Department of Germanic Studies


Germanic Studies at the University of Texas encompasses the entire span of Germanic cultures and languages in Northern and Central Europe, and what happens to those cultures nationally over time, and in international (especially transatlantic and European) contact situations. The nations speaking the languages we teach (Danish, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Yiddish) exist in rich cultural relationships that cannot be taught in nationalist isolation, especially as they are joining together (or against) the European Union. Our focus is transnational and transatlantic—post national and globalized.

Particular program strengths are in cultural and literary studies of the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, including migration studies (especially contacts with and cultural transfer among the Americas, Europe, and the regions extending from the Low Countries to the Baltic, and from Central Europe to Scandinavia), film and media studies, and studies in material culture (science, music, sports, history of the book, monuments and memorials). We ask how groups, regions and nations develop their identities and their cultures, what happens when they come into contact, what happens when people migrate in or out of their home communities and histories, and how media, traditions, and institutions change what they feel and know.

An equivalent set of strengths exists in the various fields of linguistics, including synchronic and diachronic, and applied linguistics/language pedagogy—all of which support Germanic studies scholarship in their own ways. Faculty specializes in diverse subjects such as foreign language learning and pedagogy, computer-mediated communication, phonology, history of linguistics, syntax, semantics, computational lexicography, language contact and death, and documentation of endangered languages. These studies combine theory and practice, offering students the chance to work on professional projects, using the resources of the Texas German Dialect Project and the Texas German Grammar online. Reaching into campus resources allows us to offer particularly notable concentrations in Indo-European studies (including older Germanic dialects), computational linguistics, and second language acquisition.

In the Graduate Program's core program, students build overviews of their chosen areas of cultural and literary history, and then learn to understand them in new ways through appropriate offerings in contemporary theory of many sorts, and in intellectual and cultural histories. In combination with other units on the campus (e.g. European studies, Radio-TV-Film, women's and gender studies, comparative literature, history, art history, musicology, medieval studies, comparative literature, architecture, Science-Technology-Society, religious studies, Jewish studies), we offer unparalleled opportunities for inter- and cross-disciplinary work at the Ph.D. level, combining literature and cultural artifacts and focusing on their relations within cultural contexts.

The Department offers courses in all areas of Germanic Studies (literature; cultural, media, and intellectual history; linguistics; applied linguistics and foreign language pedagogy). Each area has several faculty members involved, allowing students to be flexible in their approaches and topics of study.  The Program is also committed to maintaining breadth in both student and faculty professional engagement. Thus interdisciplinary and cross-cultural work is encouraged; many departmental dissertations are co-chaired by colleagues outside our department, or across the lines of various fields. Notable, too, is the option of combining work in two (or more) Germanic languages on both M.A. and Ph.D. levels—a kind of "comparative literature" or "comparative cultural studies" option within the department itself. The titles of Ph.D. dissertations and M.A. theses from the department speak for themselves as evidence of the Department's programmatic commitment to re-imagining the humanities through interdisciplinary and intercultural work, as well as in core projects in linguistics, philology, and literature.

Students start their work by completing an MA-level core program that stresses the breadth of Germanic studies, including work in literature, linguistics/philology, cultural studies and intellectual history, traditional bibliography and modern theory, the art and science of teaching, and electives that help them find their specializations. As advanced graduate students, they are mentored into developing professional profiles in two sub-disciplines at a minimum, so that they not only have the skills necessary for a scholarly specialization, but also a breadth of vision that will sustain them over a career. Graduate students learn to write grants, work in exchange programs, and give papers at national conventions, as well as having the opportunity to develop and teach undergraduate courses under the tutelage of department faculty -- so that they can be autonomous with their own future students and in bringing their own research and interests into future classrooms.

While students learn their academic skills, they are also mentored in the skills key to professional survival: professional communication (writing, speaking, and presentation technology), linguistic fieldwork, archival research, and technology-assisted teaching, and how the profession is structured. They are encouraged to engage in outreach activities to the local school districts, to take study-abroad options, and to take part in professional meetings, all in order to prepare them to take their professional interests outside the narrow confines of the library.  The Program is committed to mentoring its students so that they find their distinctive voices in national and international scholarly communities, as scholar-teachers who will foster the cause of Germanic studies nationally and internationally.

The department is one of the few language departments in the United States to complement studies in linguistics with major emphases on pedagogy and second language acquisition (SLA) research, joining in-house offerings with those from Communication Studies, Foreign Language Education, and Linguistics, as well as those given by SLA specialists across the campus. Graduate students have the opportunity to develop and teach fourth-semester courses in German with open cultural topics (recent options have ranged from soccer to German-Turkish writers in Berlin), as well as Germanic Civilization courses for freshmen and sophomores (in English) on individually designed topics or standing offerings.

Most graduate students support their degree studies as teaching assistants (graders, apprentice teachers) or as assistant instructors (teaching their own independent classes). They are treated as apprentice professionals, expected to participate in course design and materials development, to become conversant with national issues about German Studies, the teaching of foreign languages, and curriculum development—regardless of Ph.D. specialization, and to be effective mentors of their own undergraduate students.

Students who enter with the BA or equivalent can reasonably expect 5 (and in many cases 6) years of support as a Teaching Assistant (pre-MA classification) or an AI (post MA-classification); students entering with the MA or equivalent can expect 4 (and in many cases 5) years of support. (Note that, by state law, all appointments must be reconfirmed each year, subsequent to a review for appropriate progress towards the degree.)

All incoming graduate students receive thorough theoretical and practical training in foreign language teaching, including an apprenticeship that aids them in becoming expert teachers (the length depends on their entering level). Advanced graduate students receive the opportunity to coordinate a multi-section elementary or intermediate language class-- an asset when students apply for academic positions. Where many other national programs force graduate students into the classroom on day 1 of their graduate program, therefore, the Department of Germanic Studies works with students to gauge and develop their own readiness and abilities to teach and balance off their other commitments.

The Department offers regular workshops and information sessions about issues of professional development, from how to give conference papers or apply for grants, through CV and application letter workshops and mock MLA interviews. In this way, it upholds a long-term commit to assist its students in finding employment, both in academic institutions and in related fields. In addition, the Graduate School offers its own extensive Professional Development Program, nationally known for its innovative series of workshops and courses to aid graduate students in sharpening their professional and career skills. This program offers courses in those skills that aim at helping graduate students become "citizen-scholars," who are able to communicate about their disciplines, understand professional ethics and granting processes, position their research and the job hunt, and can participate in new teaching technologies.

The academic job market is very tight for Ph.D.s in the humanities, and completion of the degree will by no means guarantee subsequent employment. The yearly reports in the Newsletter of the Modern Language Association outline the difficult facts of employment in our profession, as do the yearly reports in Monatshefte on placements in the Germanic languages. Nonetheless, graduates from the Department of Germanic Studies over the last 10 years have met with great success in finding positions in academic departments or related fields; students from earlier years have had similar success rates in achieving promotion and tenure in their tenure-track appointments. A reasonably complete list of graduate placements is posted on the web.

Related Links

List of Alumni

MAs and PhDs completed in the Department, with supervisors

Graduate Portfolio Programs

Center for European Studies