German Studies


Information about coursework, foreign language requirements, the qualifying exam, dissertation and teaching.


A total of 13 courses are required. Among these should be:

  • LANG 2900 (taught by the Director of the Center for Language Studies) - "The Theory and Practice of Foreign Language Learning and Teaching"
  • 4 courses in a secondary field of study, usually consisting of a sequence of courses in another Ph.D. program at Brown, such as Comparative Literature, History, Music, Theater Arts & Performance Studies, Philosophy, MCM, and History of Art & Architecture.

Students may, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Students, count up to 2 courses at the 1000-level towards fulfillment of the coursework requirements.

Graduate students entering the Ph.D. program at Brown with a prior M.A. in hand may petition to be allowed to take up to 2 of their 13 required course credits on an “Audit” basis.

Students are required to take 8 graduate seminars in the Department of German Studies, 2 per semester during the first 4 semesters.

At the beginning of each academic term, graduate students will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies in order to discuss their progress and to have their proposed coursework for the respective semester approved.

Foreign Language Requirement

Graduate students in the Department of German Studies must demonstrate proficiency in at least one language other than German and English that is germane to their research interests. Students demonstrate proficiency by taking a translation exam or its equivalent. The language requirement should be satisfied before the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying examination consists of two parts:

  1. A general examination and
  2. A specialized fields examination based on two reading lists prepared by the candidate.

General Exam

The first part of the examination, the general exam, takes place at the end of the first semester in the student’s third year. It is a 90-minute oral examination based on a standing departmental list of 30 items drawn from the tradition of German literary writing and critical thought. Students will add 3 more items of their choice. The German reading list will be made available to the student by the Director of Graduate Studies upon entry into the program. The student will work with a committee of 3 faculty members (chosen by the student) to select the texts, and the departmental faculty as a whole will administer this portion of the examination.

Specialized Fields Exam

The second part of the examination takes place at the end of the second semester of the student’s third year. It is a 2-part written exam, each part based on a reading list compiled in consultation with the student’s chosen committee, including the dissertation advisor. One list will address the student’s dissertation topic; the second list will represent another field of interest. The lists must reflect a theoretical engagement with their respective topics. Each list will be accompanied by a statement outlining the student’s main ideas, theses and questions represented in the list. Based on these lists and statements, the committee will prepare a question in relation to the 2 areas the lists address. The student will receive the question for the first list on a Friday by noon; he or she will then have until 5:00 p.m. the following Monday to prepare and submit a written answer, which will normally be between 10 and 15 pages. The following Friday, the student will receive the question for the second list, again by noon; the student will then have once again until 5:00 p.m. the following Monday to prepare and submit a written answer, which will normally be between 10 and 15 pages.

Oral Exam

By the first Friday after the second part of the written examination, a two­ hour oral examination based on the written responses will be held.


Students will be assigned either "Pass with Honors," "Pass," or "Fail" for the qualifying examination.

Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, graduate students are eligible to be awarded the M.A. in German Studies.

Should a candidate fail to pass the qualifying examination or a portion thereof, he or she will be allowed to take the examination (or the portion that was failed) one more time during the following semester. If a candidate fails a second time, the result is termination.


Dissertation Proposal

After successfully completing the qualifying examination, the student shall, in consultation with his or her primary dissertation advisor, nominate two other dissertation readers. By the end of the first week of the fall semester in the fourth year of study, the student shall present a substantive written dissertation proposal.

The exact format of the proposal will be determined by the primary advisor, but it will generally be between 15 and 20 pages in length, and include a tentative chapter outline and preliminary bibliography. The proposal will be examined orally by the three members of the dissertation committee by the end of that semester. The committee will either approve the proposal or recommend revisions. Once the proposal is approved, the student will be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.

Dissertation Defense

After the dissertation has been completed and accepted by all three members of the dissertation committee, a dissertation defense takes place, consisting of a public presentation and discussion of the thesis. The date of the defense is selected in consultation with the dissertation committee. The defense will begin with an oral presentation by the candidate, offering a brief overview of the main theses and structure of the dissertation (usually 15-30 minutes). This presentation will be followed by a 60– to 90– minute discussion in which the candidate responds to questions posed by the committee, and, if present, other faculty. At the end of the defense, members of the committee consult and vote on whether to pass the dissertation. The Graduate School requires that the dissertation be accepted by all three readers before the doctoral degree can be awarded.


Students are required to teach for at least two years, though the norm will be higher.

Graduate student teaching is an important component of our doctoral program. As teaching assistants, graduate students work with the Language Program Director to teach beginning and intermediate German. Graduate students are required to take a seminar on language pedagogy and to participate in annual teaching workshops held in August. As graduate students progress in their program, they will assist faculty in undergraduate courses in the German Studies Department. Advanced students may be offered the opportunity to work with professors to design their own upper-level courses or to teach such a course with a professor. Faculty mentoring of teaching assistants throughout their course of study is an integral part of our program. Students will be prepared to present a comprehensive teaching portfolio when they enter the job market.

In addition to the language-specific training administered by the German Studies Department, all graduate students are encouraged to participate in the seminars and workshops offered by Brown’s Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. The Center offers a teaching certificate program through which graduate students may be awarded Certificate I, II, and III.

The Goethe Institut Boston also periodically offers pedagogy workshops that graduate students are encouraged to attend.

Advanced students will be offered the opportunity to work with professors to design their own upper-level courses or teach such a course with a professor.

Other Requirements

Students are expected to organize and participate in student-run colloquia. Graduate students and faculty from other departments working in the area of German Studies may be invited to participate in these. Students will also have the opportunity to present their own work and invite the occasional Brown or non-Brown speaker.

Unfailing attendance at all academic lectures by guest speakers, symposia, special seminars, conferences, etc. organized by the Department of German Studies is expected of all graduate students, regardless of their stage in the program. This opportunity for scholarly exchange is an integral part of their graduate education and an important element in the Department’s intellectual culture.

Additional Information

Information for Ph.D. and Masters programs including a 5th Year Masters Program.
Information on places across Brown University and International to enhance your German Studies learning.