Prospective Students


Thank you for your interest in our program. The Department of German especially encourages applications from students who wish to focus on literature, Critical Theory, cross-cultural studies, and German film and media. In addition to our regular fellowships, we offer the Sunrise Foundation Fellowship in German Film and Media; and we cooperate with UC Berkeley’s Center for Jewish Studies to provide funding to students interested in themes related to Jewish literature, culture, and history.


Why Berkeley?

There’s a saying that Berkeley is not just a place, it’s an idea. We believe that excellence and access are not mutually exclusive.  Diversity is a source of strength at UC Berkeley, and we therefore strongly encourage applications from underrepresented minorities.  Our research crosses many cultural, historical, and disciplinary boundaries.  In 2020, we were especially proud to be part of a university where faculty have been honored with Nobel Prizes in both Physics and Chemistry. Listen to what Nobel Laureate and longtime Chemistry professor Jennifer Doudna had to say about UC Berkeley and the campus research atmosphere in her first interview after being informed that she had won the Nobel Prize: (8:35 mark)
Students and faculty in the Department of German share this spirit of discovery and collaborative achievement that characterizes UC Berkeley at large.


Comprehensive training

The Department of German at UC Berkeley offers comprehensive training in all areas of German studies.  Our core curriculum includes seminars in the history of the German language, methods of literary study, and foreign language pedagogy, among others. Faculty teach in their areas of expertise, and also offer broader courses designed for coverage. Students often coordinate and collaborate with faculty in developing seminars that meet particular student interests.  Our department has the critical mass to allow students to take courses outside the department and thus add a comparative and cross-disciplinary perspective on their academic work.  

Outside the classroom, the Department of German offers a range of research, presentation, and collaboration possibilities, including the Graduate Student Conference, the Semiotic Circle, Bay Area German, the Graduate Student Forum, the Multicultural Germany Project, various collaborative projects and international networks, as well as our student-run online journal Transit.


Individualized programs of study

Our applicants often come to graduate studies with a specific area of interest in mind — be it classical or modern German literature, German philosophy and Critical Theory (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno, Habermas), German cinema, German migration, German-Jewish topics, Germanic Linguistics, or the comparative study of the literature of the Middle Ages, among others. Berkeley encourages cross-disciplinary interests and, different from other universities, offers a wide array of “Designated Emphases” (transdisciplinary PhD Minors) that provide a certified formal study of a related field of interest. 

The following DE programs can be combined with a PhD in German:

Critical Theory                                 Folklore
Film & Media                                   Dutch Studies
New Media                                       European Studies
Jewish Studies                                 Medieval Studies (Concurrent Ph.D.)
Migration Studies                           Renaissance and Early Modern Studies
Women, Gender and Sexuality    Digital Humanities (forthcoming) 

A DE allows a graduate student to be part of a community of scholars interested in larger questions that span across departmental borders. DEs are designed to be completed within the normative Ph.D. time frame, and to enhance a student’s academic credentials. Students who are not formal participants in a DE are nonetheless welcome to enroll in DE seminars.  

Our students also take courses in other departments, including Comparative Literature, French, English, Film & Media, Music, Art History, and Anthropology.  Our faculty has several joint appointments or affiliations with Comparative Literature, English, Film & Media, Critical Theory, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, and Religious Studies.

The numerous DE programs and interdepartmental cooperations that complement departmental offerings make the Humanities at UC Berkeley a uniquely dynamic and stimulating environment. The Department of German is itself a central contributor to Berkeley’s rich culture of multidisciplinary research and teaching.

Independent of specialization, all of our students receive a thorough training in theory and praxis of language and literature pedagogy, based on the latest theories in second language acquisition. We are also committed to professional development and encourage students to be fully active in the profession, learn how to organize conferences, and even edit a journal.


Students and Faculty

In 1993, our students were the first in the U.S. to organize an annual graduate conference in German studies – a tradition that is still going strong.  Graduate students are fully engaged in the intellectual life of the department, and they teach language and (after their Qualifying Exam) literature courses on their own.  We strongly believe in the unity of learning and teaching. 

The present faculty has been honored with five Guggenheims, several Alexander von Humboldt Fellowships, Getty Fellowships, a Humboldt Research Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, among other awards.

Almost 100 of our former PhDs are presently teaching in universities and colleges across the country, including Cornell University, Washington University, Oberlin College, University of Virginia, University of Arizona, the College of William and Mary, and University of North Carolina. 



Reflecting the values of diversity and intellectual curiosity typical for the San Francisco Bay Area, our department has a long history of pioneering new perspectives on German Studies in the United States.  We teach not only current literature but also keep the German canon alive by rereading it in light of the present. The size of our department, with 25-30 graduate students and about a dozen faculty, is ideal for providing focus and individualized education while offering the richness of resources at a top-ranked large public university.  With 12 million volumes, UC Berkeley’s library is one of the largest in the US. Situated at the physical center of our department, our departmental library holds more than 5,000 volumes and a large DVD collection; it also serves as a meeting place for research groups and social activities.   

We are fortunate to be located in an area of rare natural beauty, pleasant climate, and enormous cultural riches, including a film archive and art museum on campus.  The vibrant cultural life of San Francisco is a mere 30 minutes away by subway.


We invite you to explore our website for more information on fellowships and support,  admissions requirements , and graduate student resources.  For administrative questions, please contact Andrea Rapport, our graduate adviser. For queries relating to research and our program, please feel free to contact Prof. Anton Kaes, Head Graduate Adviser, or Prof. Karen Feldman, Department Chair.

We look forward to your application!