Honors in the French Major

The department offers two options for the achievement of honors in French:

Under Option A, students write and defend a senior thesis.  Candidates must complete a 300-level course or its equivalent before the fall of senior year.  In addition, a 300-level course is to be taken concurrently with FREN 360-FREN 370.  (See the description of those courses below.)

Under Option B, students sit for a written examination based on major works and authors of the French and Francophone literary traditions. (See requirements, below.) Option B carries no course credit, but candidates may elect a unit of FREN 350 in the fall of senior year as part of their preparation for the examination.

To be admitted to either program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on her behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. 

Honors, Option A: Senior Thesis

FRENCH 360: Senior Thesis Research

FRENCH 370: Senior Thesis


1.     Grade point average of 3.5 in the major, above the 100-level (Exceptions: see appended Articles of Government, Book II, Section 2, Honors Programs.)  

2.     Recommendation of Department's Honors Committee when Project is submitted

3.     A 300-level course or its equivalent before the Fall of senior year

4.     French 360 and 370 do not count towards the minimum requirement of two 300-level courses for the major.

Prerequisite for French 360:  By permission of the department.  See Academic Distinctions. 

Prerequisite for French 370:  French 360 and permission of the department.

Spring of Junior Year

In the Spring of the Junior Year qualified students who wish to be in the Honors Program must submit a proposal for 360 Senior Thesis Research. Students in the Wellesley-in-Aix program should discuss their plans with the program Director. Any eligible junior who wishes to do so should then consult a faculty member for advice in selecting appropriate research material for summer reading and in developing her topic into a promising proposal, which is to be formally submitted to the department in the fall. The advisor should be contacted in February. In March and April the student should gather a bibliography and by the end of April she should submit it to her advisor along with a preliminary proposal.  The advisor should comment on the bibliography and proposal by the beginning of June.

It is suggested that interested students look at the Honors theses of former students in the French Department Germaine Lafeuille Library. The Chair of the department is available for advice about selecting an Honors advisor. Students may also consult the short description of the specializations of each French Department faculty member on the department website http://www.wellesley.edu/french/faculty.


Read in general area of research and begin writing proposal for submission to the Department.  Compile an annotated bibliography.


Meet with advisor during the first week of classes to discuss thesis topic, annotated bibliography, and the reading done over the summer.  A schedule of conferences and deadlines should be worked out at this time.

October 1

Proposals are to be submitted to the Honors Committee of the department after consultation with the advisor. Goals, scope of study, and critical approach should be clearly and precisely defined. Special attention should be paid to grammar, spelling, and style. A tentative, but detailed, outline of the thesis, suggesting the progression of the argument or analysis must accompany the proposal. A bibliography should also be included. Separate copies of the proposal are to be provided for each member of the Honors Committee. 

If the proposal is not approved, the student will be notified by October 8: in this case, the student may withdraw from the Honors Program. She will be credited with one unit of 360 if sufficient work is done during the semester to justify it.

October 29

A more substantial outline should be submitted to the advisor.

December 1

A substantial sample (chapter or section, 20-25 pages) should be submitted to the advisor and the members of the Honors Committee. During finals week, a mini-oral will be scheduled with the student, her advisor and two members of the Honors Committee.  At that time, the student, in consultation with her advisor and the committee, should decide whether her 360-370 work thus far, written or otherwise, justifies the continuation of her project into the second semester: it happens sometimes that a topic turns out to be less interesting or fruitful than originally anticipated. In that case, credit will be given for one unit of 360, provided sufficient work has been done. If the submitted sample appears promising, work on the 360 project should continue in consultation with the advisor.  In the latter case the instructor may choose to give a T.B.G. grade (To Be Graded) instead of a letter grade for work done in the fall.


By the end of the final exam period the student will be notified of the decision of the Honors Committee. In order to avoid the possibility of having two 360's on her transcript, a student may find it prudent to register for a course in French which might serve as a substitute for the second semester.

List of Honors Candidates to CCI (Committee on Curriculum & Instruction) of the College

Before the end of the tenth week of classes the Honors Committee reports to the Curriculum Committee of the College (with copy to the Chair of the Department), the names of students registered for 370’s who are candidates for honors.

Oral exam

The thesis is due in the Dean's Office at a date specified by the College, usually 2-3 weeks before the last day of classes. The Oral Defense committee comprises the Advisor, the Chair of the Department (or her or his deputy), a representative of the Curriculum Committee of the College, and at least one other department member ordinarily chosen by the Advisor and Honors candidate.

If her thesis and her oral exam are judged of honors quality, the student is awarded honors in the major field.  If the thesis is completed but it or the honors exam is not of honors quality, honors are not awarded; 370 remains on the transcript as Senior Thesis with an appropriate grade.

Honors, Option B: Survey

The Survey of French Literature Examination

A second path towards earning Honors in the French department is through examination.

Requirements: In accordance with Wellesley College Articles of Government (Article IV, Section 2) and French Department Policy:

  1. Grade point average of 3.5 in the major, above the 100-level;
  2. Students must be recommended by at least two professors from the department;
  3. A 300-level course or its equivalent by the Fall of senior year;
  4. No course credit will be awarded for the preparation of this exam. Students in this Honors path do not register for French 360 or 370;
  5. A student requesting such an examination must do so in writing to the French department and to the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy, normally by the end of the third week of her eighth semester;
  6. The examination shall be given during the reading period;
  7. A student passing the examination will receive Honors in French on the permanent record.

Description of the Exam:  A written examination of major works and authors based on the “French Department List of Representative Works from the French and Francophone Traditions (Medieval Period to the Twenty-First century).” See list below.

  • At the time of the exam, students are required to have read one work classified under the Medieval period and at least five works from each century thereafter; additionally, students are require to view at least six works listed under the “Cinéma” category of which Three must predate 1985 (a minimum total of 26 works of literature and six films).
  • Students will have 3 hours to complete the exam, which will consist of two separate prompts. Students will not be required to address every one of the works they have read in their exam answers, but their responses must display breadth and depth in placing a variety of readings within historical and literary contexts.
  • Students taking the exam must submit an “Honors Exam Reading Binder” which consists of notes, papers and/or exam drafts, attesting to their completion of the required readings.  This binder must include the written feedback of at least 3 professors the students have consulted in preparation for the exam (see below).


Students interested in pursuing the examination path to Honors are encouraged to consult with their professors early in their careers within the French Dept. Though the Honors Option B is not limited to students who begin their preparation for it as first or second years, the preference is that studying for the exam be a methodical process rather than a fourth-year endeavor.

Fall of Second Year:

By the fourth week of the Fall semester, professors nominate students who have displayed excellence in and enthusiasm for the study of French language and literature. The students meet with a designated “Honors Exam Advisor” who will discuss the goals of the exam and share strategies for reading effectively. This advisor will meet with the students again before the start of winter break and in the spring to encourage reading progress and provide guidance. He or she will be available to answer questions and help formulate ideas about the readings.

From Second-Year to Fourth year: Students continue making progress on their readings, consulting with professors as they go. Students must obtain written feedback from at least three professors in the department on their readings, attesting to their initiative in seeking out dialogue and feedback regarding the texts they have read.

Fourth-year: Students complete the reading list. Sample examination questions are printed. Students may choose to take the exam either in the Fall or Spring Reading Periods.

French Department List of Representative Works from the French and Francophone Traditions from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-first century:

Moyen Age (9th-15th centuries) - Read at least one of the following:

Chrétien de Troyes        Chevalier de la charrette (Lancelot)

Marie de France            Lais—à choisir, 

                                   La Chanson de Roland

                                 Tristan et Iseult

1. XVIe siècle:  Read at least five of the following:

Marguerite de Navarre (extraits)

Montaigne                   Les Essais (extraits)

Rabelais                      Pantagruel (extraits)

Ronsard                      Premier Livre des Amours, Premier Livre des Sonnets pour Hélène

Du Bellay                    Les Antiquités de Rome (extraits)

La Boétie                    Discours de la Servitude volontaire

2. XVIIe siècle: Read at least five of the following:

Lafayette                     La Princesse de Clèves

Corneille                    Le Cid, Cinna, Horace

Molière                       L'École des femmes, Le Misanthrope

Racine                        Bérénice, Phèdre

Descartes                     Discours de la méthode

Pascal                         Pensées (extraits)

La Bruyère                   Les Caractères (extraits)

La Fontaine                 Fables (extraits)

Bernard                       Brutus

3. XVIIIe siècle: Read at least five of the following:

Beaumarchais               Le Mariage de Figaro

Diderot                       La Religieuse

Voltaire                      Candide, L’Ingénu

Graffigny                    Lettres d’une Péruvienne

La Clos                      Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Montesquieu                Lettres persanes

Marivaux                    Le jeu de l’amour et du hasard

de Saint-Pierre              Paul et Virginie

Rousseau                    Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les   hommes

D'Alembert                  Discours préliminaire à l'Encyclopédie

Bougainville                Voyage autour du monde (extrait)

de Gouges                   L’Esclavage des Noirs

4. XIX siècle: Read at least five of the following:


Balzac                         Le Père Goriot

Chateaubriand              René

Constant                     Adolphe

Flaubert                      Madame Bovary

Maupassant                 Boule de Suif

Sand                           Indiana, François le champi

Staël                          De l’Allemagne

Stendhal                      Le Rouge et le noir

Zola                           Germinal

            Poésie :

Baudelaire Les Fleurs du mal (extraits)

Hugo Les Contemplations (extraits)

Mallarmé Poésies (extraits)

Rimbaud Poésies (extraits)



Hugo Hernani

Musset Lorenzaccio

Sand Cosima

Dumas Antony

Poèmes saturniens (extraits) and "L'art poétique"

5. XXe siècle et XXIe siècle : Read at least five of the following:

Beauvoir                        Le Deuxième Sexe, "Introduction"

Bâ                                 Une si longue letter

Breton                           Nadja

Camus                           L’étranger

Céline                           Voyage au bout de la nuit

Colette                          Le blé en herbe, Vagabonde

Dadié                             Un nègre à Paris

Duras                            L’Amant

Gide                              Les Faux-monnayeurs

Memmi                         Portrait du colonisateur suivi du portrait du colonisé Un negre a paris

Perec                             W ou le souvenir d'enfance

Proust                           Du côté de chez Swann

Robbe-Grillet                 La Jalousie

Djebar                           Ombre sultane / L’Amour, la Fantasia

Sartre                            La Nausée

Chalem                          Dis à ma fille que je pars en voyage

Thomas                         Les Adieux à la reine


Apollinaire                     Alcools

Valéry                           Charmes

Leiris                            Mots sans mémoire

Césaire                          Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (extraits)

Senghor, Damas              Selections

Théâtre :

Beckett                          En attendant Godot

Cocteau                         La Machine infernale

Genet                            Les Bonnes / Les Nègres

Giraudoux                      La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu

Ionesco                          La Cantatrice chauve

Zadi Zaourou                  Négresse bonheur et putain d’Afrique

Ndiaye                           Papa doit manger

Werewere Liking             Puissance d’Um

Soni Labou Tansi            Qui a mangé Madame d’Avoine Bergotha

Sartre                            Huis-Clos

Schmitt                         Le Visiteur

Obaldia                          Monsieur Klebs et Rozalie

Camus                           Les Justes

Vinaver                          11 septembre 2001

Duras                            Savannah Bay

Cinéma (6 films dont 3 avant 1985) :

Jean Vigo                       L'Atalante (1934)

Jean Renoir                    La Règle du Jeu (1939)

Robert Bresson                Un condamné à mort s'est échappé (1954)

Alain Resnais                 Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Jean-Luc Godard              À bout de souffle (1960)

Gillo Pontecorvo             Bataille d’Alger (1966)

Sembène Ousmane           Xala (1975)

Agnès Varda S                ans toit, ni loi (1985)

Matthieu Kassovitz          La Haine (1995)

Olivier Assayas               Irma Vep (1996)

Joseph Gai Ramaka          Karmen Geï (2001)

Abderrehmane Sissako      Bamako (2006)

Abdeladif Kechiche           La Graine et le mulet (2008) ou Vénus noire (2010)

             Claire Denis       White Ma