Francophone, Italian and Germanic Studies: Germanic Studies, PhD

The Department of Francophone, Italian, and Germanic Studies at Penn takes a forward-looking perspective on developments in the field. In contrast to many Ph.D. programs in German, we provide a solid grounding in the entire German literary tradition. At the same time, we vigorously pursue interdisciplinary study informed by the latest methodological and theoretical movements, and provide state-of-the art pedagogical training and instruction.

Our Department has particular strengths in gender and sexuality, intermediality, history of the material text, German-Jewish studies, translation theory, cinema studies, environmental humanities, and pedagogy. Our students are trained with an eye to their career objectives. All of our students receive a full five-year Benjamin Franklin Fellowship package, which includes guaranteed summer funding and significant mentored teaching experience.

All candidates must complete 17 course units by the end of year 3. Our curriculum toward a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies details steps on the five‐year path to degree. By the end of spring term of year 3, students shall have completed a successful prospectus meeting with their dissertation committee. In years 4 and 5, students work on the dissertation. Students teach in years 2 and 3, although they may choose to gain additional teaching experience. Students are encouraged to spend at least one year (typically year 4) at an academic setting in a German‐speaking country.


The Ph.D. program in Germanic Studies is planned as a five-year sequence. Requirements for the Ph.D. include:

  • A total of seventeen (17) graduate courses are required for the Ph.D.  Of the 17 courses, 5 are mandatory and described below: 
    •  1. The FIGS Proseminar, GRMN 7770 Francophone, Italian and Germanic Proseminar, an introduction to graduate life—a course taken in the first semester of the first year.
    • 2. A FIGS topics course—a content course (topic varies every year) taken in the second semester of the first year.
    • 3. The M.A. Exam Preparation Course—taken in the second semester of the student's first year.
    • 4. GRMN 5990 Teaching and Learning - a course taken during the first semester of the student's second year to support and implement their service as teaching fellows.
    • 5. A Literary Theory course— taken in the student's first or second year.
    • 6. Germanic Anchor Courses (4)—an anchor course taught in German by the Germanic faculty taken each semester during the first two years.  Students need a minimum of four courses by the end of the second year.

Students are permitted to continue coursework past 17 course units with Graduate Chair approval.

  • M.A. Examination and Qualifying Evaluation—At the end of the first year, in order to continue in the program, students must pass an oral M.A. exam, focused on a reading list of 25 titles. Students will attend a course in the second semester of their first year to prepare for the exam. 
  • Language Requirements
    • German Language Exams. All students will take a German OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) in accordance with ACTFL (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages) guidelines within the first four weeks of the fall semester of year 1 to assist in ascertaining German linguistic proficiency and to customize an effective course of study. A second OPI will be administered no later than May 10 of year 1. To teach German, students must demonstrate advanced language skills.
    • Other Language Exams. It is our belief that languages are integral to our intellectual projects and to encouraging international careers. Penn offers the richest choice of language instruction of the Ivy League institutions, and our students can profit from this wealth (free of tuition) at any point in their path to the Ph.D. Students must demonstrate reading knowledge in at least one additional language (other than English) that supports their research and teaching; all language exams must be completed by the end of spring term year 3.
  • Ph.D. Examination—A written and oral examination completed by the end of the third year.
  • Dissertation Proposal—following successful fulfillment of the Ph.D. Examination, the candidate will shape a dissertation project and writing schedule.
  • Dissertation—the presentation of a dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D
  • Dissertation Defense—a public, oral presentation of the dissertation will take place during the semester in which the student will graduate.

Typical format:


Fall Semester: 4 courses (including the FIGS proseminar, GRMN 7770 Francophone, Italian and Germanic Proseminar, and one GRMN anchor course)

Spring Semester: 4 courses (including the M.A. exam preparation course, the FIGS topics course, and one GRMN anchor course)

Students are strongly encouraged to satisfy one of their language requirements in their first year.


Fall Semester: 3 courses (including a Literary Theory course, GRMN 5990 Teaching and Learning, and one GRMN anchor course)

Spring Semester: 3 courses (including one GRMN anchor course)


PhD exam 

Fall Semester: 3 courses

Spring Semester: no mandatory courses

Dissertation proposal

Students should have earned 17 course units by the end of their 3rd year.


Dissertation research and writing


Dissertation writing and completion 

Dissertation Defense

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.