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Program Overview

The graduate program in German Literature and Critical Thought is designed to provide a framework within which students can develop their interest in the relationship between modern German culture and literature and the broad array of discourses — philosophy and critical theory; literary theory and aesthetics; intellectual, conceptual, and cultural history; political theory; psychoanalysis; media studies; etc. — broadly described as critical thought.

Students in the graduate program undertake a course of study that provides them with both broad-based knowledge of theoretical and philosophical texts and a solid training in the German literary canon. Seminars in the German graduate program range from examinations of specific literary topics and authors to innovative explorations of theory-oriented themes and problems. The aim of each seminar is to make it possible for students to acquire the skills to develop a complex and compelling project of their own, which can then provide the basis for an innovative dissertation at the intersection of literary studies and theoretical concerns.

The Department of German at Northwestern is a dynamic and diverse department, with particular strengths in modern critical theory, philosophy, literary theory, and aesthetics; media studies; theology and religious studies; intellectual and cultural history; psychoanalysis; and German-language literature from the Goethezeit to the present. For graduate students, the department also offers the opportunity to participate in Northwestern’s vibrant network of interdisciplinary clusters and programs, including programs in Critical Theory, Comparative Literary Studies, Poetry and Poetics, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Jewish Studies, Global Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies, and Critical Studies in Theater and Performance, allowing students to expand their studies in collaboration with students and faculty across the university. The department has strong ties with several German universities and institutions (including Frankfurt, Vienna, Münster, Bochum, and ZfL Berlin) and is closely associated with the Northwestern Paris Program in Critical Theory, directed by Professor Samuel Weber, which offers students additional fellowship aid to spend a year in Paris pursuing research on current topics in philosophy and theory.

A second focus of the graduate program is the development of each graduate student’s skills as a teacher, mentor, and communicator. In addition to its tenure-line faculty, the department includes a highly acclaimed group of instructors committed to fostering an engaging pedagogical environment at Northwestern, with whom graduate students work and receive training from as both language instructors and teaching assistants.