The German department’s curriculum provides a critical engagement with Germany’s intellectual and artistic legacy. All language courses are taught in German and include work in the language lab, as well as tutorials with the language scholar. From the outset, we encourage students to explore cultural and historical materials in the original. The first year focuses on all four language skills. In the second year, we pursue a comprehensive approach to reading, writing, and speaking through the study of selected literary and sociopolitical themes. The advanced class in composition and conversation completes the language track in the third year.
Upper-level courses in the department are organized thematically and historically, often emphasizing interdisciplinary study. A flexible two-track program for majors explores a variety of perspectives on the analysis of texts. Students who select the concentration in literature may focus their thesis work on a particular author, period, or paradigm. They are also encouraged to consider broader questions about the nature of interpretation and criticism. The culture studies concentration gives students the opportunity to explore the German intellectual tradition through the methodological perspectives of a variety of fields, including philosophy, history, anthropology, and sociology. Students who pursue this track can take two of their required courses in other departments. In their thesis they may combine literary and nonliterary analyses or write on exclusively nonliterary problems. With both concentrations, it may be possible for students to work on particular areas of interest in an independent study. Details of the requirements for each track are listed below.
The German House on campus functions not only as a residence hall, but primarily as the center of a variety of extracurricular activities, including film evenings, poetry and drama readings, lectures, and social gatherings.
The language scholar from the University of Munich, a yearly appointment, provides contact with a native speaker and assists the department in academic and cultural matters.
The department recommends strongly that students who wish to major in German literature spend a study year in Germany or a summer in a language school. Students are encouraged to participate in the college-sponsored programs at the Universities of Munich (yearlong), Berlin (year or semester), or Tübingen (year or semester), or in a summer program at the University of Freiburg. Students who major in culture studies are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of our program in Munich. Detailed information on these programs is available through the German department and the international programs office.
Students with a background in German take a placement test during orientation week and are placed into either second- or third-year German, according to their performance.
Requirements for the Major
Concentration in Literature
- First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220), or the equivalent.
- German 311 or the equivalent in the Munich program.
- Six German literature courses in German at the 300–400 level. German 311 will not be accepted as one of the six courses. At least four of the six courses must be taken at Reed.
- Thesis (470).
- At least one semester or summer institute in Germany.
Recommended but not required:
- German or modern European history.
- German philosophy.
- Humanities 220.
Concentration in Culture Studies
- First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220) or the equivalent.
- German 311 or the equivalent in the Munich program.
- Six upper-division courses in the German department and related disciplines. (German 311 will not be accepted as one of these six courses.) Four of these must be upper-division offerings in the German department. Two of the selected courses must be taken in German. The remaining two courses can be selected from departments related to the German culture studies program, such as history, art history, and philosophy.
- One course in German history.
- Humanities 220.
- Thesis (470).
- One year of study abroad at the University of Munich program or another approved institution is strongly advised.
German 110 - First-year German: A Foundation Course
Full course for one year. This course introduces the student to all of the basic language skills in German. The teaching of grammar is always supplemented with cultural vignettes from German-speaking countries. Classroom activities include skits, poetry readings, film clips, and internet research. In order to employ the knowledge of German language and culture more creatively, the student will be asked to participate in a final project at the end of the academic year. Use of the language laboratory is part of the course. This course is reserved for students without a background in the language. Conference.
German 220 - Second-year German: Cultural and Literary Perspectives
Full course for one year. This course is designed to develop an understanding of German language, culture, and literature through a variety of texts, class discussions, and written assignments. Course material is drawn from different fields. In addition to literature, we will include readings on history, art, philosophy, and current events from the media pertaining to the German-speaking countries. The communicative competence of students is developed in frequent discussions. One hour each week is spent in conversation tutorials. Students review grammar systematically throughout the year and use the language laboratory. Prerequisite: German 110 or 111 or placement by examination. Conference.
German 311 - Advanced German: Berlin Strolls
Full course for one semester. This class is designed to help students develop advanced competence in written and spoken German. There will be regular essay assignments, oral presentations, and group projects. Seminar discussions will focus on short novels, prose texts, and films dealing with representations of Berlin, past and present. We will explore Berlin as the center of the emerging mass culture in the early 20th century, the capital of National Socialism, the divided city of the Cold War era, the symbol of the united Germany, and the multicultural core of German society. Prerequisite: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
German 321 - Modernism
Full course for one semester. By the end of the 19th century, the metropolis had become a central force in the transformation of culture in Europe. This course traces various manifestations of Central European modernism in the context of three metropolitan centers, Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. Modernism I: Berlin 1871–1929
Germany’s cultural transformation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is explored through works primarily by Berlin writers and artists. Various forms of modernism in the Wilhelminian and Weimar eras will be discussed through an interdisciplinary approach, with focus on literature, visual arts, music, film, and philosophy. The effect of the urban milieu on new aesthetic movements and representations of war are among the major issues to be discussed. Readings include works by Fontane, H. and Th. Mann, Holz, Schlaf, Simmel, Tönnies, Rosa Luxemburg, Brecht, and Döblin. Readings in German, discussion and papers in German and English. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 321. Not offered 2009-10. Modernism II: Turn-of-the-century Vienna and Prague, 1890–1918
This course explores the cultural transformation in Central Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Impressionism, decadence, and aestheticism will be discussed as the predominant artistic modes of the epoch. The emergence of the “modern” in the late Habsburg Empire will be investigated through a broad spectrum of works, ranging from the literary movement Jung Wien
(Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal); texts by the Prague writers Rilke and Kafka; studies in psychoanalysis (Freud); essays, memoirs, and diaries (Broch, St. Zweig, Lou-Andreas Salomé); philosophical texts (Mach, Wittgenstein); music (Schoenberg); to the fine arts (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka). Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet once a week in an extra seminar. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 321.
German 325 - Modern German Jewish Writers: The Discontents of Emancipation
Full course for one semester. This course explores a paradigmatic example of a minority culture. We will examine the entwinement of political emancipation and cultural assimilation of the Jews in Germany. The course covers the period from the Enlightenment to the present, with a special emphasis on the first part of the 20th century. At this time German Jewish writers and thinkers became increasingly aware of their tenuous position and devised new ways of realizing Jewish particularity within modern, secular German culture. We will explore themes such as gender and assimilation, racial anti-Semitism, cultural Zionism, the writing of exile, and the aestheticization and politicization of Jewish traditions. The course concludes with a brief look at the reinterpretation of the historical "German-Jewish symbiosis” after the Holocaust. Readings from Lessing, Heine, Schnitzler, Kafka, Döblin, Lasker-Schüler, Celan, Mendelssohn, Buber, Freud, Scholem, Benjamin. Conducted in English. Students may arrange with the instructor to take the class for German credit. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 325. Not offered 2009-10.
German 331 - Discourse of Alterity
Full course for one semester. This course traces treatments of “das Fremde” in major philosophical and literary works of the German language from Romanticism to the present. Through selected texts by Hegel, Tieck, Kleist, Nietzsche, Simmel, Freud, Adorno, and Gadamer, we will explore shifting definitions of alterity. We will then focus on the discourse of alterity in the contemporary literary scene in Germany. Readings include recent constructions of selfhood and otherness by German authors (H. Müller, B. Strauss, F.X. Kroetz, S. Lenz, and S. Nadolny) and by Turkish émigrés, such as Ören, Pazaraya, Özakin, and Senocak. Current theoretical approaches will complement the literary readings. Readings in German, discussion and papers in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or its equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
German 335 - Readings in Contemporary German Literature
Full course for one semester. This course offers several expeditions into the German-language literary imagination since the late 1980s. We will explore topics such as the German unification, pop culture, exilic identities, remembrance, and contemporary myths. Authors include Brussig, Sparschuh, Schulze, Kracht, Senocak, Honigmann, Sebald, Hermann, and Bernhard. Themes and techniques of postfeminist writing will be examined in works by Jelinek and Erpenbeck. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 311 or its equivalent or consent of instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
German 336 - Story and History
Full course for one semester. This course explores the intimate connection between story and history in modern German culture. We will trace how history patterns personal experience and how narrative shapes historical understanding. Themes will include realism and everyday life, modernism and war trauma, the writing of monuments, and representations of Nazism and the Holocaust. Texts by Heinrich von Kleist, Theodor Storm, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Robert Musil, Thomas Mann, Ernst Jünger, Günter Grass, and W.G. Sebald. Films by Leni Riefenstahl, Rainer Maria Fassbinder, Edgar Reitz, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. Readings in German, discussion and papers in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
German 340 - Exile: Theoretical and Literary Configurations
Full course for one semester. This course explores multifaceted experiences of exile represented in 20th-century literature and theory. A small selection of film screenings complements textual analyses. Varying definitions of exile, ranging from catastrophe to a new state of freedom, will be discussed. We will examine the transformation of lived experience into literary themes and techniques. While emphasizing the heterogeneity of the approaches, we will also aim at establishing a working definition of an “aesthetics of exile.” Literary readings include works by Kafka, Nabokov, Bachmann, Ch. Wolf, Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk, and Turkish expatriates in Germany. Studies of exile associated with the Frankfurt School, postcolonial theory, poststructuralism, and new feminist thought constitute the theoretical framework. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet once a week in an extra seminar. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 340.
German 345 - Literature and Love
Full course for one semester. The rise of the ideal of Romantic love around 1800 presented literary authors with a new question: Can love, one of the oldest and most familiar of literary themes, be written about at all? How can we communicate feelings that in their intensity and specificity seem necessarily to elude verbalization? In this course, we will read a range of poems and stories that confront this question. We will analyze a bourgeois Enlightenment discourse on individuality and sexual difference that still influences contemporary conceptions of love. Finally, we will examine the creation of a new semantics of love in literary modernism. Literary readings by Lessing, Goethe, Kleist, Schlegel, Eichendorff, Keller, Benn, Rilke, Lasker-Schüler, Th. Mann, Kafka, Bachmann. Theoretical readings by Plato, Freud, Foucault, Luhmann, and others. Readings are in German, discussion and papers are in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor.
German 354 - The Modern German Novel
Full course for one semester. This course acquaints students with 20th-century novelists of the German language. Beginning with Kafka, we will trace various manifestations of the genre from the 1920s onward. Readings in the early 20th century include works by Th. Mann, Broch, Musil, Rilke, and Hesse. We will then focus on representatives of the post–World War II novel, such as Frisch, Böll, Grass, and Ch. Wolf. Categories closely connected with the novelistic mode, such as irony, ambiguity, digression, and reflection, will be of major concern. Selected readings by Lukács, Todorov, Bakhtin, and Iser will provide the theoretical framework. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German credit will meet once a week in an extra seminar. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 354. Not offered 2009-10.
German 358 - The Holocaust and the Limits of Representation
Full course for one semester. Through a study of Holocaust film and literature, this course investigates the relations between history, trauma, and representation. How do authors and filmmakers describe events that shatter traditional forms of perception and comprehension? How do they portray human agency in an age of bureaucratically administered mass destruction? How do they relate history, memory, and imagination? We will study works from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds and explore a wide range of genres including documentaries, diaries, novels, poetry, drama, comics, and feature films. Primary sources will include works by Primo Levi, Jean Amery, Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, Peter Weiss, Charlotte Delbo, Cynthia Ozick, Tadeusz Borowski, Aharon Appelfeld, Art Spiegelman, Alain Resnais, Claude Lanzmann. Conducted in English. Students may arrange with the instructor to take the class for German credit. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 358.
German 365 - City, Space, Memory
Full course for one semester. At the advent of the 20th century, the metropolitan city emerged as a new network of signification generating a rethinking of the trajectories of time and space. We will explore the transcription of urban space as a new site of knowledge in experimental literary forms. The spatialization of memory and history will be a major focus. City narratives from German modernity include Rilke’s novel The Notebooks of Malte Lauridds Brigge
, Benjamin’s Berlin Chronicle
and Arcades Project
, and essays by Simmel and Krakauer. We will also explore contemporary readings representing space as the container of traumatic memory (Sebald, Austerlitz), nostalgia (Pamuk, Istanbul), and "subaltern counter publics" (postcolonialism). Theories on memory are examined through Freud, Bergson, and Ricoeur. Students taking the course for German credit will have an extra weekly seminar. Prerequisite: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 365. Not offered 2009-10.
German 371 - The Laws of Lyric
Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to German poetry. The goal of the course is to develop skills in interpreting individual texts and to reflect on poetry's status within the discourses of history, philosophy, and politics. The readings have been arranged by topic rather than chronologically or by author. We will study poems by Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Hölderlin, Eichendorff, Heine, Mörike, George, Rilke, Trakl, Benn, Brecht, Celan, Eich, Bachmann, and others. Prerequisite: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Not offered 2009-10.
German 376 - German Romanticism
Full course for one semester. This course is designed to acquaint students with the theory and seminal texts of German Romanticism. Beginning with the emergence of the movement from the context of German Idealism, we will explore the revolutionary premises and program of early Romanticism in works by Schiller, Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel, Novalis, and Tieck. Through concepts such as transcendental universal poetry and irony we will examine the modernity of the Romantics. Our readings include works by the Heidelberger Romantics, such as Eichendorff, and by prominent women authors of Romanticism, including Caroline Schlegel-Schelling, Bettina Brentano, and Caroline Günderrode. We will read selections from lyric poetry across the Romantic movement. Works by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Heine will lead us to the apex and dissolution of Romanticism. The course concludes with an overview of philosophical and political developments in mid-19th century, such as the rise of nationalism and liberalism, Junges Deutschland and the revolution of 1848. Readings are in German, discussion and papers are in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Not offered 2009-10.
German 391 - Studies in German Theory: Languages of Gender
Full course for one semester. This seminar explores the role literature and literary theory have played in the development of contemporary feminism and queer theory. We will also ask why the study of language is crucial for understanding the sociocultural dynamics of sex and gender. Authors will include Kleist, Goethe, von Droste-Hülshoff, Kafka, Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Jelinek, Irigaray, Kristeva, Butler, Goldberg, and Bersani. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German credit will meet in extra sessions. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 391.
German 395 - Kleist and Kafka
Full course for one semester. This seminar offers an introduction to two of the most enigmatic authors in the German canon. We will focus on the unique challenges their work presents for ideas about what literature is and how it acquires historical or political significance. We will also look at how several major critics have tried to come to terms with these maverick writers. Readings in German. Discussions and papers in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
German 462 - Seminar: Franz Kafka
Full course for one semester. This course offers an in-depth analysis of the work of Franz Kafka and an introduction to different schools of literary criticism. We will explore the perplexing nature of Kafka’s texts; analyze his use of ambiguity, paradox, dream, and fantasy; and view his work in its social, political, and religious contexts. We will also consider different critical approaches to his work, including theological, philosophical, psychoanalytic, deconstructive, and new historical perspectives. Primary readings are from Kafka’s diaries, letters, short fiction, and novels (Der Prozess
, Das Schloss
). Readings in German, discussion and papers in German and English. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Not offered 2009-10.
German 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one year.
German 481 - Independent Study
One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.