PhD Program Requirements
Students take eighteen quarter courses during their first three years, including at least twelve courses in the Department of French and Italian. They select the remaining courses from offerings in other departments and programs according to their individual interests. The available French courses cover a variety of periods, media (print and visual cultures) and genres comprising French and Francophone literary and cultural traditions, and expose students to a range of critical and theoretical methodologies. One of the required French department courses is a writing tutorial taken in the winter of the second year that provides students the opportunity to expand and revise a term paper. Another is an independent study in which students prepare their thesis proposals. At least three must cover the period before 1900.
Students may tailor their elective coursework so as to take advantage of special concentrations such as the Certificate in Italian Studies and concentrations in African Studies, Gender Studies, Critical Theory, and other fields offered through the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative.
Students are evaluated at the end of their first year on the basis of their performance in courses and the promise they show as Ph.D. candidates. They are evaluated in the second year on the basis of their course work and the advanced research paper that they prepare in the Writing Tutorial. No later than the winter quarter of their third year, they complete their Ph.D. qualifying examination and take an independent study with their chosen thesis advisor in order to prepare the dissertation prospectus. Following the review and approval of the prospectus by their committee, the remainder of the third year and the following two years are dedicated to dissertation research and writing.
Note: students entering the Ph.D. program with an MA in French or a related discipline are eligible to petition the faculty for a two-course reduction in the total number of required courses, so as to proceed to the exam as early as the fall quarter of the third year. Final determinations in this regard will be made by the faculty at the time of the first and/or second year review.
The Qualifying Exam: Definition and Guidelines
The qualifying examination for the Ph.D. in French is intended to satisfy three goals: 1) to establish the student’s knowledge of a field of specialization of his or her choosing so that he or she may proceed without delay to the research and writing of the dissertation prospectus; 2) to develop the student’s knowledge of a second area of literature and cultural production, distinct from the first, in which he or she wishes to teach or do research; and 3) to demonstrate the student’s proficiency in a selection of methodological, theoretical, and/or critical works that will inform his or her approach to the dissertation topic. The exam areas are therefore defined so as to allow students a substantial degree of flexibility in determining their intellectual profile, while also ensuring that they are prepared to teach outside their main area of expertise.
The examination consists of a written and oral component. The written portion has three sections, each of which corresponds to a reading list: 1) the Primary Field, 2) the Secondary Field, and 3) Theory/Methodology. The reading list for each section is developed by the student in consultation with the committee member who agrees to oversee the preparation of that list. The reading lists should not be overlapping, and should be composed as follows (please note that the suggested length of each list is meant as a guide only and may be adjusted depending on the nature of the material):
1. Primary Field: Includes main works in the dissertation corpus and a larger primary field around it, conceived in terms of a period or a genre depending on the student’s dissertation corpus and intellectual interests. It allows for coverage of major authors or genres in the chosen field, as well as works of particular interest to the student’s research. (Approximately 25-30 titles)
2. Secondary Field: May be conceived as a period (defined in national, transnational, or cross-disciplinary perspective), a genre specific to a period, a genre or style in historical or transnational perspective, a topic within a period, or a geographical region of the francophone world, depending on the student’s interests. It may also consist of materials drawn from another artistic medium, such as the visual arts, music, cinema, etc. It should be distinct from the Primary Field. (Approximately 20-25 titles)
3. Theory/Methodology: Methodology, theory, and/or criticism indicative of the student’s desired approach to the dissertation. Examples: poststructuralism, postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis (or more focused: psychoanalysis and gender), feminist theory, narratology, new historicism, etc. (Approximately 20-25 titles)
Qualifying Exam: Execution and Possible Outcomes
The student's committee is comprised of no fewer than three members of the Northwestern faculty, at least three of whom must be members of the graduate faculty. Ideally, students work with one faculty member on each list; however, depending on the composition of each exam area, one or two committee members may supervise each list. Students should work closely with each committee member in order to receive feedback and guidance on the preparation of the exam.
The three sections of the written exam are administered in a take-home format, and students are allowed one to two weeks to complete all sections of the exam, depending on their teaching schedules (see below). Each section consists of one or more questions to be answered in approximately 10 pages double spaced (total) in the language of the student’s choice. The entire written exam should therefore amount to approximately 30 pages. A follow-up oral exam takes place after the written exam is completed, usually within one week. This exam consists of questions and discussion on topics including but not necessarily limited to those explored in the written exam. The oral exam should not exceed two hours.
There are three possible outcomes of the qualifying exam. If the student does not pass the exam on the first try, he or she will be given the opportunity, during the following quarter, to rewrite the section(s) of the exam that were deemed unsatisfactory. If, however, on the second attempt the results are still unsatisfactory, the student will not pass and will be offered the possibility of taking a terminal master’s under the second year review policy.
Procedures for Qualifying Exam Administration
1. The Student sets up dates for the written and oral exams in consultation with the committee. Once dates are decided on, the student contacts the Graduate Program Assistant (GPA) who will reserve the room and complete the paperwork for TGS.
2. The chair of the exam committee solicits questions, gathers them and sends copies to all members of the committee. Once s/he has all the questions, s/he sends them to the student, giving him/her instructions about time and date of completion.
3. Student sends via email his/her answers to the exam committee chair, who will forward them to the other committee members.
4. The oral exam must take place within a week of the written exam so that the student does not get too far removed from the mind-set of the exam. Only when exceptional circumstances arise, the oral exam can be postponed beyond this time frame. The oral exam must also be scheduled during the quarter (between first and last day of a given quarter; never over breaks). It is the task of the exam committee chair to pick up the necessary form from the GPA, have it signed by the members of the committee at the end of the exam before retuning it to the GPA.
Timing of the Exam, Progression to French 596 Thesis Tutorial
By the start of the third quarter of study, students should begin to constitute their examination committee and establish at least one of the three lists so as to devote part or all of the summer to preparing it. The remaining committee members should be selected and the lists finalized as early as possible in the second year of study, and no later than the end of the spring quarter.
The qualifying examination should take place in the third year of study, ideally in the winter quarter and no later than the spring quarter. Students may choose to schedule the written qualifying exam at a time in the quarter when they are not required to be teaching on a daily basis, for example at some point during the last two weeks of the quarter, or in a non-teaching quarter. In these cases when they are not teaching, they will be allowed one week (seven days) to complete all three sections of the written take-home exam. If it is not feasible for students to schedule the exam while they are not teaching, they will be allowed two weeks (14 days) to take all sections of the written exam while teaching.
Students should enroll in French 596 Thesis Tutorial with the dissertation director in the quarter in which they take their examination, or in the subsequent quarter, with the expectation of proceeding to the dissertation prospectus immediately following the exam. Students must have completed French 596 (and thus have a draft of the dissertation prospectus) no later than the end of the quarter following the quarter in which they pass the exam.
The Prospectus: Definition and Guidelines
The prospectus is a preliminary description and “road map” of the dissertation. In defining the scope, aims and parts of the project, it enables students to communicate their ideas to others and to achieve the focus necessary to begin work on the dissertation itself.
There is no required page limit for prospectuses in our department, but they generally range from 8 to 15 pages in length, not including the bibliography. Students are advised to include the following information in the prospectus (please note that in some cases these categories may provide a useful format for structuring the document itself):
For additional resources concerning the writing of the prospectus and examples of past prospectuses from our department, see the Graduate Assistant for access to the graduate files.
The Prospectus Review:
No later than one quarter following their completion of 596, students pass a Prospectus Review, which is a meeting with a committee comprised of three members of the faculty (presumably the qualifying exam committee, although exceptions may be allowed in cases in which the prospectus requires the expertise of another faculty member) in which the prospectus is discussed. The purpose of the meeting is to enable students to present their ideas orally, answer questions, and receive constructive criticism from the committee before work on the dissertation gets underway, and to allow for dialogue among committee members. The student will be expected to defend the ideas in the prospectus itself as well as to demonstrate familiarity with works on the bibliography.
The Graduate Committee recommends that the Prospectus Review be scheduled at the time of the qualifying exam. No later than two weeks in advance of the review, the student circulates to the committee members the prospectus, which is prepared according to the specific criteria provided by the department (see above) and includes a bibliography of primary and secondary works. Prior to the meeting, the student will consult with the members of the committee and make any requested revisions to the draft prospectus. Note: The student is responsible for submitting the PhD Prospectus form through TGS in Ceasar in advance of the meeting.
Each year a department colloquium will be organized, the express purpose of which will be to highlight the work of those students who successfully passed the Prospectus Review in the previous twelve months. All students are therefore expected to present their prospectus or subsequent dissertation work in progress in a department colloquium within one year of their Prospectus Review.
From Prospectus to Dissertation Committee:
While the prospectus committee may in many instances be the same as the dissertation committee, students are free to make changes to their committee as their dissertation takes shape. Students also have the option to include a non-Northwestern faculty member on the prospectus or dissertation committee, providing that the professor consents in writing to serve in this capacity. In all cases committees must comprise at least three members of the NU graduate faculty. When the dissertation committee is finalized, prior to the defense of the dissertation, the student should submit the required Final Exam form to TGS through Ceasar.
Progress Assessment and Evaluation: Years 4-6
As students make progress on their writing, they are advised to communicate regularly with each member of the committee, seeking advice and feedback when needed. The department requires annual meetings of dissertation committees. Directors of committees must send progress reports from these meetings to the DGS by the end of Winter Quarter of years 4-6.
Requirements for CLS students with a home department in French
-At least 6 graduate seminars in French
-Home Department Exam, comprised of three lists, as follows. Please note that the two lists can be more or less "canonical" depending on the student's interests and the recommendations of committee members. The length of lists can also be extended:
-First and second year reviews
Satisfactory Academic Standing:
Good academic standing is determined by the faculty and the DGS. To remain in good standing, in the first two years the student must pass the first and second year reviews; by the end of the third year, the student must pass the qualifying exam; and by the end of the quarter following the student’s completion of French 596 Thesis Tutorial, the student must pass the prospectus review. Subsequently, the student must make progress on the dissertation that is judged satisfactory by the dissertation director. In addition, while in course work students must maintain a 3.7 (A-) grade average in all graduate courses, and they may have no more than two outstanding incompletes on their transcript unless by special dispensation of the graduate committee. Any incomplete work must be completed prior to taking the qualifying exam.