The graduate program is designed to provide a framework within which students can develop their interest in the relationship between modern German culture and the broad array of discourses–whether in philosophy, literary theory, history, or media studies–that can be broadly described as critical thought. The interaction between German writers or filmmakers, on the one hand, and German philosophers or critics, on the other, has been and still remains immensely productive. Instances of this interaction include Kant and Kleist, Fichte and Novalis, Hegel and Hölderlin, Schelling and von Platen, Marx and Heine, Nietzsche and Rilke, Freud and Schnitzler, Mach and Musil, Scholem and Kafka, Benjamin and Brecht, Heidegger and Jelinick, Adorno and Celan, Arendt and Lessing, Wittgenstein and Bachmann, Krakauer and Lang, Mitscherlich and Fassbinder. The work of these and many other poets, writers, philosophers, critics, and filmmakers are regularly discussed in our seminars and graduate colloquia, as we seek out the complicated connections between literary texts and other forms of reflection and representation.
Seminars in the German graduate program alternate between specific literary topics and more wide- ranging explorations of themes and problems, that engage with, and are often principally concerned with, non-literary texts. 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.
The department includes experts in a variety of fields in modern German literature and thought, from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the most recent literary productions in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. As home to Yiddish studies at Northwestern, the German department regularly trains students in German-Jewish literature, culture, and thought.
The graduate program as a whole is constructed to develop the two principal dimensions of scholarship: new research and enlivening teaching. Close attention is paid to the graduate student's skills as a writer and as a communicator. The department includes a highly acclaimed group of instructors, who are themselves committed to fostering an engaging pedagogical environment, to which graduate students contribute as both language instructors and teaching assistants.