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This archived information is dated to the 2010-11 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

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

The Department of French and Italian offers three Ph.D. programs: a Ph.D. in French, a Ph.D. in Italian, and a Ph.D. in French and Italian.

Students for each of these programs must complete the requirements following, as well as the requirements outlined for their respective Ph.D. program.


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 Chair of Graduate Studies. Of the 72 department units, candidates for the Ph.D. in French must take a minimum of five courses taught in French (FRENLIT) for a minimum of 20 units during the course of their studies; three courses taught in French (FRENLIT) must be taken in the first year.

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.

The principal conditions for continued registration of a graduate student are the timely and satisfactory completion of the university, department, and program requirements for the degree, and fulfillment of minimum progress requirements. Failure to meet these requirements results in corrective measures which may include a written warning, academic probation, and/or the possible release from the program.

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. Students are encouraged to take a variety of courses in order to be exposed to different periods and issues. Students are not allowed to take Independent Study during their first year. 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. The requirements to advance to candidacy are the following:

A candidacy form, available from the student services officer, should be completed, signed and approved the department. The requirements to advance to candidacy are the following:

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, must 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 two weeks of October of the second year of study, tests the student's knowledge of language and literature and his or her aptitude for critical thinking. The examining committee (see below) schedules 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 and demonstrate the ability to formulate an original point of view on such texts and contexts.

The examining committee is determined yearly by the Director of the Department.

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. At least one of these papers must be in French for the Ph.D. in French or Italian for the Ph.D. in Italian.

Students may not take the Qualifying Exam while incompletes are pending.

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 Chair of Graduate Studies and the Director of the Department, 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 Chair 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 Autumn 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 Chair 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 Chair 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 Chair 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 Chair 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 is 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 is 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) questions 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.

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