The German section offers programs of advanced study and research in German literature, culture, and thought leading to the PhD. Although the program awards a master’s degree, the MA is not considered a terminal degree, but an intermediary step toward the PhD.

The research interests of the faculty allow for a special emphasis on comparative literary studies. The series of courses regularly offered provides a well-balanced program of German literary history and critical theory. Because of strong interdisciplinary cooperation at Johns Hopkins, students enjoy the ability to work with faculty in other departments.

Recent graduates of the PhD program in German have received appointments at Cornell, Harvard, McGill, New York University, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Colorado, University of North Carolina, and Yale.

Requirements for the MA

The MA coursework and exams are designed to give students a broad background in German literature and thought from the 17th to the 21st centuries. The courses also introduce students to major developments in aesthetics, literary theory, intellectual history, and cultural studies. To complete the MA, students must take six courses for credit and attend three as an auditor in their first three semesters. In addition, they must pass the MA exam, which is administered in two installments in the form of take-home essay questions followed by an oral discussion. The essay questions are based on individualized reading lists compiled by the students in consultation with the faculty. The structure ensures that students acquire a breadth of reading while at the same time maintaining thematic coherence.

Requirements for the PhD

After successful completion of all the requirements for the MA, students should start thinking seriously about their field(s) of specialization and the dissertation project. During this phase, students are required to complete two independent research projects known as “qualifying papers” that are roughly 30 pages in length. One of the two papers should reflect the topic of the dissertation. The other should be suitable for publication as an article that shows the student’s breadth. The two qualifying papers should be finished by the end of the third year, so that work on the dissertation can begin immediately thereafter.

The fourth and fifth years of the program are devoted entirely to the dissertation. Students who have successfully fulfilled all degree requirements are relieved of all teaching responsibilities in the fourth year and encouraged to go abroad to conduct dissertation research. Further information on degree requirements can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook.


Teacher training and practice teaching are an essential part of the graduate program. Graduate students in German teach three of their five years in the program. (The first and fourth years are generally reserved for coursework and the dissertation.) To acquaint students with the methods and principles of foreign language instruction, the section offers a German Foreign Language Teaching Practicum (I and II).

Exchange Programs

Graduate students in the department are expected to study and conduct research abroad while in the program. Generally, study abroad occurs after three years of coursework in Baltimore. Fellowship funding continues while the student is abroad. Exchange programs with the Free University Berlin and the Humboldt University in Berlin offer the opportunity for graduate students to study in Germany. In addition, the German program offers numerous summer fellowships for students to conduct research abroad. These include the Humboldt Fellowship, the Dahlem Humanities Fellowship, the Kaye Dissertation Stipend, the William H. McClain Dissertation Fellowship, and the Max Kade Travel Grants.