French and Francophone Studies Honors Program
The Honors Program welcomes applications from students who wish to deepen their study of French and Francophone literature and culture by pursuing during their senior year an independent research-based inquiry into a particular set of texts or questions (literary, historical, cultural, theoretical or linguistic), a translation project or a creative work under the supervision of a thesis advisor. Students may earn honors in the concentration by successfully presenting a thesis, for the preparation of which they will normally enroll in FREN 1990 in either or both semesters of their senior year.
Eligibility and Application Procedure
Candidates for honors in French Studies are expected to have a strong track record in courses taken for their concentration, and will have completed at least two-thirds of the courses required for the concentration (6 courses) by the application deadline.
Applications for admission to the Honors Program are submitted by the end of September in the student’s seventh semester. This means that the candidate should ideally begin to think of their thesis project, and establish contact with a potential thesis advisor by the end of the spring semester of their junior year or in the first weeks of the fall semester of their senior year. Students generally choose as advisor a faculty member with whom they have taken a class, but they are also encouraged to contact others whose specialization aligns with their interests. If in doubt, the concentration advisor can be consulted for suggestions of an appropriate advisor. (Note that faculty may not be easy to contact over the summer. Students are thus advised to seek contact during the academic year.) For the application, the student will provide a brief thesis proposal (1 or 2 paragraphs in French presenting the object of study and intended approach). The application must also feature a thesis title, the name and signature of the thesis advisor, and two recommendations from French and Francophone Studies faculty. Upon admission, the student will also choose a second reader.
Students applying for admission to the Honors Program must submit a completed application to the French Studies Concentration Advisor by September 26 (or the weekday closest to that date). Recommendations should be from department faculty who have close knowledge of the student's work, preferably through a course taken by the student during their sophomore or junior year. Please submit these forms to your faculty recommenders no later than September 18 (or the weekday closest to that date). They will then be forwarded to the Concentration Advisor who, after reviewing the complete application along with the student's transcript(s), will make a determination about admission to the Honors Program.
A successful application allows the student to pursue the Honors Thesis Project. Honors is officially granted only when the student's two readers approve the completed thesis.
Students pursuing honors in French Studies take a minimum of eleven courses. In addition to the standard requirement of ten courses, FREN 1990 (Senior Thesis) is to be taken in either or both semesters of the student’s senior year. This independent study is designed for the student to devote time to thesis research and writing under the supervision of a thesis advisor.
The student is expected to work in close consultation with his/her thesis advisor and to respect deadlines for completion of the outline, drafts, and the final version of the thesis, which at the latest must be submitted by the end of the week after Spring Recess (see deadlines below). It is expected that the student and the thesis advisor will establish a schedule and meet on a regular basis through the entire year. (Meetings once every two weeks on average, particularly during the spring semester, are encouraged). The second reader may or may not be from the Department of French and Francophone Studies, and may be consulted less frequently during the earlier stages of the research/writing, according to their availability and the student’s needs. However, the student is expected to share at least one advanced draft with the second reader before the final submission.
The final complete version of the thesis must be submitted by April 16 (or whichever weekday falls closest to that date). Students should submit one copy to each reader and one electronic and one hard copy of the thesis to the Concentration advisor.
Work submitted after the final submission deadline will not be accepted for Honors. In such cases, a grade will be given for the Senior Thesis course, but Honors cannot be awarded.
The Senior Thesis
Theses ordinarily range from 50 to 80 pages and are written in French. Topics, approach, and precise calendar of work should be decided in close consultation with the thesis advisor. Students are encouraged to consult previous French Honors theses to get a sense of the range of projects that are possible. At every stage of their research and writing, students are expected to adhere rigorously to Brown University’s Academic Code which may be consulted online.
The Research Essay: The thesis is usually a research-based essay dealing with primary sources (literary works, historical archives, etc.) consulted and cited in the original French. A meritorious Honors thesis will be written in competent and precise language and evince meaningful internal structure and coherence. It will formulate precisely its framing questions and provide textual support for its propositions while making clear their furthest stakes. While students are encouraged to cultivate the originality of their own questions or perspectives, they are also expected to be in productive dialogue with scholarship in the field. Accordingly, to be awarded Honors, a thesis will demonstrate a consistent citation style and clear and correct attribution of all terms and ideas not the student’s own.
The Translation Thesis: Students may alternatively choose to undertake for their Honors thesis a work of translation. This choice must be made with prudence and in close consultation with the thesis advisor, so that there is agreement on the difficulty level of the chosen text, the argument for translating it, and expected standards of ambitiousness and precision in the translation. Usually the translation will be from French to English, though the case may be made on the rare occasion for translation from English to French. Students may choose to translate a whole work, select excerpts, or a series of texts (as in the case of poems or shorter narratives). In all cases, a translation thesis must, to qualify for French Honors, include a critical introduction or preface (a minimum of 10 pages) in which the translator demonstrates advanced knowledge of the place of the chosen text in its original cultural and literary context, engages reasonably with scholarship pertaining to the original text, and shows a mature understanding of the stakes and debates of translation as a practice.
The Creative Project: Some students may elect to undertake for their Honors project a creative work. This decision must be made in close consultation with the thesis advisor, so that there is agreement on the level of ambition and interest of such a project. The creative thesis may be a narrative, poetic, theatrical or experimental/hybrid text. Written in French, it is expected to involve a reading- or research-based dimension. In other words, the creative work will demonstrate meaningful engagement with analogous work in the French/Francophone context, and the pursuit of a certain scholarly intention through creative means—whether to advance knowledge or examination of a certain topic, to experiment with the formal means by which to express or explore a certain issue, or to creatively rewrite an existing work with a view to questioning it or investing it with new meanings. As with the translation thesis, a creative thesis must, to qualify for Honors, include a critical introduction or preface (a minimum of 10 pages) in which the author discusses, in informed and articulate terms, the cultural, literary and/or critical stakes of the project: its intentions, its context and background, its formal choices.
Honors students will be invited to present their work to members of the Department and fellow and potential French concentrators at the end of term sometime after the April final submission date.
Calendar of Deadlines:
Precise details regarding deadlines and nature/length of submissions must be established clearly between the student and his/her advisor. Suggested deadlines for major stages are as follows:
- Submission of Applications to Honors Program - - September 26
- Rough outline of thesis due to thesis advisor by the first week of November
- First portion of written work due to thesis advisor (minimum of 20 pages) by mid-December
- Submission of full draft to both readers by March 10
- Completed thesis submitted to both readers by April 16
Useful Writing and Editing Tools for Honors Thesis Writers
- For citation styles (MLA being the most common in French and Francophone Studies) students may consult the Writing Center’s guidelines.
- How to Write a BA Thesis: A Practical Guide from Your First Ideas to Your Finished Paper by Charles Lipson
- Antidote V.8 (French spell checker and grammar tool – advised as a supplement to a good dictionary):
- The French and Francophone Studies resources page at Brown’s library (including links to dictionaries and encyclopedias):
- For guidance in how best to use Brown’s library and academic research tools, students are encouraged to seek a meeting with Subject Librarian for French and Francophone Studies Patricia Figueroa