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 semester of the third year (either in the January/February or the April/May phd exam period. The dissertation prospectus colloquium generally takes place at the end of 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 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 colloquium, 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 needed, sixth years.
Sample of written work. Applicants should be fluent in German.
Students ordinarily complete twelve courses over the first two years. In addition, during the third year and while teaching, students must take a seminar on second language acquisition with the department’s language coordinator. 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.
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 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 Juliane Rebentisch, (Hochschule für Gestaltung, Offenbach/Main) 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 Ann Marie Rasmussen, (Waterloo), Andreas Kilcher (Zurich), Jane Newman (Irvine), Niklaus Largier (Berkeley), Juliane Vogel (Konstanz), Rebecca Comay (Toronto), Gabriele Brandstetter (Berlin), Rudolph Stichweh (Bonn), Wilfried Barner (Tubingen), Dorrit Cohn (Harvard), Jochen Hörisch (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 examination, 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 examination, which is typically taken in the January/February or April/May general examination period 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 fail a part of the general examination a first attempt may on the recommendation of the department stand for reexamination of that part within a year. Students who fail the general examination a second and final time have their Ph.D. candidacy and enrollment terminated at 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 the first failure takes place, this may mean that students will have less than a year for a retake. For the full Graduate School policy on General examinations, see https://gradschool.princeton.edu/academics/degree-requirements/phd-advising-and-requirements/general-examination
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. It 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) A pass of the Erudition exam sufficient for an M.A., but not for proceeding to Ph.D.candidacy OR 2) Completion of an M.A. thesis (approximate length of 30-40 pages). The thesis should be an expansion of a previous seminar research paper. The advisor for this paper would be the faculty member for whom the initial seminar paper was written. The thesis must be approved by the adviser and a second reader from among the faculty.
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 led by the department’s Language Coordinator, along with the AI Orientation given by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.
Concurrent with teaching 101-102, students must enroll in GER 506 (Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy), taught by the department’s Language Coordinator.
Students are required to teach the second-year sequence (105-107) in order to receive sixth-year funding. For students who enrolled prior to 2020, this assignment must take place during the sixth year itself.
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 advisor or advisors 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 or May), 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 (typically with two prospectus presentations per session). In certain 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
- Brigid Doherty
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Johannes Wankhammer
- Devin A. Fore
- Michael W. Jennings
- Nikolaus Wegmann
- Brigid Doherty
- Thomas Y. Levin
- Sara S. Poor
- Joel B. Lande
- Barbara N. Nagel
- Johannes Wankhammer
- Adam Oberlin
- 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.