Our curriculum toward a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures details steps on the five‐year path to degree. By the end of spring term of year 3, students shall have completed a successful prospectus meeting with their dissertation committee. In years 4 and 5, students work on the dissertation. Students teach in years 2 and 3, although they may choose to gain additional teaching experience. Students are encouraged to spend at least one year (typically year 4) at an academic setting in a German‐speaking country.

All candidates must complete 20 credit units (c.u.s) by the end of year 3. The 20 credits are comprised of a mixture of 12.5 core (required) credit units and 7.5 elective credit units. Students choose electives to establish knowledge in research and teaching fields as well as to complete a certificate from an affiliated program. Our Department has a long‐standing commitment to teaching many advanced courses in German, and the curriculum builds on this tradition, readying graduate students to contribute to global scholarship.

(NB: This is a brand new curriculum for the academic year 2017-2018. Current graduate students can consult the former curriculum here. The freshly reconceived faculty-graduate research workshop will begin to meet during the fall semester of 2016.)

Core Credit Units

  • 4 anchor courses from 5 periods (see below). All anchor courses are taught in German, longer writing assignments may be completed in English. All anchor courses should be completed by the end of year 2 in preparation for the 50‐book exam.
  • 1 literary theory course (taught in English, cross‐listed with CompLit et al) taken in the fall of year 1.
  • 1 stylistics (in German and English) and research tutorial taken in the spring of year 1 to prepare for the qualifying paper and oral exam taken at the end of year 1.
  • research workshop to be taken each semester in the first three years for .5 c.u. each semester (for a total of 3 c.u.). All faculty and graduate students in residence discuss work in progress and new intellectual developments. Students are expected to present in year three.
  • 1 pedagogy course taken in the spring of year 1.
  • 1 pedagogy roundtable taken over the course of academic year for .5 c.u. each semester in year 2.
  • organization of graduate student conference during the academic year for .5 c.u. in year 3.
  • 1 prospectus tutorial taken in the spring of year 3 with the dissertation adviser in preparation for the prospectus meeting at the end of year 3.

5 periods, from which students shall take 4 anchor courses in 4 periods. The five periods are:

  • medieval (to roughly 1450)
  • early modern (to roughly 1789)
  • the long 18th century (roughly 1648‐1806)
  • the long 19th century (roughly 1789‐1914)
  • the long 20th century (roughly 1871‐today)

Elective Credit Units

Students often take elective courses in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures (whether taught in English, German, Yiddish or in Swedish or Dutch Studies), other literatures and languages, as well as Comparative Literature, Philosophy, History, History of Art, Music, History and Sociology of Science, and others and toward a certificate in Cinema Studies; Medieval Studies; Women, Gender and Sexuality; Jewish Studies; and at the Center for Teaching and Learning.


Year 1. Qualifying paper and oral presentation to faculty committee (late spring term, year 1).

By April 20 of year 1, the student—in consultation with a committee of three departmental faculty members—submits a 20‐page essay. This committee is composed of the Graduate Chair and two departmental faculty with whom the student has taken a course in year 1. The paper will be revised and polished in the Stylistics and Research course taken that same spring. No later than May 10, the student will meet with the committee to present and then discuss the paper. At the immediate conclusion of the oral presentation and discussion, faculty will assess the student’s performance as a high pass, pass, or fail.

Year 2. 50‐book exam (late spring term, year 2).

Drawing on the anchor coursework, the student consults with faculty to draw up a list of 50 books surveying the arc of literary history. The list will be settled by March 1 of year 2. Three faculty members (the Graduate Chair plus two departmental faculty of the student’s choosing) co‐author three exam questions based on the list. No later than the end of spring term of year 2, the student chooses two questions to answer, writing two essays over a four‐hour period. Questions ask the student to consider continuities and ruptures in literary history and to demonstrate a familiarity with standard periodization frames. Examiners consult and provide written feedback to the exam within one week and assess the student’s performance as a high pass, pass, or fail.

Year 3. Field exam (fall year 3).

By the end of fall break in year 3, the student develops a field list in consultation with faculty members, including the Graduate Chair. The field exam consists of a 2500‐word essay justifying the field and outlining a major research area; it must be submitted to the faculty by December 1 of year 3. The faculty provide oral feedback on the essay in a one‐hour discussion with the student, no later than the end of fall term of year 3, and assess the student’s performance as a high pass, pass, or fail.

Year 3. Portfolio assessment (early spring year 3).

Drawing on work completed for courses, the student must submit a portfolio of four pieces of written work before spring break of year 3 accompanied by a c.v. and a narrative reflection introducing the author and his or her research interests, with a brief rationale for choosing the included work, in 750 words. In the portfolio, the student may also include:

    • a seminar paper (20‐page essay)
    • a conference paper (12‐page essay)
    • an annotated bibliography for a research field (working toward the prospectus and dissertation), including reference works (print and digital), archival materials (manuscript, print, or digital), and scholarship
    • a syllabus for a course in German literature and culture.
    • a statement of teaching philosophy

Shortly after spring break, students will present their portfolio to a committee of three faculty members who offer oral feedback on each portfolio piece.

Year 3. Dissertation Prospectus (late spring year 3).

A written dissertation prospectus will be submitted to the faculty by April 20 of year 3. By the end of spring term, the student will meet with a committee of three faculty members to present and to discuss his or her prospectus.

Language exams.

German Language Exams. All students will take a German OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) in accordance with ACTFL (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages) guidelines no later than the first day of the fall semester of year 1 to assist in ascertaining German linguistic proficiency and to customize an effective course of study. A second OPI will be administered no later than May 10 of year 1. To teach German, students must demonstrate advanced language skills.

Other Language Exams. It is our belief that languages are integral to our intellectual projects and to encouraging international careers. Penn offers the richest choice of language instruction of the Ivy League institutions, and our students can profit from this wealth (free of tuition) at any point in their path to the Ph.D. Students must demonstrate reading knowledge in at least one additional language (other than English) that supports their research and teaching; all language exams must be completed by the end of spring term year 3.

Ph.D. Defense.

By the end of 5 years of SAS funding, all students will present a public defense in accordance with SAS Graduate Office policy.