skip to content

French and Italian

Emeriti: (Professors) John G. Barson, Marc Bertrand, Robert G. Cohn, John Freccero, Renť Girard, Ralph M. Hester, Pauline Newman-Gordon, Roberto B. Sangiorgi

Chair: Robert Harrison

Directors of Graduate Studies: Jean-Marie ApostolidŤs (French), Carolyn Springer (Italian)

Directors of Undergraduate Studies: Cťcile Alduy (French, Winter, Spring), Jean-Marie ApostolidŤs (French, Autumn), Carolyn Springer (Italian)

Professors: Jean-Marie ApostolidŤs, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Hans U. Gumbrecht (on leave), Robert Harrison, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Jeffrey T. Schnapp (on leave), Michel Serres

Associate Professors: Joshua Landy, Carolyn Springer

Assistant Professors: Cťcile Alduy, Dan Edelstein (on leave Winter), Marisa Galvez, Laura Wittman

Lecturer: Sarah Sussman

Visiting Lecturer: Christy Pichichero

Courtesy Professors: Keith Baker, Margaret Cohen, Paula Findlen, Michael Marrinan

Visiting Professors: Remo Ceserani, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Elena Russo

Visiting Assistant Professor: Ewa Domanska

Department Offices: Building 260, Room 122-123

Mail Code: 94305-2010

Department Phone: (650) 723-4183

Department Fax: (650) 723-0482


Web Site:

Courses offered by the Department of French and Italian are listed on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site under the subject codes FRENGEN (French General), FRENLIT (French Literature), ITALGEN (Italian General), and ITALLIT (Italian Literature). For courses in French or Italian language instruction with the subject code FRENLANG or ITALLANG, see the "Language Center" section of this bulletin.

French Section

The French section provides students with the opportunity to pursue course work at all levels in French language, literature, cultural and intellectual history, theory, film, and Francophone studies. It understands the domain of French Studies as encompassing the complex of cultural, political, social, scientific, commercial, and intellectual phenomena associated with French-speaking parts of the world, from France and Belgium to Canada, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Three degree programs are available in French: a B.A., a terminal M.A., and a Ph.D. A Ph.D. in French and Italian is also available.

Visiting faculty and instructors contribute regularly to the life of the French section. The section maintains contacts with the Ecole Normale Supťrieure, the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, and the Ecole Polytechnique.

A curator for Romance languages oversees the extensive French collection at Green Library. The Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace also includes materials on 20th-century France and French social and political movements.

France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies—The center, founded in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to bridge the disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, sciences, engineering, business, and law, to address historical and contemporary issues. Its programs bring faculty and students from across Stanford's departments and schools in contact with colleagues in France to explore issues of common intellectual concern. The center invites French-speaking scholars to offer courses or give lectures or seminars on campus. It facilitates internships for Stanford students in computer science and engineering in Sophia-Antipolis, France's new high-tech center near Nice.

La Maison FranÁaise—La Maison FranÁaise, 610 Mayfield, is an undergraduate residence that serves as a campus French cultural center, hosting in-house seminars as well as social events, film series, readings, and lectures by distinguished representatives of French and Francophone intellectual, artistic, and political life. Assignment is made through the regular housing draw.

Stanford in Paris—The Bing Overseas Studies Program in Paris offers undergraduates the opportunity to study in France during Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters. It provides a wide range of academic options, including course work at the Stanford center and at the University of Paris, independent study projects, and internships. In addition, the program promotes interaction with the local community through volunteer employment, homestays, and internships. The minimum language requirement for admission into Stanford in Paris is one year of French at the college level.

Courses offered in Paris may count toward fulfillment of the requirements of the French major or minor. Students should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies before and after attending the program, in order to ensure that course work and skills acquired abroad can be coordinated appropriately with their degree program. Detailed information, including program requirements and curricular offerings, may be obtained from the "Overseas Studies" section of this bulletin, the Stanford in Paris web site, or the Overseas Studies Program Office in Sweet Hall.

Mission of the Undergraduate Program in French

The mission of the undergraduate program in French is to expose students to a variety of perspectives in French Language, culture, and history by providing majors with training in writing and communication as well as cultural, textual, and historical analysis in order to develop students into critical and global thinkers prepared for careers in business, social service, and government, or for graduate study in French.

Italian Section

The Italian section offers graduate and undergraduate programs in Italian language, literature, culture, and intellectual history. Course offerings range from small, specialized graduate seminars to general courses open to all students on authors such as Dante, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli.

Three degree programs are available in Italian: a B.A., a terminal M.A., and a Ph.D. A Ph.D. in French and Italian is also available.

Collections in Green Research Library are strong in the medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary periods; the Italian section is one of the larger constituents of the western European collection at the Hoover Institution for the Study of War, Revolution, and Peace; and the Music Library has excellent holdings in Italian opera.

La Casa Italiana—La Casa Italiana, 562 Mayfield, is an undergraduate residence devoted to developing an awareness of Italian language and culture. It works closely with the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco and with other local cultural organizations. It hosts visiting representatives of Italian intellectual, artistic, and political life. A number of departmental courses are taught at the Casa, which also offers in-house seminars. Assignment is made through the regular undergraduate housing draw.

Stanford in Italy—The Bing Overseas Studies Program in Florence affords undergraduates with at least three quarters of Italian language the opportunity to take advantage of the unique intellectual and visual resources of the city and to focus on two areas: Renaissance history and art, and contemporary Italian and European studies. The program is structured to help integrate students into Italian culture through homestays, Florence University courses, the Language Partners Program, research, internship and public service opportunities, and by conducting some of the program's classes in Italian. Many courses offered in Florence may count toward the fulfillment of requirements for the Italian major or minor. Students are encouraged to consult with the Italian undergraduate adviser before and after a sojourn in Florence to ensure that their course selections meet Italian section requirements. Information on the Florence program is available in the "Overseas Studies" section of this bulletin, the Stanford in Florence web site, or at the Overseas Studies office in Sweet Hall.

Mission of the Undergraduate Program in Italian

The mission of the undergraduate program in Italian is to expose students to a variety of perspectives in Italian Language, culture, and history by providing majors with training in writing and communication as well as cultural, textual, and historical analysis in order to develop students into critical and global thinkers prepared for careers in business, social service, and government, or for graduate study in Italian.

Graduate Programs in French and Italian

Admission to the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs—Applications and admissions information may be obtained from Graduate Admissions in the Registrar's Office, or at Applicants should read the general regulations governing degrees in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. Applicants to the French program should have preparation equivalent to an undergraduate major in French; applicants to the Italian program should have done significant course work in Italian literature and/or Italian studies on the undergraduate level; in both cases, applicants should also have reached a high level of speaking and writing proficiency in the language. Previous study of an additional language is also highly desirable. Recent Graduate Record Examination (GRE) results are required, as are two writing samples representative of the applicant's best undergraduate work. One sample should be in English, one in the language of study.

General Requirements for the Ph.D. in French or Italian

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree must complete at least 135 units of graduate-level study and teach five language courses in the section. 72 of the 135 units must be taken within the department. The remaining units must be selected in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Students entering with a master's degree or previous graduate work may receive credit as determined on a case-by-case basis, up to a maximum of 45 units. Fellowship funding, teaching, and other requirements may be adjusted accordingly.

Required Courses—Three courses are required:

  1. FRENGEN/ITALGEN 369, Introduction to Graduate Studies: Criticism as Profession, a 5-unit seminar offered in Autumn Quarter of each year, designed to acquaint students with the theoretical and methodological concerns of literary study. This course must be taken in the first quarter of study.
  2. Definition and Inquiry: FRENGEN/ITALGEN 301E, New Methods and Sources in French and Italian Studies, a 3 unit course designed to familiarize graduate students with research materials and techniques. This course must be taken no later than the end of the third year of study.
  3. DLCL 201, The Learning and Teaching of Second Languages, the second-language pedagogy course offered by the Stanford Language Center in the Spring Quarter of each year in order to prepare entering graduate students for teaching in their second year.

Distribution of Elective Courses—Apart from these requirements, students are granted considerable freedom in structuring a course of study appropriate to their individual needs. During the first year, most course work is usually done within the department, in order to ensure an adequate preparation for the qualifying examination. In the second and third years, however, the program of study is tailored to the specific interests of the student.

Candidacy—By the sixth quarter of graduate study, students must have satisfied all requirements to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. Students must have passed the qualifying examination and satisfactorily completed at least 72 units of graduate-level study beyond the bachelor's degree (incompletes can not be counted). A candidacy form, available from the student services officer, should be completed, signed and approved the department.

TGR status—Doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy, completed all required courses and degree requirements other than the dissertation, completed 135 units, and submitted a Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form, may request Terminal Graduate Registration status to complete their dissertations. Each quarter, all TGR students must enroll in FRENGEN 802 or ITALGEN 802 for zero units, in the appropriate section for their adviser.


There are three examinations: the qualifying exam, the field exam, and the University oral examination.

Qualifying Examination—The first oral examination, which takes place in the first week of October of the second year of study, tests the student's knowledge of language and literature. The examining committee (see below) will schedule the precise exam date and time.

The exam is based on a standard reading list covering major works from all periods of literature in the language(s) of study, from the Middle Ages to the present day. The list may be expanded to reflect a student's particular interests, but not abridged.

Half of the exam takes place in the language of study, half in English (with the student free to choose which portion transpires in which language).

The exam is 90 minutes in length and consists of two parts:

  1. A 20-minute presentation by the candidate on a topic to be determined by the student. This presentation may be given in English or in the language of study and should engage, in a succinct and synthetic manner, an issue or set of issues of broad relevance to the literary history of the language(s) of study. The presentation must not simply be a text read aloud, but rather must be given from notes. It is meant to be suggestive and not exhaustive, so as to provoke further discussion.
  2. A 70-minute question and answer period in which the examining committee follows up on the candidate's presentation and discusses the reading list with the student. At least part of this portion of the exam takes place in the language of study. The student is expected to demonstrate a solid knowledge of the texts on the reading list and of the basic issues which they raise, as well as a broader sense of the cultural/literary context into which they fit.

The examining committee is determined yearly by the Department Chair.

Two weeks before the exam, the student must also submit three graduate seminar papers which he or she considers representative of the quality of his or her graduate work at Stanford.

On the basis of these papers, the results of the qualifying examination, and an evaluation of the student's overall progress, the members of the student's examining committee vote for or against admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. The terminal master's degree may be awarded to students who have completed the qualifying procedure, but whose work is judged insufficient for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. If the overall case for or against promotion to candidacy is deemed uncertain, students may be asked either to retake the qualifying exam, to submit a new paper, or they may be admitted to candidacy on a probationary basis. Subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies and department chair, students already holding an advanced degree in the relevant area may be excused from the qualifying exam. However, they must present a formal request for a waiver to the Director of Graduate Studies upon their arrival at Stanford. Such a request must document the course work completed elsewhere and include all relevant reading lists. Only in cases where taking the qualifying exam would involve considerable repetition of already completed work is such a waiver likely to be granted.

Field Examination—The second oral examination, which normally takes place in the Fall Quarter of the third year of study, consists of two parts:

  1. A 20-minute presentation by the student on a topic (a particular literary genre or a broad theoretical, historical, or interdisciplinary question) freely chosen and developed by the individual student working in collaboration with his or her adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. The student should design this research project so that it has the breadth and focus of a book he or she might write or a seminar he or she might teach. The student should discuss the proposed topic with the Director of Graduate Studies before the end of the quarter preceding the quarter in which he or she plans to take the exam; together they choose a committee of two faculty members with interests close to the proposed topic. (In most cases, one of these committee members is the student's adviser.) In addition to these two members, the examination committee includes the Director of Graduate Studies, who serves in an ex officio capacity as the third member of the examination committee. This presentation is followed by a 20-minute discussion.
  2. An 80-minute discussion of a reading list, assembled by the student, which covers about a century of writing. The reading list should include works in all genres relevant to the period covered and should be around two single-spaced pages in length. The list may well include critical and scholarly works or texts from outside the traditional domain of literary studies in the chosen tradition (such as film, philosophy, other literary traditions), but such coverage should be regarded as supplemental except in rare instances where the chair and faculty advisers have agreed to define these materials as the student's field. Students are required to discuss the reading list for the examination with the Director of Graduate Studies and with members of their committee during the quarter preceding the examination. A final reading list must be in the hands of the committee no later than two weeks preceding the examination; two copies of the final reading list must be given to the student services officer for the Division of Languages, Cultures, and Literatures (one for the student's file and one for a special file which subsequent students can consult).

Each member of the committee is assigned a 20-minute period to question the candidate on the reading list and its intellectual-historical implications. The aim of these questions is to establish the student's credentials as a specialist in the period of his or her choosing, so the core of the reading list must be made up of texts that are essential to any specialist. It follows that reading lists must not focus on the narrow area of the student's research interests. The tendency to bias reading lists toward the dissertation topic, be it an author or a genre, does not cancel the obligation to cover the major figures and genres. It is understandable that some students, by their third year, have become so deeply committed to their work toward the dissertation that they wish to use the preparation period for the examination as part of their dissertation research. Certainly, some of the exam work may prove relevant, but students should also remember that the examination is the central means of certifying their expertise in a literary period.

The University Oral—The University Ph.D. examination takes the form of a dissertation proposal defense. It is to be taken no later than Autumn Quarter of the student's fourth year (or third year, if the student received four years of funding). Normally students put one, and at most two, full-time quarters of study into preparation for the exam. Students must complete minimum course requirements (as listed in this bulletin) and all language and course requirements before the quarter in which they take the University oral examination. By the time of the examination, they must have no outstanding incompletes. Students must submit the Request for University Oral Exam form to the student services officer at least three weeks before the proposed date of the exam. At the same time this form is submitted, students should also submit the Notice of Appointment of the Ph.D. dissertation reading committee. In addition, a Report on Ph.D. Foreign Language must be completed, certifying a reading knowledge of the foreign language the student presents to meet the language requirements.

Two weeks before the exam, at the latest, the student must submit to the committee a 25-35 page proposal (two other copies must be given to the student services officer of the Division of Languages, Cultures, and Literatures, one of which will be added to a file for subsequent students to consult). This proposal must contain the following parts: 1) a clear presentation of the student's central thesis; 2) a synthetic overview of the dissertation; 3) a description of the methodology that will be used in the dissertation; 4) an in-depth discussion of current secondary sources on the topic. The student must also append a bibliography, but this does not take the place of 4. The prospectus must be prepared in close consultation with the dissertation director during the months preceding the colloquium.

The exam committee consists of four members, in addition to a committee chair from outside the Department of French and Italian whose principal functions are to keep track of time and to call on the four members of the committee who question the candidate on the talk and on the reading list.

After a 20-minute presentation on the part of the candidate, each member of the committee (apart from the committee chair) will question the student for 20 minutes. At the end of the hour and forty minutes, the faculty readers vote on the outcome of the exam. If the outcome is favorable (by majority vote), the student is free to proceed with work on the dissertation. If the proposal is found to be unsatisfactory (by majority vote), the dissertation readers may ask the student to revise and resubmit the dissertation prospectus and to schedule a second exam.

The University oral examination is a formal University event. It represents the last occasion for the faculty to evaluate a student's overall preparation as a candidate for the Ph.D. After the University oral, only the certification of the final dissertation by the student's reading committee must be obtained before conferral of the Ph.D. The examination, therefore, is a uniquely significant event and is designed to evaluate the student's preparation to write a dissertation at the highest standards of excellence.

Evaluation—At the end of each examination, the committee meets briefly and immediately informs the student whether he or she has passed. In the week following, the student is expected to meet individually with members of the committee to discuss strengths and weaknesses revealed during the examination.


The fourth and (if necessary) fifth years of graduate study are devoted to writing and researching the doctoral dissertation. The doctoral dissertation should demonstrate the ability to carry out research, organize, and present the results in publishable form. The scope of the dissertation should be such that it could be completed in 12 to 18 months of full-time work.


Given the interdisciplinary nature of the Ph.D. programs and the opportunity they afford each student to create an individualized program of study, regular consultation with an adviser is of the utmost importance. The adviser for all entering graduate students is the Director of Graduate Studies, whose responsibility it is to assist students with their course planning and to keep a running check on progress in completing the course, teaching, and language requirements. By the end of the first year of study, each student must choose a faculty adviser whose expertise is appropriate to his or her own area of research and interests.

© Stanford University - Office of the Registrar. 630 Serra Street, Stanford, California 94305. (650) 723-2300Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints