arts)
The “Rhétoriques” year will be devoted to the arts that have established and contested French and Francophone traditions: the art of writing in the French language since the chansons de geste and medieval romans up to the most innovative literary practices of the modern or postmodern age. The seminars of the “Rhétoriques” year may also include study of artistic forms and practices other than the literary, poetic or theatrical: the plastic arts (painting, photography, film, architecture), acoustic arts or others. Consideration will also be given to the relations between art and the state.

The term “Revolution” inhabits a turbulent and ambivalent space. If it immediately conjures up the cataclysmic upheavals of the 1789 Revolution followed by the 1830 and 1848 revolutions that transformed French society and ushered in the modern era, it should also evoke a number of other momentous revolutions in science, medicine and the arts that altered not only the perception of space, time and vision, but more importantly, the ways the French represented themselves and others. Revolution is not strictly bounded by political and social concerns but governs and pervades all facets of artistic, cultural and literary experiments. These new forms of revolutionary expression helped reshape the cultural boundaries of the modern postcolonial nation and undermine the modern French state.

Raison et Déraison
Reason and Unreason
The double logic of raison et déraison in French thought plays an important role in the construction of social order(s), governs questions of epistemology and psychology, and is fundamental to literary and artistic creation. This category references a set of theoretical texts that, while uniquely French, have been of crucial significance for the redefinition of literary studies in the American academy: Foucault’s examination of madness (as well as discipline), writings by Deleuze and Guattari and a specifically French tradition of psychoanalytic criticism including, most famously, the work of Jacques Lacan. The broader relevance of the raison et déraison rubric emerges from the way in which it resonates throughout the early modern, modern and even post-modern periods in the textual production of thinkers as diverse as Montaigne and Lévi-Strauss, Sade and Irigaray, Hugo and Lyotard. Ultimately, this category is meant to encourage students to make connections between genres and across periods.

Curriculum Organization

Students may enter the program at any point in the theme-year cycle. In the fall of each theme year, the courses offered (FREN 500, 511 and 502) will be focused “core” courses, with emphasis on helping students to understand the overall concepts of the theme-year as they pertain to French thought. Issues of method and professional development often addressed in a proseminar would also be a component of the fall core courses. The spring seminars (FREN 551, 552, 560, 600, 601, 602) are topical seminars that vary depending on the professor (but still engage with the theme-year in a significant way).

During each theme-year, students will be required to read works on a list of key texts, some of which will also be incorporated into the courses themselves. The theme-year reading lists are part of the reading lists for the qualifying examinations.

Certificate in Foreign Language Teaching

The Certificate in Foreign Language Teaching provides certification in the theory and practice of second or foreign language teaching for student language teachers concurrently enrolled in graduate degree programs in foreign languages or related graduate programs at USC; for graduates of such programs who are teaching languages; for external candidates concurrently enrolled in similar programs at accredited colleges or universities; or for graduates of such programs who are teaching languages. The certificate is meant to supplement graduate study in the literature or linguistics of foreign languages. It is also meant to supplement classroom teaching. Refer to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese for course work requirements.

Teaching Assistant Exchange Program

Doctoral candidates who have not completed their dissertation may participate in a one-year exchange program with the University of Paris. USC graduate students will teach English at the University of Paris III and take courses at any University of Paris campus or do dissertation research.