French and Francophone, Italian, and Germanic Studies

The French and Francophone, Italian, and Germanic Studies (FIGS) department is a vibrant intellectual community with a shared commitment to the study of culture through language, literature, and visual media.  We offer language courses in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Swedish, and Yiddish as well as advanced seminars on literature and culture in a global context.  Please explore the websites below to learn more about the innovative, interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs in each of our three Sections (French and Francophone Studies; Italian; and Germanic Studies).

Graduate Group

Welcome to the Graduate Group in French, Italian and Germanic Studies, which houses distinct graduate programs in these three areas and brings together a shared, interdisciplinary commitment to literary and cultural studies.  Please see below for details on each of these programs. Competence in more than one of these languages is by no means required, but applicants interested in dual-track studies are also encouraged to apply. All admitted students are awarded full financial support through the School of Arts & Sciences, including summer funding. 

French & Francophone

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Program in French & Francophone Studies offers a five-year Ph.D. program.  The goal of the program is to train students both for productive scholarship and for effective college or university teaching. We have an outstanding faculty committed to scholarly excellence and an impressive record in placing candidates on the job market. Areas of faculty expertise include, among others, popular culture, film noir, travel writing, poetry, gender, postcolonial studies, cultural history, narratology, and the history of the book. As a result of these interests, students have been able to work on creative dissertation topics. Interested applicants are encouraged to be in contact with Gerald J. Prince, Graduate Chair of French & Francophone Studies, at gprince@babel.ling.upenn.edu.

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Italian

The Graduate Program in Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania offers students a range of curricular options that provide a broad academic base in Italian literature, film, cultural studies, intellectual history, and critical theory, as well as the most current pedagogical theory and practice. Research and teaching areas are developed by the Italian Studies unit in collaboration with the Center for Italian Studies, which offers Salvatori Research Awards on an annual basis.  Certificate programs in the areas of Cinema & Media Studies, Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Urban Studies and Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, among others, are also available. Interested applicants are encouraged to be in contact with Eva Del Soldato, Graduate Chair of Italian Studies, at evadel@sas.upenn.edu.

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Germanics

The Graduate Program in German Studies at Penn takes a forward-looking perspective on developments in the field. We provide a solid grounding in the entire German literary tradition while at the same time vigorously pursuing interdisciplinary study informed by the latest methodological and theoretical movements. Our Department has particular strengths in gender and sexuality, intermediality, history of the material text, German-Jewish studies, translation theory, cinema studies, the environmental humanities, and pedagogy. Our students are trained with an eye to their career objectives and are provided with significant mentored teaching experience. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Ian Fleishman, Graduate Chair of Germanic Languages and Literatures, at flei@sas.upenn.edu.

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Graduate Group Mission Statement

The newly formed Graduate Group in French, Italian and Germanic Studies (FIGS) is united by shared commitments about the relevance of literary and cultural studies for contemporary issues, in particular: migration and refugees; climate change and the environment; inclusiveness with respect to race, gender and sexuality; multilinguality; multiliteracy and new forms of media. Our primary mission is to provide linguistically and culturally informed learning and research in the traditions and practices of knowledge, cultural production, and critique in French, Italian, and Germanic languages. These are all global languages with millions of speakers worldwide and interwoven cultural and historical legacies.

We are defined by our commitment to foreign language and humanistic approaches to culture as necessary skills for serious and broadly informed research across the humanities. This commitment is as essential for utilizing foreign language resources unique to Penn—such as the holdings of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts—as they are pertinent to understanding current societal phenomena on a global scale. As we move inevitably into a world shaped by the climate emergency, strained or failing democratic institutions, radically increased numbers of displaced people, excessive wealth inequality, persistent racism, post-literate culture and new visual media, we find that a longer historical view provides us and our students with more apt comparisons and concepts for understanding current developments. The research and teaching of the standing faculty in FIGS underscore the relevance of cultural-historical knowledge for confronting the pressing issues of the twenty-first century.