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 an intense intellectual community and to work with scholars whose expertise encompasses the breadth of German literary tradition as well as contemporary interdisciplinary and theoretical approaches to the study of German culture.
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. 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 of the third year, as is the dissertation prospectus defense. 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 to three semesters and complete the general examination earlier, in the spring of the second year. Following the successful completion of the general examination and the dissertation prospectus defense, students’ individual courses of study vary, although most choose to go abroad during the fourth year to conduct dissertation research and then return to write the dissertation in the fifth and––if the student has been awarded an external fellowship to support research abroad in the fourth year––sixth years.
Sample of written work. Applicants should be fluent in German.
Students ordinarily complete twelve courses over the first two years. Courses are conducted as small and informal seminars ranging typically from five to fifteen participants, and, depending on the material being discussed, will be offered in either English or German. Participants in the seminars frequently include students from neighboring departments, such as comparative literature, art history, architectural theory, classics, history, and music.
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 that still has some of the feeling of "home." In addition, graduate students in the German department have the chance to organize 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.
In addition to the regular visits of our two permanent faculty members Inka Mülder-Bach (LMU, Munich) and Joseph Vogl (HU, Berlin), the department enhances the offerings of its faculty by inviting distinguished guest professors for a term. Visiting professors have included Andreas Kilcher (Zurich), Juliane Vogel (Konstanz), Rebecca Comay (Toronto), Gabriele Brandstetter (Berlin), Wilfried Barner (Tubingen), Dorrit Cohn (Harvard), Jochen Horisch (Mannheim), Alice Kuzniar (University of North Carolina), Eberhard Laemmert (Berlin), Michael Steinberg (Cornell), Liliane Weissberg (University of Pennsylvania), David Wellbery (Chicago), Peter Fenves (Northwestern), Aleida Assmann (Konstanz), Winfried Menninghaus (Berlin), and Hent De Vries (Johns Hopkins). With the support of the Max Kade Foundation, the department also brings German artists and intellectuals to reside and teach at Princeton. Visitors have included Heiner Mueller, Peter Schneider, Monika Maron, Martin Walser, Hans-Joachim Ruckhaeberle, and Durs Grünbein. The annual departmental lecture series also offers students an opportunity to discuss the speaker's research with him or her in an informal setting following the lecture.
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.
The first part of the general exam, which is typically taken in the fall 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 exam, which is typically taken in the spring 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 exam committee and is conceived as preparation for work on the dissertation.
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 coursework and the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, withdraw from the Ph.D. program, provided that the requirements for completion of the general examination have been met.
Students are required to teach one year of German Language (usually 101-102). Teaching typically begins in the third year and is preceded by a one-week pedagogy workshop with Professor Jamie Rankin, the language coordinator. In addition, first-time teachers are required to attend the AI Orientation given by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.
Concurrent with teaching 101-102, students must enroll in GER 506, Professor Rankin’s pedagogy course.
Students are also usually given the opportunity to teach the second-year sequence (105-107). This occurs either in the fourth year, or in the fifth year if the fourth year is spent in absentia.
Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium
Upon successfully completing both parts of the Generals Examination, the student will select a committee of three faculty that includes the dissertation adviser or advisers and one or two other faculty members with expertise in the field. With approval, the latter faculty may be drawn from outside the department or, on occasion, beyond Princeton. Working closely with the committee of three faculty, 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. It is generally between 15 and 25 pages in length, sets out the major question(s) the dissertation will explore, and includes a preliminary bibliography, formatted in either MLA or Chicago style. It may include an articulation of chapters or even a sample part of a chapter. The precise expectations for the prospectus, including its length, should be discussed in detail with the adviser(s) upon completion of the Special Examination.
At least two weeks prior to the date of the Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium (generally held in April), third-year students are required to submit the final draft of the dissertation prospectus, which will be circulated to all members of the German department. The Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium is a departmental event that entails a concise presentation of the dissertation topic by the student followed by a discussion of the proposed research with the entire faculty and graduate community. Together with the faculty and students, the committee will make recommendations concerning the direction of the research and the feasibility and scope of the dissertation project. Students should work with the Graduate Administrator, Lynn Ratsep, and the coordinators of the departmental “Works in Progress” series to set up a date, time, and place for the Dissertation Prospectus Colloquium in April (typically with two prospectus presentations per session). In exceptional circumstances the 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, which lasts up to two hours, 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.
Devin A. Fore
Director of Graduate Studies
Sara S. Poor
Devin A. Fore
Michael W. Jennings
Ann Marie Rasmussen
Joseph W. Vogl
Thomas Y. Levin
Sara S. Poor
Joel B. Lande
Barbara N. Nagel
Lecturer with Rank of Professor
James W. Rankin
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.