PhD Program in German Studies/Literature

Requirements for the PhD Program in German Studies/Literature

1. Course work: 

Students take 4 courses per term for 2 years, with a total of 16 courses required; 3 of those courses may be audited; GMAN 501, Methods of Teaching German as a World Language, is required for all students. Students should consult with the Director of Graduate Study (DGS), who must approve each schedule. In addition, one or two of the courses taken for credit may be Directed Readings under the supervision of a faculty member, with the approval of the DGS. 

Up to 2 credits may be awarded for prior work done at the graduate level, provided the student’s first-year record at Yale is very good and courses taken for credit at Yale are not less than 12.

The German Literature Track: 4 courses may be taken outside the department.
The German Studies Track: 7 courses may be taken outside the department. At least 4 of these courses should be taken in one department, program, or field which is then represented in the oral exams as the student’s “minor.”*

2. Languages:

In the third semester of study, students are required to give evidence of a reading knowledge of one language (other than their native language) that is highly relevant to the study of German literature and culture. The department strongly recommends French, but other languages may possibly be approved on consultation with the DGS. It is possible to fulfill this requirement by taking a language exam in the relevant department, by taking a reading course with a resulting grade of A, or by way of other measures of experience such as studying in another country.

Students who are not native speakers of German must pass a written and oral examination in German. A departmental examination, both written and oral, will be administered in the second term of study, so that there will be ample time for improvement, should that prove necessary.

3. Teaching:

Students are expected to begin teaching in the third year of study, while preparing for the oral examination. It is strongly advised that they teach at least one additional year: if, for instance, they hold a fellowship for study abroad during the 4th year, they should teach during the 5th year. With regard to the two years of teaching, the expectation is that students accept a minimum of three terms of German language teaching assigned by the Director of the Language Program. If there is a compelling reason why such a program proves impossible or inadvisable, students may petition their adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. For students in the combined German-Film program: teaching will be split between German and Film.

4. The Qualifying Examination (5th term):

The Qualifying Examination assesses the students’ knowledge and understanding of the discipline and their skills across a broad range of topics in the field. The examination is divided into two parts, to be taken during reading period of the fifth term of study.

Part I. Written examination. In this portion of the comprehensive the student will write a closed-book exam (four essays in six hours). Students may write in English or German; there will be a choice of questions. Sample questions are available.

SIX SECTIONS of examination in German literature and film are intended to give students an overview of the field:

1. Medieval through Baroque;

2. 1750 – 1810;

3. 1810 – 1848; 

4. 1848 – 1945;

5. 1945 – present;

6. German film of the 20th-21st century.

The reading list is a departmental list, updated regularly by the faculty.

Prepraration of readings should begin well in advance of the fifth term. Students are encouraged to form study groups and meet with faculty.

Part II. One hour oral examination, a week after the written examination. In this portion of the comprehensive exam, the student will discuss the written exam with three examiners to elaborate on answers and hear comments. Students who fail the written or the oral exam, can repeat the respective part once, within a timeframe of eight weeks. 

5. Study Abroad:

After the student has passed the Oral Examination, the student may apply for fellowships for study abroad for an entire academic year. For students in their first and/or second year, the department offers 8-week fellowships for study in Baden-Württemberg universities during the summer.

6. The Prospectus and Prospectus Defense (6th term):

The prospectus for the dissertation must be submitted at the end of the sixth term of study, typically in May. It should be approximately 15-20 pages in length. It should: 

1. provide an overview of the dissertation project,
2. situate the project within the relevant secondary literature,
3. describe the scholarly contribution that the dissertation is expected to make,
4. give an overview of each chapter’s focus, and
5. it must include a bibliography of relevant primary and secondary texts.

The prospectus should be written in close consultation with the dissertation advisor, who must approve it before it is submitted to the rest of the faculty. 

Shortly after the student has submitted the prospectus, the entire faculty will convene to discuss the prospectus with the student. If serious objections to the project are raised, the student is expected to revise the prospectus to meet these objections.

Students are also expected to put together a reading list of 20-30 works relevant to their proposed project, which will also be discussed during the defense.

7. The Dissertation and the Dissertation Fellowship:

The Dissertation and the Dissertation Fellowship: The culmination of the student’s work is the dissertation. Each student will choose a dissertation committee of three people, one (sometimes two) of whom will serve as the student’s primary advisor(s). Drafts of each chapter must be submitted in a timely fashion to all members of the student’s committee: the first chapter should be submitted to the committee by February 1st of the fourth year; the second chapter should be submitted by January 1st of the fifth year. A formal chapter review will be held for the first chapter, during which the student will discuss his or her work with the members of the dissertation committee and the DGS. It is expected that the student will present the first chapter of the dissertation to the Department Colloquium not later than the first semester of the 5th year of study. Before the dissertation is submitted, the DGS convenes a dissertation defense. After brief presentation on theme, claims, and method on the part of the student, the members of the committee, the adviser(s) and the DGS raise questions and discuss broader contexts as well as issues of publication. In consultation with the student the DGS invites further faculty from the Department and/or outside the Department for discussion as well as ABD graduate students as audience. The defense results in a vote by committee, adviser(s), and DGS on recommending the dissertation for admission. The primary goal of the defense is not a further examination but a capstone experience, intensive feedback by readers familiar and not familiar with the work and, finally, suggestions for publication.* The dissertation is ideally 200-250 double-spaced pages in length.

*New regulation going into effect in Fall 2018.

Helpful Links:

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs & Policies webpage
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs & Policies handbook
More information about requirements for the Combined PhD Program in German Studies/Film and Media Studies.