The oral presentation, required of all first-year students at the end of the first term, consists of a brief critical reading of a literary text in French, followed by questioning related to the text. Students are allowed a choice from three texts. The presentation is given in French. Answers are to be given in the language in which they are asked.
The general examination is usually taken at the end of the second year. Its purpose is to test students’ knowledge of and capacity to conduct research across the six periods taught in the department (Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, and 20th-21st Century including “francophonie”).
In consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and with the assistance of specialist faculty in the relevant fields, students will formulate three topics, each with an accompanying reading list, which will form the basis of these examinations. It is expected that, across these topics, each period will be represented at least once, that a diversity of genres will be covered, and that there will not be excessive overlap with seminars already taken. The individual reading lists must include a reasonable proportion of works/authors from the Departmental Reading List and should be 1-2 pages long, single-spaced, not including secondary literature. It is submitted for approval by the Graduate Studies Committee, which will ensure parity between candidates and maintain breadth of coverage.
The examination takes the form of three essays, one per topic (Generals I), and an oral discussion of all three topics (Generals II). Students have one week in which to write their essays, during which they may consult notes, book, and other resources. At least one essay is written in French and one in English, none to exceed 4000 words. The discussion takes place three days after completion of written work. There are three examiners for both parts.
After passing the first-year Oral Examination and Generals I and II and meeting coursework and language requirements, students will be awarded the M. A.
Special field examination
A dissertation topic with an accompanying reading list will be decided upon in consultation with the advisor. Students have one week in which to write a paper in response to questions approved by the advisor. The examiners are the advisor and two other faculty members.
Taken no later than February of the sixth semester, the oral examination on the dissertation proposal is an hour-long exercise comprising a 20-minute presentation of the student’s written proposal, to be circulated one week prior to the examination, and comprehensive questioning by faculty members concerning all aspects of the proposal. The written text should discuss the issues the candidate proposes to explore and the methods he or she proposes to adopt, and should include a chapter outline and bibliography. Students may not present the proposal until they have passed the special field examination. The faculty will make suggestions concerning the proposal, and can approve it, recommend that it be revised and resubmitted, or, in accordance with University regulations, recommend that the candidate be proposed for a terminal M. A. degree.
In the event of failure to pass, students may present themselves on one further occasion, within a time period determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. Departmental recommendation of graduate students for a fourth year of study is dependent on their having passed the oral examination on the dissertation proposal.
Final Public Oral Examination
After the completed dissertation has been recommended for acceptance by the two appointed readers, the examination is set for a date convenient to the candidate and to the department. The examination consists of a formal public lecture of 30 minutes, in English or French, describing the work undertaken and achieved in the writing of the dissertation, followed by questions from the examining committee and other faculty. No grade is given other than pass or fail. Although five years following the general examination are allowed for completion of the dissertation, students should make every effort to complete it during their residence at Princeton.