The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Germanic Studies - PhD

Division: Humanities
Degree Type: PhD

Program Description

The Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago is made up of a small group of core faculty members working at the cutting edge of literary and cultural studies. They bring together expertise in literary history; intellectual history; literary and cultural theory; the German philosophical tradition; opera, theater, and performance studies; cinema studies; psychoanalysis; and visual studies. The 2010 National Resource Council ranking placed the Chicago Department of Germanic Studies at the top of the field.

The faculty and students are supported in their work—in large part through team-teaching—by an extraordinary constellation of resource faculty who are scholars working with German materials across the disciplines: philosophy, history, theater studies, musicology, art history, history of science, sociology, religious studies, and political theory. There may, for example, be no better place in the world to study German Idealism or German-Jewish intellectual history than the University of Chicago.



  • Department of Germanic Studies
  • 1050 East 59th Street
  • Chicago, IL 60637
  • Phone: 773.702.8494
  • Website:

Applicants to the Department of Germanic Studies should have a solid background in German language and culture. Students with undergraduate degrees in other fields are encouraged to apply, but must include with their application a list of relevant German/Germanic courses as well as a letter of recommendation from a faculty member able to evaluate their level of German language competency. Such students will be asked to make up deficiencies in their language preparation before entry into the graduate program. All entering students whose native language is not German are required to pass an ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) oral proficiency examination in German during their first quarter in the program.

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Department of German Studies admits applicants once a year for the following Autumn Quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for financial aid.

Campus Visits

Interviews are not required; however, you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

The Department of Germanic Studies admits applicants only for the PhD degree, and does not offer a stand-alone MA program. If you are If you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in Germanic Studies, we encourage you to explore the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH)

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form
  2. References: Three letters of reference should be included with your application.
  3. Graduate Record Examinations and TOEFL scores: GRE scores (general test only) are required of all applicants, including those with previous MAs. For information on additional examinations required of some international applications, see the Test Requirements page on the divisional website. The University’s GRE code is 1832.
  4. Statement of Academic Purpose: Applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission.
  5. Writing Sample: Applicants should submit a sample of their scholarly writing that is between 15 and 20 pages in length.
  6. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted with your application.

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions typically are released in early March. No decisions will ever be given by phone, and no decisions will be given to those who inquire by email before early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

A minimum number of eight courses over two years, not including the pedagogy course, is required. All of these courses must be taken for credit. Six must be taken for a letter grade.

All students are required to pass one university foreign language reading examination (usually in French, ancient Greek, Latin, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, or Italian) before taking their PhD oral exams.

Students will complete the PhD exams in three stages. During the last quarter of the first PhD year and the following summer, students are asked to begin assembling a PhD major field list (of about 50 works) and two annotated syllabi for future courses--one undergraduate, one graduate--that they would like to teach.

At the beginning of the Autumn Quarter of the second PhD year, students will submit preliminary exam lists and both syllabi to the faculty committee they have chosen and to the graduate advisor.

After the PhD examination, a student should identify and select a dissertation committee. One member of the committee is chosen as the dissertation advisor and primary reader, and the others as second and third readers. A proposal ought not attempt to predict the final conclusions of the project before the research is fully under way.

After the proposal has been approved by the readers, the student should plan on spending the remainder of the fourth year researching and reading. Some students may spend this time away; others may choose to remain in Chicago to work closely with their readers. We encourage students to try to complete the dissertation during the fifth year, if possible.

Costs & Financial Aid

Fellowships awarded by the Department of Germanic Studies for a small number of highly qualified students combine stipend and teaching salary to provide support beyond tuition amounting to $23,000 per year, two summer stipends in the amount of $3,000 each, and University student health insurance. These awards are renewable for up to five years. In addition, departmental funds are used to support students in summer projects, travel, and research. In addition, the Norwegian Culture Program Endowment Fund provides some money for research and travel support for students interested in Norwegian language and culture. Finally, competitive university grants are available for dissertation-level teaching, research, and writing.