Academic Structure

The program combines courses (or seminars) with independent study and research, and is punctuated by periodic examinations. 

The first two years are primarily devoted to taking courses (normally, a total of twelve, distributed as broadly as possible), satisfying language requirements, and preparing and taking the general examination. Upon satisfactory completion of these program components, students are awarded the M.A. (There is no self-contained M.A. in either French or Italian at Princeton.) At the end of the second year, they are expected to choose a field of concentration in which to specialize. 

In the spring of their first year, students are also trained to teach the French language; in the fall of their second year, they teach one language course. In the third, fourth, and fifth years, they normally teach one course per semester, although schedules vary depending on student or departmental needs and on fellowships that provide relief from teaching duties. 

The third through fifth years are devoted to the conceptualization and writing of the dissertation. In their third year, students will continue to take a limited number of courses as they prepare their special field examination and then present their dissertation proposal. It is not uncommon for students to spend the fourth year conducting research abroad, for example in Paris where we have guaranteed studentships at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. It is hoped that students will proceed to the defense at the end of the fifth year. 

This table summarizes how the components of the program are distributed over the five years:






3 seminars + oral presentation

3 seminars + pedagogy seminar

2nd year

3 seminars


3 seminars + general examination

3rd year

2 or 3 seminars, of which at least one for audit + special field exam

Dissertation proposal


4th year

Research and begin writing dissertation, possibly abroad

5th year

Complete writing and defend dissertation