Degree of Master of Arts in German

The MA exam functions as a qualifying exam and will be taken by all newly admitted students at the conclusion of their first year (i.e., students with a BA, as well as students with an MA from another institution). The department regards the MA as a significant threshold and believes that it is in the students' best interest to learn as soon as possible whether the faculty believes the student will be in a position to complete the requirements of the graduate program, including the completion of the dissertation, and to compete successfully for an academic or related career. The MA exam consists of three parts:

  1. an ACTFL-based language proficiency exam in all four skill areas;
  2. consideration of a term paper from the first year that the student regards as her/his best work; and
  3. an hour-long oral exam before three faculty members based on a short list of exemplary literary works selected by the student in consultation with faculty advisors and on the survey sequence (GRMN 531 and 532).

The faculty members on the oral exam committee will include the two instructors of GRMN 531 and 532. Possible outcomes are: pass; terminal pass; fail with permission to retake; and fail. Students who fail with permission to retake may do so only once. Students who receive a terminal pass will not be admitted to the Ph.D. program. All students who pass the MA exam (including terminal pass) and complete eight courses with a grade of B- or better are entitled to apply for the degree of Master of Arts in German.

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Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Germanic Languages and Literatures

A student without previous graduate course work in German is required to take 20 course units (eight toward the MA and twelve toward the PhD). Students with previous course work and/or an MA from another institution may transfer up to six courses. Determination of courses to be transferred occurs after the first year in consultation with the graduate advisor.

Four courses are required:

  • GRMN 531 German Literature from the Middle Ages to the Baroque
  • GRMN 532 German Literature from the Enlightenment to the Present
  • GRMN 516 Teaching Methods (taken third semester)
  • GRMN 533 Literary Theory and German Studies or
  • GRMN 534 History of Literary Theory (crosslisted with COML)

In addition, students should select six courses from the following periods to satisfy the distribution requirement. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure sufficient in-depth seminar experience in all the major literary periods.

  • Middle Ages
  • Early Modern
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Classicism/Romanticism
  • Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth Century

In selecting these courses, as well as the remaining electives, students should seek a balance between courses that:

  1. Prepare them for the comprehensive examinations;
  2. Qualify them for the profession;
  3. Lay important groundwork for the dissertation.

The Department supports and sponsors interdisciplinary work with other programs and departments, such as Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Folklore, History, Art History, Music, Philosophy, Women's Studies, Religious Studies, and Linguistics. Graduate students may also pursue programs leading to certificates in Medieval Studies or Women's Studies. An effort is underway to create a certificate in Second Language Acquisition. Such certificates enhance students' opportunities on the academic job market.

Why Penn? A Ph.D. with a concentration in German Literature

Penn's Ph.D. program in literature combines an individualized course of study in an area of specialization with the continuing development of the student as a scholar-teacher of German literature and language. The course work prepares the student for the Comprehensive Examinations and the writing of a scholarly dissertation. Each student's program should be planned in consultation with the Graduate Chair.

Students are expected to pass the following written comprehensive examinations:

  1. Literature: Medieval through Baroque (4 hours) MacLeod/Wiggin
  2. Enlightenment, Storm and Stress, Classicism, and Romanticism (4 hours) Richter/MacLeod
  3. Literature of the 19th and 20th Century (4 hours) Weissberg/Jarosinski

As a final step in the qualifying procedure, students meet with their preliminary dissertation committee (advisor plus three readers) for a discussion of their proposed dissertation project (at least one hour in duration). The basis for the discussion should be a prospectus and initial bibliography. This meeting allows the student to establish a working relationship with the committee members, and to benefit from their suggestions and input at an early stage in the writing process. The committee must be satisfied with the plan of action before the student can advance to the status of ABD (all but dissertation).

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