Department of German
College of Letters & Science

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About our Department

Occupying the 8th floor of Van Hise Hall, also referred to as the "Tower of Babel" because all foreign language departments are housed in this 18-floor high-rise, the Department of German is one of the oldest, strongest, and best in the United States. Established in 1890, it awarded its first M.A. in 1893 and its first Ph.D. in 1901. Since then, hundreds of M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s have been granted by the program. Today it is one of the largest German departments in North America. 

The Department is one of the highest rated in the country. The university-wide system of faculty teaching evaluation by students consistently places the department members in the top quartile, and several faculty have received prestigious teaching awards. The size of the Department allows the program to emphasize both breadth and depth and to offer considerable scope and choice of courses, while the size of the university encourages a wide range of interdisciplinary projects. The fact that our former graduates teach in numerous colleges and universities around the country has firmly established the Department's reputation and significance. Graduates of our Ph.D. program teach at such institutions as UC Berkeley, Cornell, Brown, University of Texas at Austin, Princeton, Northwestern, Penn State, Duke, and the University of Georgia, among many others. 

Comparative rankings of departments are usually out of date before they are published, but such rankings, read historically, can suggest a track record of quality. Major national studies such as the Gourman Report and surveys by U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, and the National Research Council (NRC) have consistently rated the University of Wisconsin's undergraduate and graduate programs among the top ten over the past 30 years. The 10th edition of the Gourman Report (1998), for example, lists the undergraduate program in German as number two in the nation. Our graduate teaching assistants contribute to this outstanding reputation through their commitment to high-quality language instruction at the elementary and intermediate levels and through the pedagogical skills gained in the extensive teacher training required of all TA's. In its 1995 report, the National Research Council placed the graduate program in German in third position among publicly funded institutions overall and in sixth position nationally for its "effectiveness in educating research scholars." We also ranked near the top in "years to degree," i.e. the average length of time our graduates have needed to complete the Ph.D. degree.

The Department of German provides a rich environment to study all things related to the literatures, cultures, and language of the German-speaking countries. The state's ethnic history has created a serious public interest that supports the excellence of both the undergraduate and graduate programs. In turn, the Department strives to enrich campus and community life with a wide range of activities: lectures, film screenings, drama performances, and publications. Graduate students often work together with faculty in organizing these events or conferences, sometimes presenting papers and introducing sessions themselves. They also form their own discussion and study groups and coordinate the Department's regular Kaffeestunde and Stammtisch. Undergraduate students have founded the German Club.

The Department offers curricula leading to the degree of Master of Arts and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy with specialization in several fields of literature and linguistics. In addition, it offers candidates the opportunity to do specially tailored work with other units on campus, such as the departments of Comparative Literature, History, Art History, Communications Arts, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics, as well as the Jewish Studies, European Studies, and Women's Studies Programs. 

If you are interested in learning more about Madison and the University of Wisconsin, please check out the following pages: 

Conferences and Lectures

Information about recent and upcoming events can be found on our Events page. 
  • The Wisconsin Workshop, an annual event held each fall since 1968, provides a forum for scholarly discussion concerning literary or cultural topics. Here is a list of all Wisconsin Workshop topics and publications. 
  • Departmental members regularly organize conferences which focus on new developments in their fields of expertise. Through co-sponsorship with other departments and with the financial support of the University and outside organizations such as the Goethe Institute and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, symposia have enriched German studies on  campus. 
  • The German Department has recently hosted the conference of the Germanic Linguistics Association and the American Association for Netherlandic Studies, a multi disciplinary organization addressing linguistic, literary, and cultural issues pertaining to the Dutch-speaking countries. 
  • The Round Table is a lecture series for the presentation of original research and critical scholarly work by members of the faculty, advanced graduate students, and distinguished visiting scholars and writers. 

Scholarly Resources

For more information about resources and research materials, please visit our Campus Resources page. 
  • The Memorial Library of the University houses over 5.5 million volumes and contains extensive German collections. 
  • The Library of the Wisconsin State Historical Society is especially renowned for its German-American holdings. 
  • Further, the Department maintains its own Handbibliothek and a reading room with several thousand volumes of primary and secondary literature for the benefit of its faculty and graduate students. 
  • The Foreign Language Learning Resource Center has over 200 German feature films on video for use in classroom teaching and research as well as a satellite connection that provides daily German-language news. 
  • The Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, founded at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1983, is a national center for the study of German immigration and German ethnic culture in America. 

Further Links


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