Graduate Program Requirements

Graduate Program Requirements

For students entering Fall 2022 and after, please see the Bulletin for your admin year program requirements.

For students entering before Fall 2022, please contact the German DGS for program requirements.

The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures houses 2 Ph.D. programs (including an M.A. degree "without thesis" in process of obtaining the Ph.D.), 1 M.A. with thesis exchange student program, 1 M.A. in Higher Education program, and 1 non-degree seeking graduate exchange student program (S.N.C.D.). 

PhD Program

The PhD requires 51 hours of courses (including 36 MA credits) home-based in German (L21). Students who complete interdisciplinary graduate certificates will be required to enroll in additional units as specified by the certificate-granting department or program. Students may not exceed 72 hours of course credit.

These rules regarding required courses taken at Washington University apply to students joining the department with a bachelor’s degree. Students entering with a master’s degree may already have fulfilled some of these requirements. The fulfillment of Washington University requirements with courses completed elsewhere should be discussed with the Director of Graduation Studies (DGS), who will determine about the transfer of credits.

Students are encouraged to take courses covering the full historical and thematic range of German-speaking literature and culture, to be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). In addition, the following courses are required of all students:

Theory and Methods:

One seminar addressing theories of literary and cultural analysis (L21 German 453 “Theories of Literary and Cultural Analysis - Narrative Theory: A Critical and Analytical Toolbox” or equivalent as discussed with DGS)


  • L21 German 5051 “Introduction to the Teaching of German” (1 unit – normally to be taken during the second semester of the first year at Washington University)
  • L21 German 5052 “Teaching Practicum” (1 unit)
  • L21 German 5053 “Seminar in Theories of Foreign Language Pedagogy / Theories of Second Language Acquisition” (2 units)
  • L21 German 5061 “Apprenticeship in the Teaching of Literature and Culture I” (1 unit)
  • L21 German 5062 “Apprenticeship in the Teaching of Literature and Culture II” (1 unit)

Thematic and Methodological Areas:

At least one seminar each in any three of the following four categories. In rare cases, subject to the approval of the Department Chair and the DGS, a course outside of German might fulfill one of these categories. Course descriptions for each seminar offered in the department will indicate which of these categories is covered in the seminar.

Category I: Translation Studies

Translation theory and practice are central to literary and cultural studies. With its interest in the cross-cultural exchange and circulation of texts, themes, motifs, genres, and ideas, Germanic Languages and Literatures is committed to performing, and also to assessing theoretically, the function and value of “translation” in the widest sense of the term, including both interlingual translation and other forms of textual transformation and adaptation.

Category II: Media Studies

Courses in this category facilitate broad, theoretically informed, and historically grounded thinking about the effects of media transformation on cultural production and consumption as well as on the self-conceptions of authors (artists, composers), producers, and consumers (readers/viewers/listeners). They explore how media—including manuscripts, books, periodicals, photography, radio, television, film, digital media, and other forms—not only “mediate” but also structure knowledge, cultural exchange, artistic expression, perception, and indeed experience itself. They also build on the frameworks of media theory, critical theory, and media ecology to ask timely questions about the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of media. Attention may be given to competitions between media, to remediation, intermediality, and the mutual incorporations of media, to the ways new media reconfigure the conception, function, and imagined provenance of older media, both in the past and in the twenty-first century.

Category III: Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Race

Courses in this category examine the concepts of nationalism, ethnicity, and race—and, more broadly, historical and contemporary mechanisms, ideologies, and processes of group formation—through the historically contextualized study of literature, film, and other cultural artifacts, agents, and institutions. Perspectives examined could include those of insiders as well as those of outsiders or the deliberately excluded. Courses may focus on historical and contemporary cases and/or on the cultural and aesthetic responses to them. Possible topics include: historical and theoretical perspectives on race and ethnicity; the experiences of Jews in German-speaking Europe, including acculturation, antisemitism, and the Shoah; relations between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires; German emigration to the United States, and related aesthetic responses; contemporary immigration and immigrant communities in the German-speaking world; new subcultures, new power relations, and new ideas of citizenship created by patterns of migration.

Category IV: Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities is a diverse and evolving field that uses digital tools and computational methods both to answer existing research questions and to generate new questions in humanistic disciplines. Courses in this area may address topics ranging from the construction of digital archives to the analysis of macroscopic trends in cultural change and will often employ techniques from the field of data science. Courses in this category may also reflect on the broader impact of information technology on society and culture; that is, the way in which new technologies can reshape our conventional understandings of key aesthetic, political, and anthropological categories: authorship, creativity, privacy, influence, agency, even the category of the human itself.

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; exchange students pursuing a master's degree may take three credits in another area of study. Of special interest are graduate offerings in art history, comparative literature, digital humanities, English, film & media studies, Jewish studies, higher education administration, history, music, philosophy, romance languages, and/or women, gender, and sexuality studies.


Master’s Examination

Students who enter with a bachelor's degree must complete an oral and written master’s examination at the end of their second year. A student's performance in both the oral and the written exams servesthe faculty as one important element for deciding whether the student will receive permission to proceed with his or her graduate studies. 

Qualifying Examinations and Dissertation Prospectus

Students taking 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. Usually taken in the fourth year for students entering with a bachelor's degree and in the third yearfor students entering with a master's degree, the qualifying exam process consists of four phases:

  • Phase 1: development of a bibliography for the exams;
  • Phase 2: preparation for and completion of two exams, each of which consists of a written portion and an oral portion;
  • Phase 3: creation and defense of a dissertation prospectus;
  • Phase 4: preparation and circulation of dissertation abstract and filing of Title, Scope and Procedure Form (the latter of which must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than at the end of the fourth year of graduate study)

In the first exam, the student is required to situate his/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/her exam committee. The second exam serves to frame the student’s primary materials in theoretical terms; it is meant to discuss in general terms the methodological approaches for the planned dissertation.


Doctoral candidates are required to complete a minimum of six semesters of MTEs (or the equivalent) within the German department in order to be eligible for the degree; some students may have the opportunity to complete additional MTEs in other departments. Most of our students (particularly students who do not enter with an MA in German and with experience teaching German at the university level) will complete eight semesters of MTEs (the maximum allowable number) in order to prepare themselves for the rigorous demands of the job market in German.

The German Department of Washington University provides graduate students with exceptional training and mentoring for their teaching both here at Washington University and in their future careers. Our students have an opportunity to assist with and teach a wide variety of courses, including introductory through advanced German, as well as courses in Comparative Literature, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Film and Media Studies. At the beginning of their teaching experience, students work in close collaboration with the Foreign Language Pedagogy specialist, as well as other faculty members, who serve in a variety of capacities as mentors and advisers. As they gain more experience and prove themselves, students have the opportunity to teach their own courses under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

As part of their training, all graduate students take a series of 1-2 unit seminars that facilitate and reinforce their development as teachers over the course of their graduate studies. These courses familiarize students with current and past strategies and theories of second language acquisition, with available materials on the market today and with the practices and approaches of German-language programs around the country. A unique, two-semester apprenticeship allows advanced graduate students to observe literature and culture classes taught by professors in the German Department as well as professors in other departments, to teach model classes themselves, and to develop draft syllabi.

For more information about our pedagogy program for graduate students, please contact our Director of Graduate Studies.

Master's Program

To earn a Master's degree in the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University a student must:

  • complete the minimum units required; 
  • meet individual program requirements (required courses, courses from specific subject areas, and additional requirements)
  • fulfill residence requirement
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • pass an examination which tests competence in the field of study for the "without thesis" option or prepare an acceptable thesis and successfully defend it before a committee of no fewer than 3 faculty members for the "with thesis" option

Any master's degree program can require a master's thesis, make the thesis optional or decline to offer a thesis option.

Have questions?

If you have further questions about requirements, please contact our academic coordinator.

Courteney Benson