M.A. Degree Program in French and Francophone Studies

M.A. Degree Program in French and Francophone Studies

Program Description

The purpose of the M.A. program in French and Francophone is to improve students’ understanding of French language, literature, and culture beyond the levels of competency expected of undergraduate majors. To realize these goals, further study of French and Francophone language, literature, and culture is necessary. 


Statement of Goals

The M.A. degree program in French and Francophone Studies is designed to provide an introduction to advanced study in the French and Francophone language, literature and culture.  The core of the program in French and Francophone literature and culture may serve as the foundation for continued study at the Ph.D. level.

The goals of the M.A. program in French and Francophone Studies are:

  1. To teach students to read literary and cultural texts with critical appreciation and to articulate their understanding of the texts.
  2. To introduce students to the theoretical issues in the study of literature and culture, as well as in additional fields in French and Francophone studies, such as linguistics.
  3. To develop students’ analytical, critical, and methodological skills.
  4. To enhance students’ oral and written communication skills in the French.


Once admitted to a degree program, a student is assigned a faculty member for advising. The advisor’s role is to assist the student in further clarifying interests and in developing a program of study. It is the responsibility of the advisor to help the student develop an academic plan and to serve as a guide in the successful completion of all requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to verify Graduate School policies and procedures pertaining to his or her particular degree program.

Students are urged to consult with their advisors at least two times per semester and more often as needed.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Candidates for the master’s degree in French and Francophone Studies must complete a minimum of 33 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level, either 33 credits plus a master’s paper or 27 credits plus 6 credits for a thesis. A reading knowledge of a second foreign language plus oral and written examinations are also required. Most students select the first option.

All candidates take FR 571 French Literacy Theory and Criticism (3), FR 502 Introduction to French Linguistics (3), FR 580 Approaches to French Civilization (3), FR 581 Theory and Techniques of Teaching French (1-6), FR 501A Pro-Seminar in French Studies I (1.5), and FR 501B Pro-Seminar in French Studies II (1.5). In addition to the six required courses designated here, all candidates take 6 3-credit courses in French and Francophone Studies. The M.A. degree (or equivalent) is normally a prerequisite to doctoral candidacy.

All students are required to take the Pro-Seminars in French Studies, FR 501A and FR 501B, within the first two years of entering the program whether at the M.A. or the Ph.D. level.  Doctoral students who are preparing for the job market are required to take the Pro-Seminar a second time.

Reading Proficiency in a Second Foreign Language

M.A. students must complete the foreign language requirement before or sometime during the same semester in which they receive the degree. Reading proficiency in a second foreign language (besides English and French), either classical or modern, is required. Proficiency may be demonstrated by undergraduate courses equivalent to an intermediate or twelfth-credit level course with grades of B or better (e.g., Spanish 1, 2, 3), by passing a reading course or passing a reading exam administered by the department offering the language, or by passing an ETS Reading Exam.

Note: If a student wishes to count a language that is not offered at Penn State, it is the responsibility of the student to find a faculty member at another institution to certify proficiency. Students should consult their advisors or the department head to identify specific institutions or faculty.

Master’s Examination

M.A. examinations are usually administered during the last two weeks of January of every year. The language of the M.A. examination, both for the written and oral segments, is French.

The examination for the M.A. in French and Francophone Studies consists of the following parts:

  1. Written Examination

Knowledge of the works on the Department of French and Francophone Studies MA Reading List is presupposed. The following items may be used during the exam: a) word processor, b) one dictionary (English/French or French/French), c) the M.A. Reading List.

The written examination consists of two parts taken within the same week:

A.  Analysis. Candidates write in French on one of three texts or objects taken from works on the M.A. Reading List (up to 4 hours).

B.  Interpretation. Candidates write in French on one of three questions, illustrating their answers with examples from works on the M.A. Reading List and from course-related or independent readings in metropolitan and non-metropolitan literature and culture (up to 4 hours).

  1. Oral Examination

The one-hour oral examination is given 1-2 weeks following the written exam. A three-member faculty committee is selected by the candidate in consultation with the academic advisor. The oral examination is a follow-up to the written examination and may touch on any topic areas covered by the written exams (M.A. reading list).

  1. Evaluation of the Examination

A.  Written Exam

All of the graduate faculty available at the time of the examination evaluate the written exam (each candidate is assigned a letter code for evaluation purposes). Each reader forwards an evaluation report to the Department.

B.  Oral Exam

A committee of three graduate faculty members (selected by the student, in consultation with his or her advisor) conducts the oral examination in French and provides evaluations to the committee of the whole.

C.  Results of the Written and Oral Exam

The evaluation of the results of the written and oral exams takes place at a meeting of the graduate faculty, with three possible results: (1) Pass, with recommendation to continue on to the Ph.D.; (2) Pass, terminal M.A.; (3) Fail.

In the event of a failing evaluation, the graduate faculty may recommend that the student retake the segments of the exam that were deemed to be unsatisfactory. The Examination Committee will specify the conditions (e.g., further course work, improvement in written/analytical skills, minimum time that must elapse, etc.) under which reexamination is to take place. Exams may be retaken only once; if at all possible, the student’s exam committee will remain the same. For students planning to continue their studies, the Committee recommends affirmatively or negatively to let the student continue in the Ph.D. program.

The Advisor communicates orally and in writing the results of the examination to the candidate.