If you find yourself drawn to the language and culture, German studies might be a worthwhile academic pursuit for you. German (sometimes called Germanic) studies analyzes German culture, language, and history; sometimes this field extends to areas connected to the German-speaking world, such as Scandinavia. In this article, we will cover some of the coursework common to graduate programs in German studies and conclude with typical admissions requirements.
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General German Studies Graduate Program Information
The coursework you will encounter in any given German studies program may vary depending on your program's focus and your own personal choice of specialty. Some of the topics you may encounter during your course of study are outlined below. Additionally, your German studies program may expect (or strongly encourage) you to undertake studies abroad at a German-speaking university.
All German studies graduate programs will require proficiency in German, and therefore you should expect to enroll in German language courses of some kind. These courses may involve contemporary spoken German, historical German dialects, or linguistic analysis of the language. Some programs may also include methods classes for students who intend to become teachers of German.
Literary theory refers to the thinking related to criticism and analysis in the arts and literature. You will read a variety of primary sources drawn from influential German theorists, as well as analyze larger questions and controversies of how to properly interpret culture. These courses are designed to train German studies students how to think and write about cultural output at a higher level of analysis.
German Art and Literature
These courses will expose you to the art, literature, and creative output of the German world. They run the gamut from literature and poetry to contemporary German cinema. These classes may be conducted entirely in German, or you may take them in translation with students who are not specializing in German studies.
In these courses, you will read, analyze, and discuss the works of important German philosophers. You may read their works in German or in English translation. These classes may be surveys intended to introduce you to German philosophy at large, or you may focus on a single school of thought, or even a specific philosopher or work.
Because the historical influence of German-speaking peoples is so strong, some programs may require or expect students to undergo coursework in at least one additional language, which may be related linguistically or culturally. These languages may include, but are not limited to, Yiddish, Norwegian, English, and Dutch.
Program Admission Requirements
Like most graduate programs, you'll need a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for admission to a German studies graduate program. While no specific BA is required, students in German studies will normally be expected to be proficient enough in the language to take part in classes. You will be expected to provide transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework taken. Most graduate programs will ask applicants to compose a brief personal statement describing their reasons for pursuing a master's degree. You may also be asked to submit a writing sample.
You will often need to provide your scores for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. If you are not a native speaker of English, you should expect to take the TOEFL. Finally, many programs require letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your potential.
If you are ready to pursue both rigorous language study and upper-level graduate work in the humanities, German studies might be a field worth pursuing. Whether your interests lie in art, philosophy, or language teaching, there will likely be an aspect of the field that speaks to your personal interests.