Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

203 East Pyne

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Department for program:

Graduate Program Administrator:

Director of Graduate Studies:

Barbara Nagel (German)


Princeton's graduate program in German has long been recognized as one of the leading programs of German studies. Students are offered the chance to participate in a vibrant intellectual community and to work with scholars whose expertise encompasses the breadth of German literary tradition as well as interdisciplinary approaches to the study of German culture and the history and theory of media.

Each year the department admits a small number of highly motivated students to its Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. program is normally a five-year program. The department does not offer a program of study culminating in the terminal M.A.  Instead, an M.A. degree is awarded upon request after successful completion of the general examination. During at least one of the program's two years of coursework the student is expected to live in Princeton in fulfillment of the University's residency requirement.  in addition to seminars in the Department of German, most students opt to complete some courses in other departments.  Beyond the successful completion of coursework, the major formal requirements for the Ph.D. are the general examination and the dissertation. Students typically complete the first part of the general examination, the so-called "erudition exam," in the fall of the third year of study, after having completed twelve courses over four semesters, both within the German department and in other departments. The second part of the general examination, the so-called "special exam," is typically completed in the spring semester of the third year (either in the January/February or the April/May exam period. The dissertation prospectus colloquium generally takes place in the third year or beginning of fourth.  Students who come to the program with previous graduate training in the field (e.g., an M.A.) may in some cases be permitted to reduce their coursework and complete the general examination earlier. Following the successful completion of the general examination and the dissertation prospectus colloquium, individual courses of study vary, although most students choose to go abroad during the fourth year to conduct dissertation research and then return to write the dissertation in the fifth and, if needed, sixth years.


Application deadline
January 3, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - optional/not required

Additional departmental requirements

Sample of written work, circa 20 pages. Applicants should be fluent in German.

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.


Students ordinarily complete twelve courses over the first two years. In addition to seminars in the department, most students opt to complete some courses in other departments. During the third year and while teaching, students must complete an additional seminar on second language acquisition taught by the department’s language coordinator. Courses are conducted as seminars typically comprising five to fifteen participants.  Depending on the topic of the course, seminars are offered in either English or German. Participants in German department graduate seminars frequently include students from neighboring departments and occasionally from other institutions.  

Additional opportunities and department life:
An important feature of the department's intellectual life is an annual graduate symposium that gives our graduate students an opportunity to present their work in a rigorous academic setting within the space of the department community.  In addition, graduate students in the German department have the chance to organize topical colloquia as well as larger scale conferences that feature distinguished scholars as keynote speakers and provide an occasion for the presentation of papers - - by our own students and students from other institutions. The annual departmental lecture series also offers students an opportunity to discuss research by a wide range of scholars in informal settings following the lectures.

The department enhances seminar offerings by inviting distinguished guest professors to teach in the department for a semester or more. In addition to our two current permanent visiting faculty members Juliane Rebentisch (Hochschule für Gestaltung, Offenbach/Main) and Joseph Vogl (HU Berlin), and past permanent visiting faculty members Inka Mülder-Bach (Munich) and Sigrid Weigel (Berlin), visiting professors have included  Aleida Assmann (Konstanz), Wilfried Barner (Tübingen), Gabriele Brandstetter (Berlin), Dorrit Cohn (Harvard), Rebecca Comay (Toronto), Hent De Vries (Johns Hopkins), Peter Fenves (Northwestern), Jochen Hörisch (Mannheim), Andreas Kilcher (Zurich), Alice Kuzniar (University of North Carolina), Eberhard Laemmert (Berlin), Niklaus Largier (Berkeley), Anja Lemke (Köln), Winfried Menninghaus (Berlin), Jane Newman (Irvine), Ann Marie Rasmussen (Waterloo), Carls Spoerhase (Bielefeld), Michael Steinberg (Cornell), Rudolph Stichweh (Bonn), Juliane Vogel (Konstanz), Liliane Weissberg (University of Pennsylvania), and David Wellbery (Chicago). With the support of the Max Kade Foundation, the department also brings German artists and intellectuals to reside and teach at Princeton. Max Kade Foundation visitors have included Heiner Mueller, Peter Schneider, Monika Maron, Martin Walser, Hans-Joachim Ruckhaeberle, and Durs Grünbein.


By the end of their second year, students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in one additional foreign language other than English or German. In order to fulfill this requirement, students must pass one of the language examinations given by the appropriate department at Princeton. Students choosing to concentrate on literature before 1700 are advised to take Latin as their second foreign language.

General exam

The first part of the general examination, which is normally taken in October of the third year and is called the "erudition exam," is designed to ensure that students have a strong foundation in the canon of German literature, philosophy, social theory, and film. When new students enroll in the program, they are given a list of works upon which this first exam will be based and are expected to devote time during the first two years working through this list.

The second part of the general examination, which is normally taken in January of the third year and is called the "special exam," is devoted to a series of specific topics developed by the student in consultation with the examination committee, and is conceived as preparation for work on the dissertation.

Students who do not pass a part of the general examination on a first attempt may on the recommendation of the department stand for reexamination of that part within a year. Students who do not pass the general examination on a second and final attempt have their Ph.D. candidacy and enrollment terminated as of the first of the month following that in which the examination was retaken.

Students should be aware of the following Graduate School policy:  No student should be readmitted to a fourth year (seventh term) of graduate study without having successfully completed the general examination. Depending on when a first failure takes place, this may mean that students will have less than a year to pass the exam. For the full Graduate School policy on General examinations, see

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully completes both parts of the general examination. The incidental M.A. may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that the following requirements are met:

  •  Successful completion of all pre-generals requirements.
  •  No INCs (incompletes) on the transcript.
  •  EITHER 1) Successful completion of the first part of the general examination (the "erudition" exam), with a passing grade deemed sufficient for the incidental M.A., but not for proceeding to Ph.D. candidacy; OR 2) Successful completion of a post-enrollment project (approximate length of 30-40 pages). The project should be a revision and expansion of a research paper previously submitted in a seminar in the German Department. The project should be completed under the supervision of the faculty member for whom the initial seminar paper was written. The project must be deemed acceptable in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the incidental M.A. degree by the supervising faculty and a second reader from the German Department faculty. Students who opt to complete this project must submit the project within four months of the date of termination of their enrollment.


Students are required to teach one year of German Language (usually GER 101-102). Teaching typically begins in the third year and is preceded by a required, one-week pedagogy workshop led by the department’s Language Coordinator, in addition to the Orientation for Assistants in Instruction offered by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Concurrent with the first semester of teaching, students must enroll in GER 506 (Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy), taught by the department’s Language Coordinator.

Eligibility requirements for departmental funding to support two semesters of Dissertation Completion Enrollment status (DCE) include additional teaching in the second-year German Language sequence (GER 105 - 107). Students who entered the Ph.D. program prior to 2020 must teach GER 105 or 107 during the DCE year for which they receive departmental funding. Students who entered the Ph.D. program in the Fall 2020 or later must teach GER 105 and 107 at some point prior to or during the DCE year for which they receive departmental funding.

Dissertation and FPO

Upon successful completion of both parts of the general examination, the student will assemble a dissertation committee that includes the dissertation adviser or co-advisers and one or two other faculty members with expertise in the field. With approval from the German Department and, as needed, the Graduate School, dissertation committee members may be drawn from outside the department or, on occasion, beyond Princeton, as long as the primary dissertation adviser or one of two co-advisers is a member of the German Department faculty.

Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium:
Working closely with the dissertation committee following the successful completion of both parts of the general exam, the student will craft a dissertation prospectus. The dissertation prospectus is intended to help the student set out on the best path toward successful completion of the dissertation in a timely fashion. Generally 15-25 pages in length, the dissertation prospectus presents the major question(s) the dissertation will explore, along with a preliminary bibliography. The prospectus may include an articulation of proposed chapters or even a sample part of a chapter. Precise expectations for the prospectus, including its length, should be discussed in detail with the dissertation committee upon completion of the Special Examination. Completed in the third year, the Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium is a departmental event that comprises a concise presentation by the student of the dissertation topic, followed by a discussion of the proposed research with the faculty and graduate community. In certain circumstances, the Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium can be scheduled for the fall of a student’s fourth year.

Final Public Oral (FPO) Examination
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral (FPO) examination sustained.  During the FPO the candidate presents a brief summary of the dissertation and then defends the work before faculty (including the readers and examiners appointed by the department, according to Graduate School rules), peers, and other members of the university community.


  • Chair

    • Devin A. Fore
  • Director

    • Jamie Rankin
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Barbara N. Nagel
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Thomas Y. Levin
  • Professor

    • Devin A. Fore
    • Nikolaus Wegmann
  • Associate Professor

    • Brigid Doherty
    • Joel B. Lande
    • Thomas Y. Levin
    • Barbara N. Nagel
    • Sara S. Poor
  • Assistant Professor

    • Susan Morrow
    • Johannes Wankhammer
  • University Lecturer

    • Jamie Rankin
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Adam Oberlin
  • Lecturer

    • Ron Sadan
    • Xuxu Song
  • Visiting Professor

    • Juliane Rebentisch
    • Joseph W. Vogl

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

ART 553 - Seminar in Central European Art (also GER 553)

Topics in the art and culture of the central European region from 1500 to 1800.

CLA 506 - Greek Tragedy (also COM 502/GER 507/HLS 506)

The origin and development of tragedy, the Greek theater, and the history of our texts. The course involves the reading and analysis of selected tragedies, with an emphasis on the language, meter, and interpretation of the plays. Lectures and report.

COM 535 - Contemporary Critical Theories (also ENG 538/GER 535)

Criticism as an applied art and as an autonomous discipline. Exploration of its place in intellectual history and a theoretical analysis of its basic assumptions. [Topics vary each year.]

COM 572 - Introduction to Critical Theory (also ENG 580/FRE 555/GER 572)

Through a comparative focus on the concepts of dialectics and difference, we read some of the formative theoretical, critical and philosophical works which continue to ground interdisciplinary critical theory today. Focal works by Lukacs, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida, de Man, Arendt, and Benjamin are included among the texts we read.

GER 506 - Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy

The course provides an introduction to research on second-language acquisition and to the teaching of German as a foreign language.

GER 508 - Middle High German Literature (also MED 508)

Based on one specific text, the first term provides an introduction to language, metrics, manuscript tradition, and textual criticism. The second term deals with special topics in German literature between 1150 and 1450 or interdisciplinary topics such as orality and literacy, word and image.

GER 509 - Middle High German Literature II (also MED 509)

Based on one specific text, the first term provides an introduction to language, metrics, manuscript tradition, and textual criticism. The second term deals with special topics in German literature between 1150 and 1450 or interdisciplinary topics such as orality and literacy, word and image.

GER 512 - German Literature in the 18th Century

A study of changes in the philosophical and literary discourses of major movements from the Enlightenment to Sturm und Drang, along with special issues, problems, and works of the century.

GER 514 - Topics in German Romanticism

A study of representative texts in the context of general Romantic thought and culture.

GER 515 - Studies in 19th-Century Literature and Culture

Representative writers and literary movements from 1830 to 1890, with special attention given to the political, social, and cultural background of a specifically German version of Realism.

GER 516 - Topics in 20th-Century Literature

Course examines a wide range of literary forms and problems in the modern era and in the years following its demise. Topics include the modern German novel, modernist literature and photography, Viennese modernism, politics and avant-garde in the 1960's, and contemporary literature.

GER 517 - Modernism and Modernity

Explores the rise of modernism in the arts in the German-language world. Emphasis on the intellectual sources of the modernist movement in such thinkers as Nietzsche and Freud and such theorists of modernity as Weber, Simmel, Andreas-Salomé, and Benjamin.

GER 520 - Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory (also MOD 521)

Course treats a wide range of theoretical and historical issues concerning the interpretation of literary and cultural materials. Topics include psychoanalytic approaches to literature, the Frankfurt School and its legacy, feminist theory, German-Jewish Acculturation, relations between literature and the other arts, theories of literary reception, and fascism and culture.

GER 521 - Topics in German Intellectual History (also COM 597/MOD 520)

The course examines in their entirety mostly short texts that advance solutions to the intellectual problems preoccupying major German religious thinkers, writers, and philosophers, viz. justification, selfhood, theodicy, play, contingency, asceticism, estrangement, malaise, authenticity.

GER 523 - Topics in German Media Theory & History (also COM 518/HUM 523/MOD 523)

Historical and theoretical investigations of media from the advent of writing systems, paper and the construction of single-point perspective to phonography, radio, telephony, and television and up through the critical reflection on cyberspace, rhetorics of PowerPoint, surveillance and data shadows. Issues explored include the relationship between representation and technology, the historicity of perception, transformations of reigning notions of imagination, literacy, communication, reality and truth, and the interplay of aesthetics, technics and politics.

GER 525 - Studies in German Film (also COM 524/MOD 510)

Course explores movements in German cinema, with attention given to the cultural and ideological contexts as well as recent debates in contemporary film theory. Attention may focus on such pivotal topics as Weimar or the New German cinema, issues in German film theory, questions of film and Nazi culture, or avant-garde cinema, and on genres such as the "Heimatfilm," the "Street Film," and works by women and minority filmmakers.

GER 526 - Topics in German Literature

The Faust Theme in German Literature, Hölderlin and His Critics, and Uses of the Past in Postwar German Literature are all courses that have been previously offered.

GER 530 - Topics in Aesthetics and Poetics (also MOD 530)

The course explores a range of problems in the history of aesthetics, poetics and cultural techniques. These include intersections of aesthetics and politics, art and literature¿s relationship to social context and social theory, the history of perception and knowledge practices, performance theory, the problem of judgement, aesthetic critique, and ecological aesthetics.

GER 532 - Topics in Literary Theory and History (also CDH 532)

Historical and theoretical explorations of the study of literature, highlighting significant methodological and literary theoretical modes of inquiry. Potential topics addressed in this course include representative studies in the history of genre theory, narratology, semiotics, book history, formalism, and the history of reading and writing practices. Theoretical questions are explored via case studies from the history of literature.