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9 place StudyQA ranking:3350 Duration:5 years

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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.) are sometimes 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. 


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.

General Exam:

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.

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 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 and FPO:

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

After both parts of the general examination have been completed, the student chooses an adviser or co-advisers for the dissertation. Typically in April of the third year, students submit a dissertation prospectus to a committee of three that includes this adviser (or co-advisers) and one or two other faculty members with expertise in the field. The prospectus, which is generally between 15 to 25 pages in length, sets out the major question(s) the dissertation will explore and includes a preliminary bibliography. The precise expectations for the prospectus should be discussed in detail with the adviser(s) upon successful completion of the "special exam." The dissertation prospectus defense begins with a formal presentation of the proposed topic by the student, which is followed by a discussion of the prospectus with the committee.

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.

  • Application Fee: $90
  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Transcripts
  • Fall Semester Grades
  • Prerequisite Tests
  • English Language Tests
  • GRE : General test
  • Additional Departmental Requirements: Sample of written work. Applicants should be fluent in German.

For Ph.D. candidates, tuition and fees during a student’s regular period of enrollment are provided in full from a student’s graduate student financial support, in the form of tuition support from fellowships, assistantships, or external sources.

The annual stipend amount provided to Ph.D. candidates during their regular enrollment is intended to support a single graduate student based on estimated costs. Master’s students or students with spouses and/or dependents may require additional resources to support their living expenses 

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