University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The graduate program emphasizes seminars that provide an in-depth study of specialized areas in German literature, culture, and language. Instruction in methodology is provided for graduate student instructors and prospective teachers, and seminars in applied linguistics and second-language acquisition provide a theoretical and practical foundation for teachers. The program aims at comprehensive historical knowledge of German literature and culture and/or linguistics and is designed to train students in rigorous scholarship, original research, and independent thinking.

Students are not admitted solely to pursue a master of arts, which is an integral part of the PhD program. 

There are two options to fulfill the language requirement. Students are strongly encouraged to acquire useful reading knowledge in two languages other than English and German (Option 1 per the Guide to Graduate Policy). Many of our students choose French, Latin, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Japanese, or Turkish. Students may also choose to learn only one language other than English and German (Option 3 per the Guide to Graduate Policy). The languages should have value for the students’ research project and probable future career needs and are selected in consultation with the advisor. The language requirement must be fulfilled prior to the QE.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

The Department of German accepts applications for its degree program beginning in September for admission to the following fall semester. Applications must be submitted online no later than December 15. The department does not admit for the MA as a final degree, although the MA will be awarded to students pursuing work toward the PhD after fulfillment of the requirements. Applicants who hold an MA in German may apply directly to the PhD program.

Graduate Application and Supporting Documents Graduate Division Application

The online application is available after September 6 via the Graduate Division website.

The program requires GRE scores (general test), or TOEFL (international students), a statement of purpose, a personal statement, and critical writing samples (in either or both German and English.) Writing samples should be in the form of thesis or research paper on a topic relevant to the fields of German literature or linguistics (limited to 25 pages).

For the purpose of campus-wide fellowship competitions, applicants who submit the statement of purpose or personal history statement in German should also submit an English version of both.

Applications are accepted for fall term only.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Application

It is recommended that you fill in the GSI application section with your online graduate application. All graduate students teach as part of the graduate program, and teaching positions are awarded at the time of admission. Teaching experience is not required.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement

The total normative time to advancement is four years.

Normative Time in Candidacy

The total time in candidacy is two years.

Total Normative Time

The total normative time of the program is six years.

Time to Advancement


Courses Required
Basic Requirements
Methods [4]
History of the German Language [4]
Select one of the following:3-4
Middle High German for Undergraduates [4]
Gothic [4]
Old High German [4]
Comprehensiveness Requirements
Five (5) graduate GERMAN courses, selected in consultation with faculty advisers in view of the desired specialization and in view of the historically comprehensive QE and the PhD20
Further Specialization
Electives chosen in the fields of specialization and outside interests (Joint PhD/Designated Emphases)
Exam preparation

Foreign Languages

There are two options to fulfill the language requirement. Students are strongly encouraged to acquire useful reading knowledge in two languages other than English and German (Option 1 per the Guide to Graduate Policy). Many of our students choose French, Latin, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Japanese, or Turkish. Students may also choose to learn only one language other than English and German (Option 3 per the Guide to Graduate Policy). The languages should have value for the students’ research project and probable future career needs, and are selected in consultation with the adviser. The language requirement must be fulfilled prior to the QE.

Designated Emphasis

Graduate students may add a designated emphasis to their plans of study to gain a particular area of specialization. The DE is usually added before a student advances to candidacy. DE in Dutch Studies, Critical Theory, Renaissance & Early Modern Studies, Film & Media Studies, New Media, Women, Gender & Sexuality; concurrent PhD in Medieval Studies.

MA Examination

The MA examination is a written exam based on a text on methodological questions, or on linguistic problems from the student’s main field of interest.
 The student will choose an examination committee consisting of three members, communicate an area of interest, and submit a list of works already read. The committee will choose an exam question, a text, or a linguistic problem from the area of interest and communicate it to the student two weeks before the examination. In response to the question the student will write an essay in a three-hour time period. The committee will meet with the student to discuss the examination and the student’s progress in the program. The faculty will decide whether the student will be invited to proceed to doctoral work in the program.

Please note that the department does not admit for the MA as a final degree, although the MA will be awarded to students pursuing work toward the PhD after fulfillment for the MA requirements.

PhD Qualifying Exam 

The PhD qualifying examination, or QE, consists of a written portfolio submitted to the student’s committee and a three-hour oral examination. In the year before the QE, the student should decide on an exam committee of three faculty members from the department and one faculty member from outside the department. This committee must be approved by the head graduate adviser six months before the exam is to take place.

The student prepares a reading list for the exam. The reading list should show historical breadth and also highlight texts within the student’s area of interest. Students generally choose a theme for their exams, to help make it easier for them to simultaneously showcase breadth and their research interest. The reading list must be approved by the QE committee chair a month after the committee has been approved by the graduate adviser.

In consultation with the committee, the student will write a research proposal for the exam. This proposal usually follows the student’s exam topic as a red thread through German literary history. The research proposal must be submitted to the committee by the first week of the semester in which the QE is to take place.

The student must also turn in two revised papers from seminars they have taken in the department (Option I) or write two three-hour exams (Option II). Most students choose Option I. These are to be turned in to the committee with the research proposal and a final draft of the reading list.

The QE is a three-hour exam, if the student passes the exam, he or she will advance to candidacy.

Prospectus Conference 

By the end of the semester after the QE, the student will submit a prospectus and any other work completed on the dissertation to the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee will meet with the student to discuss progress and to offer advice. Annually thereafter, it is required that at least two members of the committee confer with the student, in addition to regular meetings with the dissertation chair.


Final requirement to complete the PhD is completion of a dissertation. Students should meet with their dissertation chairs to decide on appropriate timelines for research abroad and the completion of individual chapters. Students are not required to defend the dissertation once the dissertation committee has decided the dissertation is finished.

Teaching Opportunities

The following links contain information that you may find helpful during your graduate studies at Berkeley:

Teaching and Research Opportunities

Academic Student Employment
What you need to Know About Being a GSI, GSR, Reader, or Tutor
Labor Relations
Academic Appointments Office (for general policies and procedures)


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Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Lilla Balint, Assistant Professor. Contemporary German literature and media, theories of the Contemporary, aesthetics and politics, transnationalism and translation, digital writing, European Jewish literatures, literary and cultural theory, theories of the novel.
Research Profile

Jeroen Dewulf, Professor. Dutch studies, transatlantic slavery, German literature, European Studies, post-colonial studies, hybridity.
Research Profile

Karen Feldman, Professor. Critical theory, aesthetics, literary theory, 18th-20th century German thought, modern German philosophy, philosophy and literature.
Research Profile

Deniz Gokturk, Professor. German literature, German cinema, transnational cinemas, German-Turkish-European-American intersections in cinema, performance and spectatorship and reception, intertextuality and intermediality and translation, the politics and poetics of migration and globalization, urban imaginaries and mediations of place, theories of diversity and nationalism, comedy and community, modern rituals of regulating identity and authority and mobility.
Research Profile

Anton Kaes, Professor. Modern German literature and film with a special interest in the culture of the Weimar Republic; critical theory (Frankfurt School); literary and cultural theory; theory and history of film and photography; new methodologies of reading practices and interdisciplinary and comparative studies.
Research Profile

Niklaus Largier, Professor. Religion, literature, German, history of medieval and early modern German literature, theology, mysticism, secularism, senses, sensuality, history of emotions, passions, asceticism, flagellation, sexuality.
Research Profile

Thomas F. Shannon, Professor. German and Dutch, syntax, phonology; naturalness and syllable structure; passivization, perfect auxiliary selection, word order, processing factors; cognitive and functional grammar, corpus linguistics.
Research Profile

Chenxi Tang, Professor. European intellectual history, German literature from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, early modern European literature, legal humanities, cultural theory, comparative studies of Europe and China.
Research Profile


Nikolaus Euba, Lecturer.
Research Profile

Alec Leyzer Burko, Lecturer.

Laura Sacia Bonicatto, Lecturer. Intercultural Communication, Lexicography, Pronouns, Bilingualism/Multilingualism, Translation.
Research Profile

Esmee van der Hoeven, Lecturer.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Bluma Goldstein, Professor Emeritus.

Gerd Hillen, Professor Emeritus.

* Claire Kramsch, Professor Emeritus. Language, culture, pragmatics, society, education, applied linguistics, aesthetics, literacy, second language acquisition, language pedagogy, language in discourse, hermeneutic approaches to language learning.
Research Profile

Winfried Kudszus, Professor Emeritus. Psychoanalysis, semiotics, culture, literature, philosophy, psychology.
Research Profile

Joseph Mileck, Professor Emeritus.

Klaus Mueller, Professor Emeritus.

Irmengard Rauch, Professor Emeritus. Semiotics, Germanic linguistics, linguistic archeology, paralanguage, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, linguistic fieldwork, socio-cultural and cognitive approaches to language variation and language change, contrastive analysis and linguistic methodology, Gothic, Modern High German and its dialects, Old/Middle High/Early New High German.
Research Profile

Hinrich C. Seeba, Professor Emeritus. 18th 20th century German literature and culture, intellectual and institutional, enlightenment, Napoleonic era, vormarz, concepts and images history, role language nationalism, contemporary trends German literature, representations urban space.
Research Profile

Johan P. Snapper, Professor Emeritus. Dutch studies.

Elaine C. Tennant, Professor Emeritus. German, Habsburg court society in the early modern period, the development of the German language at the end of the middle ages, the Middle High German narrative tradition, literary and cultural traditions of the holy roman empire, European reactions.
Research Profile

Frederic C. Tubach, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of German

5319 Dwinelle Hall

Fax: 510-642-3243

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Professor Karen Feldman PhD

5325 Dwinelle Hall

Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Andrea Rapport, MA

5307 Dwinelle Hall

Head Graduate Adviser

Chenxi Tang, PhD

5331 Dwinelle Hall

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