Considering a PhD in German. Need Advice!


119 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi all,

After thinking about many other career options, I am currently considering doing a PhD in German. I don't know much about them, though, so I need your advice!

A bit about me:

I have taken a number of intensive German courses in college, passed a proficiency exam, and travelled to Germany twice. However, I am really rusty with the lang. right now because it's been a year since I've taking a German language course. How important is your German knowledge when being considered for admission?

I am currently double majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing, with a minor in German. If I decide to pursue German I will major in that as well, and do an honors thesis for it.

I am primarily interested in obtaining a German PhD because it is a great way for me to combine my interest in German literature/art history with my love for psychoanalytic theory. Would you all agree? I am intimidated because I don't have very much previous knowledge about German lit, etc other than some stuff I learned in classes. I can say I am very in love with Kafka and Hesse, and know their work well, but am somewhat unfamiliar with other writers. Is that baaad?

I go to U Michigan and it looks like most ppl here get into really top PhD programs for German, and that getting into a German program is not too difficult in general due to lack of competition. Is that true? I mean, I was originally planning on applying for psych phD programs - it's notwhere near as competitive as that?

Also, with my interests in mind, what are some good schools for me?

THANK YOU!!!!!!!

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Posted

Also, to what extent is the German language really a part of PhD programs or the pre-req master's ones? Would a german lit course, for instance, be taught in german?

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Posted

Hey there,

I'll address the question in your second post. I graduated from the M.A. in the Humanities Program (MAPH) at the University of Chicago, where I took two grad-level seminars on German Lit (both focusing mostly on the 18th-19th c.) In one seminar, the discussion took place in German (although we broke into English occasionally), and in the other, English only was used. Both seminars had mostly 1st and 2nd year doctoral students in Germanic Studies. The choice of language for each seminar appeared to be up to the professor and his students. I think a certain level of comfort in conversing in the language is expected of students entering Ph.D programs in German, but it doesn't mean that using it in class is absolutely necessary at first. As you progress, you will be expected to be more and more comfortable using it in academic settings (conferences, departmental gatherings, papers, teaching), but I'm sure that a transitional period applies.

That's my $.02. I speak from an outsider's perspective in that 1) I wasn't actually a member of the department and wasn't training to be a Germanist, and 2) I didn't study German as an undergrad, but studied roughly to the 3rd-4th year undergrad level after getting my Bachelor's prior to beginning the M.A. program in order to be able to read advanced German texts, so I didn't have a strong background in spoken German.

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Posted

Hi roxyshoe, I feel you on being attracted to German programs due to the possibility of combining literature, art and psychoanalytic theory. I should warn you, though, that for the *top* programs, like Princeton, Columbia and Cornell (and Harvard as well, for that matter) near-fluency in German is a must. I would advise you to study abroad or take a year and do a master's in German. This is very important, and it's what was advised to me when I started looking into programs.

If anyone else is applying to German, I'd like for us to be able to continue a thread here, or start another one. I'm applying this fall to all German programs. Anyone else?

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Posted

If anyone else is applying to German, I'd like for us to be able to continue a thread here, or start another one. I'm applying this fall to all German programs. Anyone else?

I am! Applying to 8 schools, all for Ph.D in German. You?

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Posted

I think it is not only fluency in German that is required for top tier schools, but also familiarity with theory is a must.

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Posted

Hey, so I'm in the middle of sending in some early apps because I'm trying to get fee waivers - kind of freaking out about what I'm going to do if they reject my requests. I really can't afford it, I'm so broke from moving from Paris to Stuttgart. I would love to apply to 7 or 8 though, I have 6 all clustered at the top of my list, and 2 that I'm pretty much dying to get into.

It'll be interesting to see who applies this year, and if a select few pick up all of the top spots - sometimes 4 people with great credentials will apply to the top schools, get offers everywhere, and knock all the other applicants into wait list purgatory for weeks lol. Interesting system. All one can really do at this point is hope to be one of the few :)

I think theory is pretty important for most literature graduate programs. German departments in particular are known to house some theory powerhouses. But I don't think one needs to be super well-versed in theory to get accepted. Some schools do have more traditional literature professors...but it's never good to limit yourself or make excuses about not being somewhat versed in all aspects of one's discipline, or at least that's been my approach. Anyone want to write about their interests?

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Posted

also applying to PhD programs in German. So anxious....

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It'll be interesting to see who applies this year, and if a select few pick up all of the top spots - sometimes 4 people with great credentials will apply to the top schools, get offers everywhere, and knock all the other applicants into wait list purgatory for weeks lol. Interesting system. All one can really do at this point is hope to be one of the few :)

Well, that doesn't exactly inspire confidence. :wacko:

I'm interested in 20th c. literature (Germany and Austria), German-Jewish relations, Modernism, Mann, Bernhard. Theory and visual arts, too.

I am hoping to have all of my apps in by the end of this week but I am still waiting for feedback from profs on my SOP. I'm applying exclusively to German programs (no CL).

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Posted (edited)

Yea I'm actually applying to mostly German Studies programs, but with some interdisciplinary links, depending on the school. Sorry I should be more optimistic - I think it's living in Europe for 2 years that's made me this way, lol. If I get in somewhere I think I might have a conniption, I have been busting my butt with so little reward, working toward the Ph.D., that I have just kind of come to see it as almost slave labor lol. Um sorry I'm not making any sense. Long story short, if you ever get a Master's degree in France or Germany (which you should, it's a very good education for practically free - and who wants to spend like $40,000 on a two-year Master's in philosophy in the US?) you'll find the atmosphere is levels of magnitude less positive than at American Universities. On top of which, everything's in the target language...and the French are super picky and moody, while the Germans are kind of cold and unhelpful (though they can be great when you meet people your own age). Guess I'm figuring out my own hybridized identity after all these experiences, and hoping that I don't come off as scattered and schizophrenic in my apps hahaha...

I actually don't know a ton of German authors outside the canon, (or probably some within the canon even), so I have some work to do it seems :) Anyone else who is reading, what has your preparation been for the German Ph.D.?

Edited by vertige

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Posted

Yeah, if I don't get in anywhere my next step will be to look for MA programs in Germany. Luckily that application cycle isn't until spring/summer though. I can't even deal with the thought of having to do this all over again right now. (Also vertige -- if you ever find yourself up in Norddeutschland we should have coffee or something -- I am living & working in Hamburg until grad school).

I told myself I was going to start reading some of the classics in preparation for the PhD (Goethe, Schiller, Heine, and so on) but that'll all have to wait until apps are done. :)

Also, I'm happy that there's finally some activity on this thread! Yay. :D

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Posted (edited)

Just finished like draft three of my statement of motivation. I have to submit by Dec. 15 for a couple of schools due to fee waivers. Nervous ball of energy. I keep referring back to the website for this school, and it's kind of sad how, when you really look at profs' work, repeatedly, you see how a lot of departments are kind of missing coverage in certain areas. There isn't really a great 18th century person everywhere, for instance...I don't plan on being a specialist, but like, how can you do German Studies and not want a rocking prof to teach you Kant and Schiller and Goethe and Rilke? I mean a lot of people can teach poetry and lit, but it takes a certain brand of bat-shit-crazy to teach a great Kant course. I'm in a Heidegger course right now and I have no idea how the professor does it. The guy sitting right next to me yesterday during class (who is crazy attractive btw) seemed to be passing out...then I noticed his eyes were blood red. He was totally on the wake, bake, and Dasein trajectory if I've ever seen it. This is not easy shit. So I want professors who are legit when it comes to Philosophy. Anywho, I think reworking the statement gave me a clearer idea of why I'm doing all this, which was a totally unexpected and pleasant result of what started out as a very half-assed SOP.

coffeeplease, where are you setting your sights? Yea Hamburg is a bit weit weg, what made you choose that city? I've been to Weimar (to see Buchenwald and then drink away the pain with Glühwein at the Weihnachtsmarkt - heh love xmas vocab) and I visited Berlin the following weekend...I definitely dig this country...

Edited by vertige

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Posted

I was a German Lit undergrad. at UCSB. They have some good faculty, but they are a bit flakey. Not a ton of support for students and the town is gorgeous, but sort if in the middle of no where. It might be a good option if you already really know what you're doing. I found professor Rickles to be the most engaged and helpful guy in the department and his specialty is psychoanalyses, with credentials from Vienna as well as Princeton.

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Posted (edited)

Just submitted my app to Princeton two days ago, and found out last night that they granted me a fee waiver, which was a huge relief. Things seem to be getting slightly easier as the process continues, and other things are also improving, like finally getting my residence permit (I've been in Germany for a full six weeks and *just* got this taken care of...it's a bit of a bureaucratic headache when you don't have a ton of money). However, something always happens to me when I get to this point and the application(s) is(are) submitted: I start fixating. Like badly. Usually it involves a lot of waffling and not a little vamping: "I'm totally getting in and I love puppies and rainbows and I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning with six pack abs and a stack of money on my desk!" followed in short order by "I'm totally getting rejected and everything in my life is going to hell and I'm going to end up in a gutter by the end of next week with an eye infection and only one shoe!". This season in particular I'm a bit out of it, as my job doesn't start until next month, and I'll be really broke for the holidays. However, I haven't been having extreme thoughts about being accepted or not accepted...it's just a kind of general nervousness. I guess I don't have really good reasons to believe either way - I can see good reasons to accept my application, and good reasons to reject me outright. Anyone else having this post-application haze?

Edited by vertige

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Posted

Congrats vertige! I can't wait to be done. I've got exactly one application in (Berkeley) and am hoping to get two more off tonight (NYU and Columbia). Also applying to Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Brown and Northwestern, and good lord will I be happy when it's all over. So I WISH I were in the post-applicaiton haze.

I studied abroad in Hamburg as an undergrad and came back to work here after graduating. (I work with teenagers, so I am totally going to steal "wake, bake and Dasein" -- it certainly applies to a few of them). It's a great city, even if it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon this time of year.

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Posted

If anyone else is applying to German, I'd like for us to be able to continue a thread here, or start another one. I'm applying this fall to all German programs. Anyone else?

Hello everyone,

I am, too! I'm very excited to have found this thread, and I am mostly looking forward to the end of the application process. :D It is all in all a very interesting process: getting acquainted with the American administration (which is incredibly friendly---and flexible---compared to French and German bureaucracy) and trying to compact my essays to have them fit the word limit. I hope we will get positive answers by March. Good luck everyone :)

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Posted

Hello yeinalem! It's a fun process, isn't it? What are your interests?

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I am mainly interested in the interactions which occur when culture A meets culture B: German exiles in France and the U.S. in the 1930s, established German and French Jewish communities in presence of Eastern Jews in the late late 19th century, ethnic memory conflicts in modern Lithuania, etc. More broadly: the effect of cultural contact in terms of personal and collective identity, memory, languages, literary writing and tropes.

So I applied to programs in the U.S. which seem to offer a stronger interdisciplinary background (especially in sociology and anthropology). Also, I am trying to escape the European pessimism and bureaucracy. ;)

I'm in Bonn, which is probably mid-way between Hamburg and Stuttgart. Let me know if you're stoping by the Rhine region!

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Posted

Frohes neues Jahr, everyone!

With deadlines passing or about to pass, I'm trying to find something productive to do to distract myself...I hope you all are faring better.

Does anyone know which programs interview? I've been browsing the results page here on the cafe (pathetic, I know), and it looks like Harvard interviews its applicants (I think?).

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Posted (edited)

Hi guys! Yup I'm almost done with apps - actually, I am done, but I haven't submitted Northwestern, as I don't have the money...hoping that will change before Jan. 15! I actually thought about applying to Cornell, too, as they also have a later deadline - 7 would be a good number to finish on. But I don't think I'd really like Cornell :( Stuttgart is already tough enough...

And yea Coffeeplease, I'm also having an impossible time distracting myself. My personal life is a bit of a mess, school starts tomorrow (long Heidegger course that I am so far behind in...), and I start my job as an English teacher on Wednesday. It seems I will have enough to keep me occupied for awhile, and hopefully once I start to get paid I can take a couple of mini-Holidays up to Berlin and over to Paris. All fine and dandy. However, part of me wants to lock myself in my room and scan GradCafé for hours and refresh my inbox while watching German TV in case I get contacted for an interview, lol.

Harvard does interview, via Skype. Peter Burgard contacts those on his "short-list". I don't know that many other programs do. Good luck :)

Edited by vertige

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Wow, I even mentioned Peter Burgard in my SOP....so either I will be freaking out because I didn't get an interview, or freaking out because I did get an interview. :wacko: Fun process. Sigh.

Also, vertige, welcome to life as an English teacher in Germany. It's.... well, it depends where you're teaching and what ages. Are you freelancing? I walked into my first day with an eighth grade group this year and an one of the kids, knowing he was going to be taught by an American, looked absolutely shocked and said, "I thought you would be fat!"

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Posted (edited)

Ohmahgahohmahgah I got an e-mail from Harvard. They're looking over apps soon. Ohmahgah.

They threw away my GRE scores, so I had to send new ones. Frack. Anyone else get an e-mail?

Unjustifiably fuh-reaking out lol :D

Edited by vertige

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Posted

Nope. Gonna try not to read to much into it.... :unsure:

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Posted

Probably just means you were smart and got all your app materials in, unlike me ;)

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Is there a way to check and see if Harvard has received all your supporting materials? NYU has a link where you can log in and see, but I'm not sure if Harvard does. Now I'm worried! I guess I could call the admissions office, though I'm sure they're still crazed over there.

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