photo of German books and a pair of glasses on a desktop


German majors at Reed explore one of the most dynamic intellectual and cultural traditions in the modern era. The authors we study have left their mark on virtually every field of the humanities and social sciences, from discussions of truth and beauty to debates about revolution, justice, and world government. In our close-knit department, majors work with the faculty to design a unique course of study tailored to their interests. Seminars help students hone their interpretive skills while studying canonical and non-canonical works of literature and philosophy. Interdisciplinary research in film and media studies, comparative literature, cultural and political theory, and the history of science is also supported.

Reed’s German House, both a residence hall and cultural center on campus, allows students to immerse themselves in the language and participate in regular events, including faculty-student dinners and holiday parties, weekly coffee hours, and a film series. Each year, a German university student lives in the house to assist with classes and extracurricular activities while providing regular contact with a native speaker.

Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to live and work in a diverse multicultural society in which new understandings of national and transnational identity are being forged. Reed encourages German majors to spend one or two semesters studying in Berlin, Munich, or Tübingen. With their virtually unlimited course offerings, these large universities are an excellent complement to the intensive liberal arts college experience at Reed.

“Majoring in German at Reed was an incredible journey (or Bildungsreise), and I continue to use the invaluable writing, language, and critical thinking skills I learned along the way.” BENJAMIN DEYOUNG ’15


Professor profile

Professor Jan Mieszkowski

Comparative Literature, Literary Theory & Philosophy
photo of Professor Jan Mieszkowski

Reginald F. Arragon Professor of German & Humanities Jan Mieszkowski has long maintained that one of the defining features of a Reed student is an eagerness to engage with new ideas and forms of inquiry. “I never cease to marvel at the focus and drive of my students,” says Jan. “Their creativity and intellectual fortitude is a constant source of inspiration for me.”

In his scholarship, Jan has developed innovative approaches to canonical texts and arguments. In his first book, Labors of Imagination (2006), he shows how debates about the power of poetry helped shape the modern conception of freedom. In Watching War (2012), he argues that since the late eighteenth century we have all been unwitting spectators to military conflicts, which are waged with an eye to distracting, entertaining, and sometimes even boring their audiences. In his most recent book, Crises of the Sentence (2018), Jan considers why literary scholars have had surprisingly little to say about what a sentence actually is.

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Recent Courses

Thinking Machines: Androids and Automatons in Science and Literature
This course tracks the interwoven fates of androids and humans from Descartes through to the present day, examining the ways in which machines have served as a foil for artists, scientists, and philosophers to understand what (if anything) is particularly human about human beings.

Revolutions in Poetic Language
Between 1750 and 1850, virtually every assumption about poetry’s forms, powers, and goals underwent a series of radical transformations that would shape the modern understanding of art and literature. Reading lyric, dramatic, and prose works, as well as critical and philosophical essays, we develop skills in interpreting texts and formalizing the theoretical challenges they present.

Representing Genocide
This course asks how film and literature can help us recognize, explain, and respond to genocide, a crucial feature of twentieth-century history. We explore a wide range of genres and media, including testimonies, memoirs, fiction, graphic novels, and feature films. We also discuss the representation of victims and perpetrators, different forms of witnessing, and the aesthetics of shock and horror.

Post-Graduate Opportunities

  • Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program
  • DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) Professional Internships
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals

What do alumni do?

ICT Technician and Trainer
Bonn International School
Roman Michael García ’16

Postdoctoral Fellow in Germanic Languages and Literatures
Harvard University
Daniel Carranza ’12

Law Clerk
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP
Sean O’Grady ’12

Publicity Manager
Avid Reader Press, Simon & Schuster
Alexandra Primiani ’11

Assistant Senior Instructional Professor; Director of the German Language Program
University of Chicago
Maeve Hooper ’09

Senior Marketing Manager
Bryanna Emmerling ’08

Urban & Public Affairs Librarian
Portland State University
Emily Ruth Ford ’02