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May 12, 2016

German dept. proposes enlarging scope of PhD

German department chair Randall N. Halle has answered Provost Patricia E. Beeson’s May 1, 2016, deadline for lifting the suspension of the German graduate program, or closing it altogether, by proposing a new PhD program in European cultural studies.

As a result, the dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, N. John Cooper, has requested a two-year extension of the deadline while a decision on the new program is made, according to the Provost’s office. Admissions to the German graduate program were suspended in 2012 and Beeson announced the May 1, 2016, deadline in 2014.

Halle, Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German film and cultural studies, says the proposed PhD program would be good “not only for the German graduate studies but for the humanities in general.” While his own research examines the process of Europeanization in European Union countries, he notes, language studies departments traditionally have been divided along nationalities, which he calls “a really 19th-century way of thinking about the world. Europe has transformed what it means to be a part of a nation state.”

European Union founding principles speak about economic, political and cultural union, he adds. “That last piece is really the part that makes its engine, but it is the part that is least examined.” Cultural union is ignored as an area of academic study, he believes, “in part because people like me are parceled away in areas that study only a single national discipline. I’m proposing that Pitt move out to the forefront … as the place devoted to studying European cultural union.”

As the current nominee to be the president of the German Studies Association, “I am committed to the study of German,” Halle says. “But from my perspective, what it means to study German and Germany at this point in time is very different than what it meant in 1989, and before European unification in 1992.

“I mourn the loss of the German PhD, but at the same time I’m very excited about putting together a program that could represent German graduate education for the 21st century.”

In 2014, Beeson also announced that the graduate program in religious studies would close in 2022 and set a May 1, 2018, deadline for the classics graduate program to have its current suspension lifted or to close altogether.

—Marty Levine 

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