The following abridges information from the Graduate Student Handbook. Students may refer to that resource both for general department policies and for exact guidelines.

How to Apply

Find application dates, materials, and key information on the Admissions page.


Students in the doctoral program take 12 seminars during the first two years of study. These include:

  • At least one seminar in each of the six periods of French literature (pending availability): the Middle Ages and the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th/21st centuries
  • A maximum of three seminars in other sections of MLL or departments at JHU
  • A single independent study course (optional)

Knowledge of Latin is required of students with dissertations on topics in the Middle Ages or the 16th century.


Students choose a primary adviser and a co-reader by the end of the second year. The ABD paper (“all but dissertation”) represents the culmination of the formal course of study and leads directly into the dissertation.

The ABD, which the student must defend by the end of the third year, includes:

  • A 15–20 page prospectus of the dissertation comprising:
    • A presentation of the object of study
    • Proof that the project is original and innovative
    • The outline projected for the dissertation
    • A discussion of the methodology
  • One or more specimen(s) of fully written sections of the dissertation (20–25 pp.)
  • A bibliography

The set of 12 seminar papers, to be assembled in a dossier at the time of the ABD, constitutes an invaluable record of the student’s program of study.

Following the student’s presentation, the whole of the ABD, both the written and oral parts, is the object of a brief evaluative discussion among the faculty present.

The Year Abroad

The doctoral program in French is proud to maintain a graduate exchange program with the École Norme Supérieure, Paris rue d’Ulm. Each year we send and receive one student from the ENS. The program arranges on a case-by-case basis doctoral internships for the year abroad with various French universities.

The year abroad takes place after the ABD, during the fourth year at the latest. The adviser and co-reader, along with the instructors hosting the student, advise on the choice of doctoral seminars (these do not count toward the 12 required seminars). Upon return, the student submits a brief report describing the working conditions, seminars taken, contacts established, and so forth.

Dissertation Defense

Following completion and revisions, the dissertation is defended orally before a committee. An electronic copy is submitted to the JHU libraries for archiving. Students may elect to embargo for up to four years e-publication of the dissertation to protect their research.