Jul 13, 2024  
2013-2014 Academic Catalog 
2013-2014 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

German, B.A.

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   Member of the Division of Humanities


Daniel Patrick Reynolds


Sigmund Barber
Vance Byrd
Berna Gueneli
Jennifer Michaels
Evan Torner

German 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 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 majors go on to become educators, lawyers, activists, health professionals, writers, scholars, and lifelong learners.

Major Requirements: a minimum of 32 credits

Two tracks are offered. Proficiency in the German language is fundamental to both. For both tracks, we strongly encourage students to study for at least a semester in a German-speaking culture. The German Literature and Culture Track has as its focus the study and analysis of German literary and other cultural texts. The German Studies track allows students to pursue interdisciplinary interests in German by doing coursework outside the Department of German.

The German Literature and Culture Track

A minimum of 20 credits must be taken at the 300-level or higher. 14 of the 20 credits must be taken within the Department of German at Grinnell College.

Core Requirements:  14 credits

Additional Requirements/Recommendations: 18 Credits

  • 6 additional credits from 300 level or higher German courses
  • 12 additional credits from German courses excluding GRM 101, GRM 102, GRM 121, and GRM 212
  • With permission, up to 8 of the minimum of 32 credits may be taken in related studies outside the department.
  • Related courses in humanities and social studies and a reading knowledge of a second foreign language are strongly recommended.


The German Studies Track: Core Requirements 12 credits

Additional Requirements: 20 credits

  • 12 credits from approved courses at the 200 level or above in departments outside the Department of German.
  • 8 credits either from approved courses at the 200 level or above in departments outside the Department of German or from German courses excluding GRM 101 , GRM 102 , GRM 121  and GRM 212  .


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

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