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(For 2016–2017 academic year)

Associate Professors Baldwin (Chair), Swensen
Assistant Professor Miller
Visiting Assistant Professor Briley
Max Kade Fellow Kern

The study of a foreign language not only provides students with the necessary basis for any rigorous or sophisticated understanding of a foreign culture, but also develops in them a more profound understanding of their native language and of the relationship between language and knowledge — “Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eignen”; “those who don’t know foreign languages know nothing of their own” (Goethe). The beginning and intermediate language courses emphasize cultural knowledge about contemporary German-speaking societies and provide a strong foundation in the skills of speaking, comprehending, reading, and writing German. This sequence prepares students well to engage in more advanced study of German language, literature, and cultural history, as well as interdisciplinary study and work in complementary academic fields. The German department encourages students to enroll in related courses in other disciplines such as philosophy, history, music, international relations, linguistics, and art history. A major in German is an excellent preparation for graduate studies in these fields as well as in literature and German studies, and can also give students a competitive edge in such fields as economics, politics, law, business, journalism, consulting, and publishing.

Major Program  

A major in German literature and culture consists of a minimum of eight courses. Normally these include at least three 400-level seminars and two 300-level courses. The remaining major credits may be fulfilled through additional courses in the department at the 200-level and above, or up to two cognate courses on German Studies topics taught in English outside the department, with departmental approval. Exceptions require the permission of the department chair. University regulations require that a student maintain a minimum GPA of 2.00 in the courses comprising the major program.

Minor Program  

The minor in German literature and culture consists of a minimum of five courses. Normally these include at least one 400-level seminar and at least one 300-level course. The remaining minor credits may be fulfilled through additional courses in the department at the 200-level and above, or by one cognate course on a German Studies topic taught in English outside the department, with departmental approval. University regulations require that a student maintain a minimum GPA of 2.00 in the courses comprising the minor program. 

Honors and High Honors  

An honors project allows students to build on their knowledge to pursue independent research on a topic of their interest in close consultation with one or several faculty members. Students with a GPA of 3.30 in courses included in the major and with a cumulative GPA of 3.00 are eligible for honors in German. Students who have attained that average may apply to pursue honors by the early fall of the senior year. Each candidate must complete a thesis or its equivalent under the guidance of a faculty adviser and must discuss the thesis at an oral presentation normally scheduled in April. Research on this project begins in the fall semester of the senior year. In the spring semester candidates register for GERM 490. This course must be taken in addition to the minimum of eight courses required for the major. The quality of the project resulting from this course, as judged by the adviser and one other faculty member, determines whether the student receives honors or a grade in GERM 491, independent study.

Successful honors students whose departmental average is 3.50 or higher are eligible for high honors. For this distinction the student must fulfill all regular honors requirements and must also pass an additional oral examination based on his or her cumulative work in German courses.

Acceptance in Delta Phi Alpha (national German honor society) is possible for all students who have at least two years of college German, a minimum GPA of 3.30 in all German courses, and an overall GPA of 3.00, and who show a continued interest in the study of German language and literature. 


See “Honors and Awards: German” in Chapter VI. 

Advanced Placement and Transfer Credit  

Both university and major credits are normally granted to students who achieve a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement examinations in German language and literature or a score of 6 or 7 on the higher level International Baccalaureate German exam. Transfer credit for courses taken at other institutions may be granted with the approval of the department chair. 

Study Group   

Every spring the department conducts a study group at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany. Majors in German are normally expected to avail themselves of this opportunity. The study group is also open to non-majors who have sufficient German language skills. For more information, see “Off-Campus Study” in Chapter VI, and “Study Group Courses,” below. 


The Max Kade German Center in Lawrence Hall serves the department both as a seminar room and as a common room. It offers audiovisual facilities, German television broadcasts, Internet connections, a German reference library, and current German periodicals. The center is also the site of lectures, film screenings, and a weekly coffee hour. 

Each year there are native speakers from the University of Freiburg in residence to assist students. In addition, the German department shares the Keck Humanities Resource Center with other arts and humanities departments. Here German audio, video, and computer resources are available for laboratory work in connection with language classes as well as for independent studies.

Course Offerings

GERM courses count toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement, unless otherwise noted.

121, 122  Beginning German
The 121, 122 sequence introduces students to the basic structures of German and focuses on the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading, and writing German in cultural, functional contexts. The courses simultaneously introduce students to the vibrant societies and cultures of German-speaking Europe.

201, 202  Intermediate German
The 201 and 202 courses complete the presentation of the basic structures of German and help students develop greater facility and sophistication in using these structures — in comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. These courses also continue the exploration of German cultures begun on the 100 level. Prerequisite: GERM 122 or equivalent. GERM 201 is not open to students who score 3 or higher on a German AP exam.

322  German Expressionist Cinema
A. Swensen
Students screen a selection of representative German films and analyze them with an eye to the social and historical context in which they were made and to their innovation and influence in the development of cinema art and film language. The films are also discussed in terms of larger theoretical and methodological issues (film and literature, realism, representations of class or gender stereotypes, film and political propaganda, etc.). Taught in English. Participation in the accompanying FLAC section is mandatory for students wishing to earn German major/minor credit for this course (see “Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum” in Chapter VI).

325  Imag(in)ing the Transnational in Contemporary German Culture
M. Miller
In a globalizing world, the discourse of transnationalism has emerged to address contemporary political and cultural phenomena that are no longer confined to the stages of nation-states. This course examines the “transnational” imagination at work in recent German cultural production, with an emphasis on cinematic negotiations of German (and European) identity. Factors contributing to these negotiations include the tenuous legacy of German unification, the consolidation of the European Union, and the migration of people to Germany, especially those with a non-European background. To grasp the status of the transnational in this context, the course’s method of inquiry is interdisciplinary: the focus on contemporary films is supplemented with historical background, contemporary political philosophy, and political essays. The films are selected for the aesthetic qualities through which they must be interpreted. To develop an understanding of the transnational aesthetic as a medium-specific feature of film production, students familiarize themselves with the terminology and methodologies of film studies, and perform critical visual analyses of the cinematic material in a number of writing assignments and in-class activities. Attendance at weekly film screenings is mandatory. Participation in the accompanying FLAC section is mandatory for students wishing to earn German major/minor credit for this course. FMST 200 is desirable but not required.

326  Germany and the Environmental Imagination
A. Briley, Staff
Germany is widely recognized as a global leader in environmental policy and green technology. To what extent does Germany’s role as a pioneer in the global environmental movement have its roots in German culture? Building on interdisciplinary scholarship in the growing field of environmental humanities, this course offers an introduction to environmental thought in German literature, culture, and the arts from the 18th-century to the present. The goal of the course is to develop an ecocritical model of reading, focusing on the way literature and other artworks stage the encounter between people and nature in a range of different genres: fairy tales, prose, poetry, landscape painting, and film. Tracing the emergence of the German environmental imagination in key texts from German literature, art, and film, the course also examines the emergence of the modern environmental movement in Germany, and explores how literature and the arts contribute to contemporary debates about environmental justice, species extinction, and sustainability. Course taught in English with an optional FLAC section in German.

330  Kafka
Kafka may be the most dizzyingly overdetermined proper name in world literature. Not only does it stand for the author, it has come to signify a host of political, institutional, existential, and aesthetic conditions. One refers to “Kafkaesque” experiences, sensibilities, or bureaucracies; situations, movies, the 20th century, and modern life are all regularly dubbed “Kafkan” or “Kafkaish.” The name seems to have a life of its own; but to understand what it means, students must animate Kafka by reading him. In this course, students read, discuss, and think about a range of Kafka’s writing, from novels and short stories to diary entries and legal briefs, paying close attention not only to the texts and their various obsessions, but to their emergence in his creative process and their afterlives in translation and the works of other artists. Students explore the multicultural Central European milieu that Kafka inhabited and examine the global transmission and remediation of his work in its critical reception, multiple translations, and adaptations; its transmutation into a style; and its metastasis in popular culture. This course is conducted in English. Participation in the accompanying FLAC section is mandatory for students wishing to earn German major/minor credit for this course.

351  Introduction to German Literature
This course introduces students to a variety of German literary texts from the 18th century to the present, in their cultural and historical contexts. Through topics such as revolution and social change; constructions of gender; national identity; migration and minority experience; and modernity and aesthetic innovation, the course considers the versatile powers of literature to interpret and influence personal and collective experience. The course also serves as a workshop in which to develop techniques and vocabulary of literary and cultural analysis. In addition to furthering critical understanding of German literature as part of living culture, this course will help students strengthen and expand German language skills in all four areas: reading, writing, comprehension and speaking. The class is conducted in German. Prerequisite: GERM 202 or equivalent.

352  Introduction to German Literature II
This course develops critical and analytical skills through a program of selected readings in German literature of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in their cultural and historical contexts. Prerequisite: GERM 202 or equivalent.

461  Goethe
C. Baldwin
This seminar introduces Goethe’s writing and thought through selected plays, narrative fiction, critical writings, and poems. Topics include Goethe’s interest and influence in various cultural spheres, such as the visual arts, the scientific fields of his time, and politics in the age of revolutions. Students explore his comparative approach to world languages and literatures, his changing aesthetic positions during his lifetime, and his literary explorations of gender and love. The seminar interprets Goethe in the context of his time and also examines his dominant and debated position in the German cultural tradition. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor.

463  Contemporary Jewish German Literature
C. Baldwin
This course focuses on writing by contemporary Jewish German authors, and in particular on literary representations and engagement with Jewish cultures in Germany and Austria. This literature takes on the complex issues of national and Jewish identities after the Shoah in the German and Austrian contexts, for example through explorations of the interfaces of personal memory, historical knowledge, and contemporary politics; the relationship of generational position and literary voice; and the reflection on language and topographies of identity. Further questions include, what does it mean to write in German as Jews after the Shoah? What views are offered of contemporary Germany and Austria and their Jewish communities, relationship to Israel, and the related phenomena of anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism? How does gender inform the ways that cultural traditions and personal memories are addressed? Readings include fiction, essays, interviews, songs, and articles by Wolf Beirmann, Ruth Beckermann, Maxim Biller, Irene Dische, Barbara Honigmann, Doron Rabinovici, Robert Schindel, and others. Primary readings are supplemented by theoretical readings and other secondary material. The course is taught in English and readings are in English translation. Students enrolled in this course for German credit must also enroll in the additional FLAC section (GERM 463X) and do readings and written work in German; students enrolled for Jewish Studies may also join the FLAC section, with instructor permission. This course is crosslisted as JWST 463.

475  Romanticism/Junges Deutschland
A. Swensen
German Romanticism and the movement known as Young Germany evolved in the years between the French Revolution to the “March Revolution” of 1848 and circled around the aspirations and disappointments of the revolutionary spirit. The literature of these years follows shifts in the intellectual debates of the times: the proclamation of individual rights, the crumbling of traditional social structures and the rise of new social forms, the plight of the lone individual detached from traditional moorings. Works we will read include folk fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers, the poetry of Novalis and Eichendorff, fantastic tales by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the socially critical poetry of Heinrich Heine. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor.

477  Literature at the Turn of the Century
A. Swensen
The turn of the century was a time of turmoil. Opposing views clashed and created “modernity.” Taboos were shattered; psychology had its heyday; political art stood in contrast to l’art pour l’art; utopias flourished. This course aims to give an idea of the richness and diversity of this era. Readings include works by such well-known authors as Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Hauptmann, Schnitzler, George, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Hesse, and Wedekind. Because literature cannot be separated from its historical context, the political background as well as the music and art of the time are also part of the course. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor. 

479  20th-Century Literature
C. Baldwin, M. Miller
This course examines the literature and cultures of German-speaking Europe in the 20th century. Because of the wealth of the material, selections vary from semester to semester. Areas of focus may include: the Weimar Republic, exilic literature by émigrés of National Socialism, comparative approaches to West and East German literature, confronting the Holocaust, Austrian and Swiss writers, transnationalism, and the literature of German unification and the Berlin Republic. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor. 

481  Lyric Poetry
A. Swensen
This course is a survey of selected examples of German poetry from the Baroque period to the present. Poems are examined with an eye to developments in form and to poetry’s engagement with the changing world in which it is created, from the Thirty Years’ War to the European Union. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor.

482  The Novelle
A. Swensen
This examination of this unique German form from Goethe to the present emphasizes its 19th-century expression. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor.

485  Drama
M. Miller
This course introduces the history, theory, and practice of German drama with a focus on a selection of major dramatic works from the 18th century to the present. As theater continues to thrive as a unique aesthetic and social institution of German-speaking Europe, the course conducts a performance oriented study of theater as a medium of cultural and cross-cultural communication. Canonical playwrights to be studied may include: Lessing, Schiller, Goethe, Kleist, Büchner, Ibsen, Brecht, Peter Weiss, and Heiner Müller. Contemporary playwrights may include Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek, and Falk Richter. Topics to be addressed include the genre of the bürgerliches Trauerspiel, dramatic approaches to the political history of modernity in Europe, epic theater, postdrama, and postmigratory theater. The course also undertakes experiments in drama pedagogy. The study of theatrical performances is facilitated by required biweekly screenings of filmed contemporary productions from leading European theaters in Berlin and elsewhere. Prerequisite: two GERM 300-level courses or permission of instructor.

486  What is German World Literature?
C. Baldwin
What is German world literature? This question highlights the relationship between the idea of a national literary tradition and a broader concept of literature that crosses linguistic, cultural, or national boundaries. This seminar focuses on theories of “world literature(s)” and on primary literary texts written in German as examples of works that circulate through and reflect multiple cultural and linguistic contexts. How are the Grimm fairy tales mediated by Disney? What do we understand by the term “Kafkaesque”? Why did Goethe emulate the Persian poet Hafis? Do Senoçak’s readers in America contribute to a new idea of German or German-Turkish literature? Some of the topics students engage include the roles of translation, migration, economic and media globalization, nationalisms, and contemporary and historical transnational identities in shaping world literature written originally in German. This course is conducted in German, and all written work is completed in German. Prerequisite: two 300-level German courses or permission of instructor.

490  Honors or High Honors
Devoted to the honors project, this course must be taken in addition to the eight courses required for the major. Although it is a year-long course, students register for it once, in the spring semester of the senior year. See “Honors and High Honors,” above.

195, 295, 395  Language Courses Taken Abroad
These numbers are used only for language courses taken abroad with a Colgate study group, an approved program, or in a foreign institution of higher learning. 

291, 391, 491  Independent Study
Independent studies courses are designed to fulfill individual needs in language and literature not otherwise provided in this department. They are offered upon demand and require approval of the department.

Study Group Courses

341  Advanced Conversation and Composition
This course is especially geared to the needs of American students studying and living in a German environment. It addresses methods for coping in everyday situations as well as in the special setting of a German university. The first part is taught by the director while traveling; the second part is taught by the director or tutors in accordance with the very specific needs of each individual student.

400, 403  German Electives Abroad
Courses of the study group participant’s choice. They may be in any field. Restrictions depend only on the prerequisites of the specific courses.

457  German Literature and Culture
This course is designed to create a frame of reference for students by presenting them with a survey of German history and culture and connecting it to the present experience abroad. In addition to study trips in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the course incorporates current theater performances, concerts, and visits to museums and art galleries. As with GERM 341, the course has two components: the pre-term weeks (February and March) devoted to travel, and the term at Freiburg during which regular class sessions are scheduled.