MA French Studies Handbook: MA Exam
The MA exam in literature
is comprised both of written and oral component. In both
phases, non-native speakers will be expected to answer
a portion of the questions in French.
The written portion of the exam will allow you to fully develop and support several ideas relative to the works on the reading list. You will be expected to answer three or four essay questions, some of which may be cross-movement or cross-century in nature. For example, you may be asked to contrast the protagonists in works by Corneille, Stendhal and Camus and explain why they are different. Or, you may be asked to explain the concept of courtly love based on works of the middle-ages.
The Oral portion will follow within ten days of the written exam. A committee of three faculty members will be assigned to grade your written exam and administer the oral. It will be your responsibility to schedule the oral portion of the exam with your committee. The oral exam contains three parts. First, the committee will give you a poem or short text a day before your oral. For the first ten to fifteen minutes of the oral exam you will present an explication of your text. You will not have time to explicate everything, however you will be expected to distill the essence of the work. This section will conclude with a brief response by the committee. The second section of the oral will be a follow-up on your written exam. Committee members will ask for clarification where necessary or perhaps ask you to elaborate on certain passages from your written answers. Finally, periods or concepts not treated in the written will be discussed. You may anticipate questions such as: What is a Romantic hero? How is Molière Classical? What is the status of the French language in colonial literature? Explain the use of archetypes in the works of Marie de France, etc.
Written exam (3 hours): 3-4 essay questions
Oral exam (1-2 hours):
explication de texte
follow-up on written component
questions on topics not covered in written exam
Pass with reservations
Pending pass (you would be required to retake specific portions of the exam before officially passing)