Feb 03, 2023  
2019 - 2020 Academic Catalog 
2019 - 2020 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

German Studies, B.A.

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German Studies

   Member of the Division of Humanities


Daniel Patrick Reynolds


Vance Byrd
Javier Samper Vendrell

German Studies offers an exciting pathway to a liberal arts education through the study of Europe’s most widely-spoken first language.  German is unquestionably the language of some of the most influential, intellectual, scientific, literary, and artistic production in the Western world.  As one of the most commonly used languages on the globe, German will retain a prominent position in an increasingly interconnected world.  There are important economic, cultural, and political reasons for studying the language and cultures of German speakers.  Indeed, the present world cannot be adequately understood without knowledge of the influence from German-speaking Europe across the centuries.  German speaking intellectuals, artists, and scientists from Gutenberg, Bach, Luther, Leibniz, Kepler, and Kant to Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, have left indelible marks on our efforts to understand and critique ourselves through literature, art, philosophy, natural science, and the social sciences. 

The German Studies Department offers a full range of beginning through advanced courses on language, literature, film, and intellectual and artistic expression. Through close and frequent contact with faculty and students in the classroom and beyond, our majors graduate from Grinnell College with fluency in the German language.  Students have the opportunity to hone their German skills at the weekly German Table, at the weekly Kaffeestunde, and with the native German language assistant in German House. Students can take a short course each spring with a visiting German Writer-in-Residence. We encourage both majors and non-majors in our classes to study abroad, most frequently at programs in Freiburg or in Berlin.

Beyond developing language fluency, our curriculum immerses students in different literary, artistic, and filmic traditions; it presents students with unfamiliar historical experiences and cultural values that cause them to question their own; it furnishes students with a deeper understanding of the grammar, idiom, vocabulary, and evolution of the native language, making them better writers and communicators. Because our interdisciplinary courses link philosophical, sociological, political-scientific, and historical inquiry together with the study of literature, film, music, popular culture and media, students are encouraged to think broadly, in the finest traditions of the liberal arts. The study of German deepens students’ engagement in their coursework beyond the department in the humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences.

The 100-level courses provide a thorough introduction to the language, while the 200-level courses hone writing and reading skills by introducing students to sophisticated authentic texts and films.  300-level courses cover the development of German cultural expression up to the present day through a combination of literary, filmic, journalistic, and essayistic texts, films, and other media.  Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) and other forms of independent study are encouraged for those who wish to pursue intensive study of advanced or special topics.  

German is valuable for students contemplating graduate study in numerous fields, planning careers in government service, joining businesses engaged in international trade, working in organizations committed to global change, or embarking on a lifelong journey of continued intellectual, cultural, and personal enrichment.  German Studies majors go on to become educators, lawyers, activists, health professionals, writers, scholars, and lifelong learners.

Major Requirements: a minimum of 32 credits

GRM 101 GRM 102 , and GRM 212  do not count toward the 32 credits required for the major.

Core Requirements: 10 credits

Additional 300-level Requirements: 10 credits

  • 10 credits at the 300-level or higher in addition to the Core Requirements.

Electives: 12 credits

  • 12 credits at the 200-level or higher.

Additional Information

  • 12 of the required 32 major credits may be taken off-campus.
  • Up to 8 of the required 32 major credits may be cognates from approved 200 or 300-level courses in other departments.
  • 14 of the 20 credits required under the Core Requirements and Additional 300-Level Requirements must be taken within the Department of German Studies at Grinnell College.


To be considered for honors in German Studies, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for honors, must complete GRM-499, demonstrate superior performance in their coursework in the major, and make contributions to the department outside the classroom.

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