Germanic Studies Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Germanic Studies

Program Description

*Please note that students are not admitted into a terminal-M.A. program in Germanic Studies, but may earn the M.A. on the way to earning the Ph.D. For complete information, please contact the field.

The concentration in German area studies combines relevant courses in history, international relations, and comparative economics with courses in German literature, culture, and language.

The concentration in German intellectual history draws on faculty members of other fields such as philosophy, history, government, anthropology, psychology, music, etc. Students may concentrate on a theme or in a historical period from the Middle Ages to the present. The focus of the major is generally on the history of ideas as reflected in German written documents. Students may also concentrate in German cinema studies.

The concentration in Germanic linguistics aims to ensure familiarity with the basic tools of research in linguistics and philology and to provide the student with a thorough knowledge of selected areas of specialization. Students may focus on one or more of the following: the structure of modern German; the history of German; comparative Germanic linguistics; and the older Germanic languages.

The concentration in Germanic literature is uniquely flexible: in general, requirements are defined in terms of competence, not in terms of credits or specific courses. Students are expected to acquire a general knowledge of German literature and to become familiar with the tools and methods necessary for research and analysis. In addition, students are expected to acquire a more detailed knowledge of one of the following areas: medieval; Renaissance, Reformation, Baroque; enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, Schiller, Goethe; romanticism, Biedermeier, Restoration through Vormärz; realism, naturalism; or twentieth century.

The university's collection of Old Norse materials (the Fiske Icelandic Collection) is probably the best of its kind outside Scandinavia.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-4047

183 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • German area studies
  • German intellectual history
  • Germanic linguistics
  • Germanic literature
  • Old Norse (minor)


Visit the Graduate School's Tuition Rates page.

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 2; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Applicants should have a good background in German literature and be fluent in German. Fluency in another language is also desirable. 

Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the field, including historical and cultural diversity, including

  • Proficiency in German (and, if needed, additional languages).
  • Familiarity with historical, political, cultural, and literary developments in German speaking countries and regions in which German culture/language may have been the majority or a significant minority influence, including immigration and influx from, as well as intersections, conflicts and cross-fertilization with, other cultures.
  • In-depth knowledge of their major area(s) of expertise (including canonical as well as neglected literary and cultural works; relevant cultural and political developments; local and continental histories, etc.), as well as competency in pertinent interdisciplinary areas of concentration.

Demonstrate advanced research skills, including

  • independent critical thinking;
  • broad knowledge of a wide range of critical and theoretical approaches relevant to their field of research;
  • the ability to identify novel questions and formulate corresponding research projects;
  • the production of original and substantial contributions to the field in the form of publishable scholarship.

Communicate research findings effectively in written and spoken form.

Be familiar with and follow ethical guidelines for work in the field.

Demonstrate effective skills in undergraduate teaching (in their special field and as generalists, in both German and English) and potential for advanced/graduate teaching.

Be knowledgeable about different theoretical paradigms in German studies as well as the literary humanities at large, and have developed habits of reflection that permit them to gauge the applicability of their skill set to situations and problems in academic and non-academic contexts. In particular, the question of how theoretical knowledge is transformed into know-how in the university and other academic and cultural institutions, but also in industry ought to be foregrounded in order for students to develop their professional profiles for successful academic and non-academic careers.