French, PhD

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair:  Emmanuelle Saada
Director of Graduate Studies: Camille Robcis

The Department of French is a thriving point of contact between American, European, and African scholarship in the field of French and Francophone literature and cultures. The faculty currently comprises ten professors whose specialties range from medieval literature and culture to twentieth and twenty-first century literature and intellectual history. Approximately thirty graduate students are currently studying French at Columbia. Our PhD program, consistently ranked in the top five programs nationally, is designed to prepare graduates for a career in productive scholarship. Students undergo rigorous and comprehensive training in literary and cultural history and theory before specializing in one area of research.

Students admitted to the PhD program must obtain the MA and MPhil degrees along the way. The program is designed to permit a well-prepared student to earn the MA degree in four semesters, the MPhil degree in three years, and the PhD degree in five years. Students who enter the PhD program after completion of the MA or its equivalent elsewhere are evaluated during the second semester of residence at which time they may be granted up to two Residence Units (equivalent to the Residence Unit requirement for the MA) and appropriate exemptions from certain requirements.

A comprehensive program of financial aid is available to PhD students. All PhD students admitted to the program receive full funding, which includes the prevailing stipend and appropriate tuition and health fees through the fifth year, provided that they remain in good academic standing. Fellowships are awarded to students in the PhD program in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience is considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students. Thus, graduate fellowships include some teaching and research apprenticeship.

Our student body is remarkably international: in addition to the US and Canada, recent students have come from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Romania, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Students in the department have the special benefit of The Maison Française of Columbia University. The Maison Française is the oldest French cultural center established on an American university campus. With its library and cuisine, it is the social center of the department. Its rich program of lectures, conferences, movie showings, and informal discussions makes the Maison a meeting place for students, scholars, business leaders, policy-makers, and all persons seeking a better understanding of the French-speaking world.

Recent graduates of the PhD program have secured teaching positions at Stanford University, Georgetown University, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Miami, Williams College, Smith College, Arizona State University, Tulane University, and the University of Southern California.

Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) awards a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. For more information, see the ICLS website.

Special Admissions Requirements

Skill in reading, writing, and speaking French; a general knowledge of the literature of the French speaking world; ability to write clear and literate English.

In addition to the stated requirements, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, two writing samples (a course paper, term paper, etc.), a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to the Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

Application Requirements

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.