A total of 13 courses are required. Among these shall be:

  • GRMN 2900 (rotates between departments) – Theory and Methods of Foreign Language Teaching
  • 4 courses in a secondary field of study, usually consisting of a sequence of courses in another Ph.D. program at Brown, such as Comp Lit, History, Music, Theater Arts & Performance Studies, MCM, and History of Art & Architecture.

Foreign Language Proficiency

Students may fulfill this requirement in one of two ways:

  • demonstrate reading proficiency in two languages (other than English and German) by taking the reading exams in those departments;
  • or complete a 1000-level course in a foreign literature department.

Qualifying Exam

Students will nominate a primary dissertation advisor by the end of the fourth semester, and choose a 3-person examination committee in consultation with the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. The commitee should include at least 1 member from a secondary field.

The two-hour oral exam will be based on 2 reading lists submitted by the student after consultation with the exam committee: one for German Studies, and one for the secondary field.

The final version of the reading lists shall be submitted to the members of the exam committee at the beginning of the same semester in which the student is to be examined, if the exam is taking place at the end of the semester, or at the end of the previous semester, if the exam is taking place at the beginning of the semester.

Students will be assigned either "Pass with Honors," "Pass," or "Fail" for the qualifying exam.

Dissertation Proposal

Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student shall nominate two other dissertation readers (at least one of whom should normally be a member of another department), in consultation with the primary advisor. By the middle of the semester after qualifying, the student shall submit a substantive, written dissertation proposal.

The exact format of the proposal will be determined by the primary advisor, but it will usually be between 15 and 20 pages in length, and generally includes a chapter outline and preliminary bibliography. The proposal will be examined orally by the three members of the dissertation committee by the end of that semester. The committee will either approve the proposal or recommend revisions. Once the proposal is approved, the student will be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.

Dissertation Defense

After the dissertation has been completed and accepted by all three members of the dissertation committee, a Dissertation Defense takes place, consisting of a public presentation and discussion of the thesis. The date of the defense will be selected in consultation with the dissertation committee.

The Defense will begin with an oral presentation by the candidate, offering a brief overview of the main theses and structure of the dissertation (usually 15-30 minutes). This will be followed by a 60 to 90 minute discussion in which the candidate responds to questions posed by the committee and other faculty.

At the end of the defense, members of the committee consult and vote on whether to pass the dissertation. The Graduate School requires that the dissertation be accepted by all three readers.


Students are required to teach for at least two years, though the norm will be higher.

Graduate student teaching is an important component of our program. As teaching assistants, graduate students work with the language program director to teach beginning and intermediate German. Graduate students are required to take a seminar on language pedagogy and to participate in annual teaching workshops held in August. As graduate students progress in their program, they will assist faculty in undergraduate courses in the Department. Advanced students may be offered the opportunity to work with professors to design their own upper-level courses and/or teach such a course with a professor. Faculty mentoring of teaching assistants throughout their course of study is an integral part of our program. Students will be prepared to present a comprehensive teaching portfolio when they enter the job market.

In addition to the language-specific training administered by the German Studies Department, all graduate students are encouraged to participate in the seminars and workshops offered by Brown's Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. The Center offers a teaching certificate program through which graduate students may be awarded Certificate I, II and III.

The Goethe Institut Boston also periodically offers pedagogy workshops that graduate students are encouraged to attend.

Other Requirements

Students are expected to organize and participate in student-run colloquia. Graduate students and faculty from other departments working in the area of German Studies will be invited to participate in these. Students will present their own work and invite the occasional Brown or non-Brown speaker.