The department offers curricula leading to the master of arts and the doctor of philosophy degrees in German.

The M.A. degree in German requires 30 credits of course work at the graduate level (10 courses) approved by the graduate advisor and the Masters examination.  For details, see the program description on the department website or contact the graduate secretary,

The Ph.D. requires an additional eight courses (24 credits) for a total of 18 courses (54 credits) [for students entering with an M.A. from another institution: a total of 12 courses/36 credits, of which up to two can be transfer courses as allowed by graduate advisor], an external doctoral minor, proof of proficiency in another foreign language, and a preliminary qualifying exam in preparation for writing a Ph.D. thesis. Students must pass the Goethe Certificate C1 (German-language proficiency) before advancing to the doctoral preliminary examination. For details, see the program description on the department Web site or contact the graduate secretary,

The department offers a broadly inclusive and flexible curriculum in the entire range of medieval through contemporary literature and culture, a full spectrum of linguistics and philology, and a program in Dutch language, literature, and culture. The program is unsurpassed in comprehensive representation of the entire field of the study of German through individual faculty members' specializations and research publications, including: early modern and medieval studies; film and media studies; multicultural literature and cosmopolitanism; Gegenwartsliteratur; literary and cultural theory; Holocaust studies; poetics, stylistics, and narratology; 18th-century studies; literature in its sociocultural context; literary and cultural theory; Dutch literature and linguistics; historical and synchronic linguistics; applied linguistics, second language acquisition, and foreign language education. Offerings include interdisciplinary areas such as literature and other arts (especially image/text, visual culture, and literature/music), German-Americana, literature and philosophy, and German–Jewish relations.

Graduate students are encouraged to pursue inter- and multidisciplinary work beyond the Department of German in such areas as art history, communication arts/cinema, comparative literature, history, linguistics, musicology, Scandinavian studies, visual studies, and women and gender studies. The department cooperates closely with the interdepartmental programs in European studies, medieval studies, Jewish studies, and second language acquisition.

Financial support is competitive. In general, the application deadline for financial support is December 20. Graduate applicants admitted to the program are eligible for a limited number of comprehensive multiyear financial guarantees. These include teaching and project assistantships as well as fellowships. In addition to university fellowships, the department may award a small number of distinguished fellowships, and offers a number of project assistantships, including research and editorial positions.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

Ph.D.: 69 credits (including 30 credits for the M.A. earned in the department + 9 credits minimum for Ph.D. minor + 6 dissertator credits)

Ph.D. (for graduates entering with M.A. in German from another institution): 51 credits (36 credits + 9 credits minimum for Ph.D. minor + 6 dissertator credits)

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Ph.D.: Half of the degree coursework, 35 credits out of 69 total credits must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the University's Course Guide.  This includes the 30 credits for the M.A. earned in the Department.

Ph.D. (for graduates entering with M.A. in German from another institution): Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

Students are generally not allowed to count graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the Ph.D. degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 600 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Students who completed the M.A. in German at the UW–Madison must complete 8 additional graduate-level courses (24 credits; more courses/credits if one or two of the M.A. courses were taken outside the department);

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with an M.A. in German from elsewhere complete a minimum of 12 graduate-level course (36 cr), of which two (6 cr) may be transferred from previous work, if suitable, including the teaching assistant training program and its academic component (GERMAN 720 College Teaching of German/GERMAN 722 Theory of Teaching German).

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.5 GPA required for courses taken in the department; 3.00 GPA for work done in the minor.

Other Grade Requirements

If a student’s GPA falls below 3.50 in any given semester, the cumulative average by the end of the following full-time semester must be 3.50.

The grade of C is considered unsatisfactory in the Department of German: it is not counted in fulfilling the course requirements and may not be offset by a grade of A or AB in another course.

An incomplete received in the Fall Semester must be removed by the end of the following summer session. An incomplete received in the Spring Semester must be removed by the end of the following Fall Semester. An incomplete received in the summer session must be removed within six months. Failure to meet these deadlines constitutes unsatisfactory progress.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

A semester GPA below 3.5 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.5 is not attained during the subsequent semester, the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue for 1 additional semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School.

Advisor / Committee

Students joining the program with an M.A. degree will either be advised by the department graduate advisor (DGA) and choose their individual advisor before the end of their second semester of coursework in consultation with the DGA, or be assigned an individual advisor when they enter the program. The individual advisor will be the chair of the Ph.D. preliminary examination committee and the dissertation committee.

Assessments and Examinations

Students must pass the Goethe Certificate C1 (German-language proficiency) before advancing to the doctoral preliminary exams.

At least one substantial course contribution written in German is required each year during the entire period of a student’s graduate coursework. This might be a paper or a lengthy take-home examination. If a student is taking only courses outside the department in a given year, the requirement will be waived for that year.

An oral preliminary examination and a dissertation proposal must be completed after all required Ph.D. coursework.

Time Constraints

Ph.D. candidates should take the two-hour oral preliminary examination no sooner than upon completion of the second semester of the Ph.D. coursework and may take it no later than three weeks after the beginning of the fifth full-time semester (or its equivalent) after the M.A.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Language Requirements

In addition to German students must demonstrate reading knowledge in a second foreign language, equivalent to at least four semesters of college work in that language, before proceeding to the preliminary examination.

Admission to the graduate program in German is highly competitive. Although most entering graduate students complete their undergraduate work at North American universities and colleges, a small number of international students regularly join the department.

Applicants are expected to demonstrate a strong record of prior and potential academic achievement in addition to excellent German language skills. Applicants with a B.A. in German must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester credits and a GPA of at least 3.50 in German courses beyond the second-year level. Students with an M.A. in German must have a GPA in graduate work of at least 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. In special cases, applicants who do not fulfill the above expectations may be admitted on probation.

All applicants must submit official transcripts of all university course work (or equivalents, including study abroad), list of courses in progress, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, a personal statement explaining the reasons for graduate study, a current c.v. or resume, a writing sample in German (5–15 pages), and three letters of recommendation that evaluate previous study and potential for graduate study. International applicants must also provide TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS scores, a financial statement form included with the application materials, and, if applying for a teaching assistantship, a ten-minute recording with a sample of the applicant's spoken English.

Application to the UW–Madison Graduate School is an online procedure, with supporting documentation mailed to the Department of German. Applicants should contact the department early in the fall if they wish additional information. Visits to the UW–Madison campus are welcomed by faculty and graduate students.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  • Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  • Creates research and scholarship that makes a substantive contribution.
  • Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  • Recognizes and practices principles of effective foreign language teaching and program coordination.
  • Has adequate German language skills to function effectively in a professional capacity consistent with a Ph.D. in the field.

Professional Conduct

  • Fosters ethical and professional conduct.
  • Functions well at professional conferences: presents research, engages in professional dialogue.

Faculty: Professors Vanderwal Taylor (chair), Adler, Chavez, Gross, Howell, James, Kluge, Louden, Potter, Salmons, Silberman; Associate Professors Calomino, Mani, Moedersheim; Assistant Professors Eldridge, Hollander, Klocke, Li; Faculty Associate Schueller