The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures offers a comprehensive program in the language, literature, and culture — past and present — of Germany and German-speaking countries. Our faculty pursue a multiplicity of approaches in their research and offer seminars that provide a healthy balance of theory and the history of German literature and culture. The department offers numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary study, including a one-of-a-kind joint PhD program with Comparative Literature and an innovative certificate program that gives students the option of developing an expertise in one of four associated fields.

Both faculty and students teach and do research in a wide range of related disciplines, including art history; comparative literature; European studies; film and media studies; Jewish studies; Medieval and Renaissance studies; religious studies; and women, gender, and sexuality studies.

We consider international exchange to be a crucial component of graduate education. We maintain an exchange agreement on all levels (faculty, graduate, undergraduate) with the University of Tübingen, in addition to graduate student exchanges with the universities of Berlin, Cologne, and Munich. These arrangements enable us to guarantee a year abroad for all of our PhD candidates. At the same time, they enrich our program by bringing German exchange students to campus to study and teach alongside the full-time students in our program. Exchange is further facilitated by the Max Kade Center, which, in addition to numerous other activities, plays host each spring to a writer- and a critic-in-residence. The department also invites a distinguished visiting professor to campus every other year.

Departmental faculty are known across campus and across the discipline for their close mentoring of graduate students, who are integrated into the department through their participation in numerous activities, from the graduate student symposium and the department's biennial international symposium to outreach programs like German Day. We also give close attention to teacher training through our unique pedagogy internships, through recurring workshops, and through a classroom mentoring program which ensures that all teaching assistants receive feedback and advice from a large number of faculty members. Graduate students have the opportunity to teach in our undergraduate German program at all levels, in both German and English, and many also have a chance to teach courses or sections in other programs.

The combination of our extremely competitive funding packages and the low cost of living in St. Louis ensures that students have the resources they need to stay focused on their academic work. As a consequence, our graduate students not only produce first-rate dissertations, they also go on to accept positions at top research universities and liberal arts colleges across the country.

Their success is facilitated by the outstanding research collections available at the Washington University library, including the Collection of Contemporary German Literature, as well as the Suhrkamp/Insel Collection. Other resources include the Gontard Collection (18th to 20th centuries) in the Rare Book Collection of Olin Library, the internationally famous Reformation Collection at Concordia Seminary, and the Vatican Manuscript Collection at St. Louis University. The Saint Louis Art Museum and the Washington University Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum have extensive holdings in German expressionist and contemporary art.

For questions concerning the graduate application process or to request a brochure please contact our Student Coordinator, Cecily Stewart Hawksworth, or email our Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Erin McGlothlin.

Contact:Cecily Stewart Hawksworth

PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures

A summary of program requirements is provided below.

German exchange students should contact Cecily Stewart Hawksworth for information on the exchange program.

Course Work

PhD candidates must complete 63 hours of course work (including 36 AM-level credits), and 9 hours of dissertation credit for a total of 72 units of graduate credit. 12 of the 63 credits may be taken in related fields outside the department.

Each student must take courses in the full range of German literature and culture, to be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. The following courses are required (exceptions are only possible upon review by the Graduate Committee):

  • German 453 Theories of Literary and Cultural Analysis (3 units)
  • German 456: Introduction to Middle High German Language and Literature (3 units)
  • German 457 Introduction to Linguistics and the Structure of German (3 units)
  • German 5051 Introduction to the Teaching of German (1 unit)
  • German 5052 Teaching Practicum (1 unit)
  • German 5053 Seminar in Theories of Foreign Language Pedagogy / Theories of Second Language Acquisition (2 units)
  • German 5061 Apprenticeship in the Teaching of Literature and Culture I (1 unit)
  • German 5062 Apprenticeship in the Teaching of Literature and Culture II (1 unit)

In addition, students are required to take one additional course in German literature prior to 1700.

These rules regarding required courses to be taken at Washington University apply to students joining the department with a BA. Students entering with an AM degree may already have fulfilled some of these requirements. The fulfillment of Washington University requirements with course work completed elsewhere should be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies who will make a determination.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Graduate students may wish to take courses in areas other than German. With this in mind, the program is designed so that PhD candidates may take a total of 12 credits in other areas. Of special interest are graduate offerings in Art History; Comparative Literature; English; Film and Media Studies; History; Music; Philosophy; Romance Languages; and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Students interested in completing one of our interdisciplinary certificates are generally required to complete five additional seminars, two of which may also be counted toward the 63 units of departmental credit. 


Master's Examination

Students who enter with a BA must complete an oral and written master's examination at the end of their second year. A student's performance on the exam serves the faculty as one important element in deciding whether the student will receive permission to proceed with his or her graduate studies. The department does not offer a terminal master's degree.

Qualifying Examinations and Dissertation Proposal

Students taking the Qualifying Exams should display general knowledge and understanding of the primary materials, historical contexts, scholarly questions, and theoretical frameworks that are likely to drive their future dissertations. The Qualifying Exam process consists of three parts: two written qualifying papers and the dissertation prospectus. Students typically choose a team of three faculty members at the beginning of this process who will guide them through the exam process and serve as their readers. In the first exam, the student is required to situate his or her primary materials and their author(s) in their respective historical contexts and periods, with specific points of emphasis to be determined together with his or her advising team. The second exam serves to frame the student’s primary materials in theoretical terms. Within two months after passing the second qualifying exam, the student is required to write a 10-15 page dissertation proposal and then to present it orally to his or her advising team.

Foreign Language Requirement

Students planning to work primarily on post-1700 materials must display reading proficiency in French. The requirement may be satisfied by examination or by enrolling in and successfully completing French 400-401. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue reading knowledge in languages other than French if necessary to conduct particular research for their dissertation.

Students planning to work on pre-1700 materials must pass a reading exam in Latin. Reading knowledge of French is also strongly encouraged. 


PhD candidates are required to teach at least two years at Washington University under the direction of the supervisor of language instruction.

For more information, please contact our Director of Graduate Studies, Erin McGlothlin.