As the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and portions of several other European countries—and with linguistic enclaves in the Americas and Africa—German is today the native tongue of close to 120 million people. For advanced-degree programs in fields such as art history, music history, philosophy, and European history, German is still a required language. And whether the motivation for study is business, culture, travel, friendship, or heritage, a knowledge of German can add inestimable depth to a student’s landscape of thought and feeling.

Students should ideally plan to study German for at least two years. First- and second-year German courses aim to teach students how to communicate in German and acquire grammatical competency through exercises that demand accuracy and also encourage free expression. While conference work in Beginning German consists of intensive grammar work with the German assistant (both group and individual conferences), intermediate-level students work on their cultural competency by reading German literature (fairy tales, novellas, poems) and working on class, group, or individual research projects (e.g., writing a short story or screenplay in German, exploring German cities online, reading newspaper articles on current events). Advanced German is a cultural-studies seminar. Students solidify their cultural competency by studying German history and culture from the late 18th century to the present. A special emphasis is placed on 20th-century German history and culture, including contemporary German literature and film.

Many students of German spend a semester or year studying in Germany. Students have the opportunity to take a five-week summer seminar in Berlin (six credits), where they will take a German cultural-studies seminar with an emphasis on the history and culture of Berlin and a class in art/architecture, dance, or the German language (taught at Neue Schule in Berlin).

German 2022-2023 Courses

Advanced German: Postwar German Literature and Film

Advanced, Small Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

Prerequisite: approval from Dr. Dollinger during registration

Find the full description for this course under Literature.


Advanced German: Home, Exile, and Emigration in German Literature

Advanced, Small Lecture—Spring | 5 credits

Prerequisite: approval from Dr. Dollinger during registration

Find the full description for this course under Literature.


Beginning German

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course concentrates on the study of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in order to secure the basic tools of the German language. In addition to offering an introduction, classroom activities and the production of short compositions promote oral and written communication. This class will meet three times per week (90 minutes), twice with Dr. Dollinger and once with Ms. Mizelle, who will also meet with students individually or in small groups for an extra conference. Course materials include the textbook, Neue Horizonte (eighth edition), along with the workbook and a graded German reader. We will cover about 10 chapters from the textbook—all of the basic grammar and vocabulary that students will need to know in order to advance to the next level. There will be short written tests at the end of each chapter. Students will also be introduced to contemporary German culture through authentic materials from newspapers, television, radio, or the internet.


Intermediate German

Intermediate, Small seminar—Year | 10 credits

Prerequisite: Beginning German at the college level or at least four semesters of German in high school

This course places strong emphasis on expanding vocabulary and thoroughly reviewing grammar, as well as on developing oral and written expression. The aim of the course is to give students more fluency and to prepare them for a possible junior year in Germany. Readings in the fall will consist of short stories, fairy tales, and a graphic novel called Heimat​ (Home). In the spring semester, we will focus on 20th-century stories, historical essays, and some films in order to learn about the major phases of German history and culture between 1871 and today. All materials are linguistically accessible and promote an understanding of the culture’s fundamental values and way of looking at the world. A solid grammar review, based on the book German Grammar in Review, will help students further improve their speaking and writing skills. Regular conferences with Ms. Mizelle will supplement class work, help improve fluency and pronunciation, and emphasize conversational conventions for expressing opinions and leading discussions.


Arcades, Trains, and Hysterics: 19th-Century Foundations of Film

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar will examine film history and analysis through a proto-cinematic lens inspired by the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin’s montage-style compendium of Parisian modernization. With this canonical academic experiment as catalyst, we will excavate the 19th-century technocultural foundations of film, placing a particular emphasis on the train, department store, factory, metropolis, and mental life. How did these modern developments shape the materiality and content of early films? And what do they have to tell us about film today? Alongside weekly screenings, we will read classic texts of critical theory (Marx, Freud, Simmel, Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno); modern/modernist fiction (Poe, Baudelaire, Zola, Pirandello, Keun, Du Bois); and new cultural history on hysterical performance, shell shock cinema, human motors, spectacular realities, and slapstick modernism. We will also watch films directed by Charlie Chaplin, René Clair, Jacques Tati, Chantal Akerman, Boots Riley, and Bong Joon-ho. In this class, students will get an overview of European modernity studies and learn to read films media-archaeologically, tying them to the major industrial shifts, perceptual transformations, and hybrid forms from which cinema emerged as a dominant mass medium.


The Edgy Enlightenment

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

Between the triumph of the Enlightenment in the mid-18th century and the rise of Romanticism in the 1790s lies a span of time, extending roughly from 1760 to 1800, populated by a variety of writers who foreshadowed the end of the Enlightenment without being truly “Romantic.” Many of the most exciting and influential works of literature and thought produced in the 18th century were products of this ambiguous period. For want of a better name, scholars have labeled some of these works “pre-Romantic.” It might be more useful to think of them as products of an “edgy Enlightenment”—a late, adventurous phase of the Enlightenment whose representatives had begun to question the Enlightenment’s own cherished beliefs and, in some cases, to discard them. In this course, we will read a number of the most famous texts produced by writers of the “edgy Enlightenment.” Some were originally written in French: Rousseau’s path-breaking autobiography, The Confessions; Diderot’s comic experimental novel, Jacques the Fatalist and His Master. We also will look at works by Scottish writers: Adam Ferguson’s prophetic Essay on the History of Civil Society and the racy poetry of Robert Burns. Finally, we will read a number of German classics of this period: Goethe’s pioneering novel of an actor’s personal development, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; several plays by his close collaborator, Friedrich Schiller; short treatises by the brilliant philosopher Immanuel Kant; and selections from the writings of the renowned explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Students may undertake conference projects on a broad range of topics in European history.


Postwar German Literature and Film

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

In this course, we will study short stories about the war by Heinrich Böll; plays about a German soldier coming home from the war and having no home anymore (by Wolfgang Borchert); Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit; Max Frisch’s parable about antisemitism; Peter Weiss’ play about the Auschwitz trials in Germany; Schlink’s famous and problematic novel, The Reader; Eugen Ruge’s In Times of Fading Light, a family novel covering East German history; Judith Herman’s (post)feminist stories; creative nonfiction by Anna Funders, about a young girl who wanted to get across the Berlin Wall; Sebald’s haunting novel, Austerlitz, about a man dealing with the trauma of his Kindertransport; and Belonging, the graphic novel by Nora Krug about a German woman who is exploring her family’s history. The list of films includes Murderer Among Us, Germany Pale Mother, The Lives of Others, and the comedy Good-bye Lenin. Thematically, all these texts and movies are tied by one common theme: the question of how German writers and filmmakers were dealing with the legacy of National Socialism and Stalinism in East Germany.


Home, Exile, and Emigration in German Literature

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

Human history has always been characterized by the forced or voluntary migration of groups of people or individuals. In this small lecture, we will analyze stories, novels, and some theoretical texts about the dialectical relationship between the concepts of “home” and “exile.” While our principal focus will lie on the interpretation of German literary texts from the 18th century until today, this lecture will begin with selected stories from the Old Testament (Pentateuch) in order to illustrate what, perhaps, can be called “the archetypal dimension of exile”; i.e., the fact that “being in exile”—no longer “at home”—seems to be the existential and psychological norm and not the exception of our human existence. This lecture is not a historical overview of literary representations of “home” and “exile”; rather, we will explore (through some “case studies”) the various meanings that writers such as Goethe, Hesse, E. T. A Hoffmann, Sigmund Freud, Anna Seghers, Sebald, and other contemporary German writers have attributed to the relationship of being “in exile” and being “at home.” Theoretical essays by Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, and others will provide us with some critical vocabulary to speak and write about this topic.