Professors: Leo A. Lensing, Chair; Krishna R. Winston
Associate Professor: Ulrich Plass
Adjunct Associate Professor:
Departmental Advising Expert 2012-2013: Leo A. Lensing
Interdisciplinary in nature, the academic field known as German studies has undergone rapid development in recent years. At Wesleyan, the Department of German Studies takes an active part in internationalizing the curriculum to educate students for a world in which a sophisticated understanding of other cultures has become increasingly important. A background in German studies can provide preparation for careers in many fields, including teaching, translation, publishing, arts administration, international law, business, and foreign service. Graduate study in certain subfields of literature, as well as linguistics, philosophy, art history, history, psychology, the natural sciences, music, and many other disciplines, calls for fluency in German.
At every level, the German Studies Department's courses in German stress the four basic skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking and attempt to develop students' sensitivity to language and its relationship to culture. Instruction in the German language helps students gain an appreciation of the significance of grammar, syntax, idiom, and levels of diction. The department's courses offered in English focus on the German-speaking countries' specific historical experiences and on their contributions to literature, the other arts (film, photography, music, painting), and many other areas. These courses often raise the question of translation, asking how successfully cultural phenomena particular to a certain place and time can be expressed in another language.
In its courses and in other activities, such as lectures and an informal film series, the department provides rich opportunities for students to encounter the cultures of the German-speaking countries past and present. All students interested in German are welcome to take courses in the department and to participate in department-sponsored events.
Major program.To become a German studies major, a student should have no grade lower than a B in any course offered by the department. The department recognizes the diversity of students' interests and goals by allowing majors great flexibility in designing their programs of study that are arranged in close consultation with a faculty advisor in the department. While a specific concentration is not required, coherence should be a guiding principle. It is strongly recommended that majors fulfill the General Education Expectations.
Requirements and procedures. The department requires nine credits' worth of courses. At least five credits must be earned in courses taught in German above the level of GRST 211. Courses in which class discussion is conducted in English may be taken in the German studies Department and, with the major advisor's approval, in other departments. A maximum of three courses from other departments may be counted. Majors have the option of concentrating in three related but separate areas of German Studies: literature, film and visual culture, and critical thought. All majors should take at least three 300-level advanced seminars. Majors are expected but not required to spend at least a semester in Germany, preferably, with the Wesleyan Program in Regensburg. Credits for courses taken in Regensburg, including one credit from the two-credit intensive language program, count toward the major, provided the subject matter is relevant to German studies and the course is taught in German. Students should consult their major advisor about whether a given course will count. Note that students who participate in the Regensburg program in their junior instead of their sophomore year can get one major credit for either GRST 214 or the Regensburg Intensive Language Course, but not for both.Criteria and procedures for departmental honors.
- Eligibility. To become a candidate for honors in German studies, a student must have earned a B+ or better in all German studies courses above GRST211, must have taken at least one course in each of the three areas of concentration, and must have taken at least three advanced seminars.
- Candidacy. A prospectus must be handed in and approved by the tutor or department chair by the end of Reading Period in the spring of the junior year. The senior must sign up for GRST409/410 (Senior Thesis Tutorial), unless he or she is a candidate for honors in German Studies and another department or program; in this case, the thesis tutorials may be divided between the departments. Alternatively, both 409 and 410 may be taken in the German studies Department or the other department or program. The two departments must agree in advance on what constitutes adequate supervision of the candidate, must approve the topic, and must agree to cooperate in the evaluation of the thesis. By the deadline set by the Committee on Honors, the department will formally nominate the candidate if it appears reasonably certain that the project will be completed on time and in the approved form.
- Honors projects. The following are examples of two-semester senior-year projects: a scholarly investigation of a topic in German Studies; a translation from German to English, accompanied by a critical essay or introduction; a production of a play, accompanied by a written analysis; a creative project written in German, accompanied by a brief introduction or afterword.
- Deadline. All theses and written projects must be submitted by the spring deadline established by the Committee on Honors. Suitable dates for theatrical productions will be arranged by the department.
- Evaluation and award of honors. The student's project will be evaluated by the tutor(s) and a designated reader or readers. If honors are awarded, they may be either honors or high honors. The award will be reported to the Honors Committee and the faculty. A student receiving high honors may, at the department's discretion, be nominated to take the qualifying examination for University honors.
Areas of Concentration
- Literature. The study of literature and language is at the center of German studies, for in works of literature we engage with language in its most complex, aesthetically rewarding, intellectually stimulating, and culturally relevant forms. Almost no discipline of knowledge can do without the study of literature. For example, students of psychology, sociology, and philosophy can draw important insights from the analysis of literary narratives. Storytelling is at the heart of all forms of human self-understanding, and literature is therefore not reducible to what we call “fiction”. For example, both Hegel’s philosophy of mind and Darwin’s theory of evolution are constructed according to literary patterns; and the study of literature, therefore, also prepares students to evaluate the narrative structures of seemingly nonliterary cultural products. Our courses introduce students to the history and aesthetics of literary texts (prose, lyric, drama) in the German language. We offer a range of seminars in German and, for students who do not read German, we teach German literature in English translation. The department’s strengths in literary studies lie in the following areas: literature in the age of Goethe, poetic realism, Viennese modernism, Weimar modernism, theory of the novel, exile literature, postwar and contemporary literature, multicultural literature, translation, poetry, literary biography, Heinrich von Kleist, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Karl Kraus, Peter Altenberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Thomas Mann, Else Lasker-Schüler, Thomas Bernhard, Christa Wolf, Paul Celan, Peter Handke, Rainald Goetz, and Günter Grass.
- Film and Visual Culture. In the wake of the “visual turn” in the humanities, film, photography, video, and visual culture in general have become increasingly important in German studies. In addition to a course (GRST273 Sex and Text in Freud's Vienna) that partially focuses on the visual culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the department offers courses on Weimar cinema and the new German cinema and is developing courses on contemporary German film and on cinematic adaptations of literature. The department’s research and teaching strengths are in the history and aesthetics of German cinema from silent film to the present; the interaction between film and literature; in exile cinema; and, more specifically, in the major directors Fritz Lang, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Werner Herzog.
- Critical Thought. Teaching the German intellectual tradition - which begins, arguably, with Martin Luther and includes brilliant and controversial figures such as Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Carl Schmitt, Heidegger, and Hannah Arendt - is integral to fostering a critical understanding of culture, society, and the arts. Our courses in the area of critical thought are of special interest to - but by no means limited to - students in philosophy, intellectual history, sociology, the College of Letters, the College of Social Studies, government, religion, and the certificate program in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory. Our strengths in this area include aesthetics, cultural and literary theory, history of science, German-Jewish thought, Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, and Theodor Adorno.
German Haus. This small house at 135 High Street, with seven single rooms, sponsors many cultural and social activities. To apply for a place, a student should get in touch with the residents of the house by the end of the first semester.
Department prizes. Students who demonstrate excellence in the study of German may be candidates for prizes given from the Scott, Prentice, and Blankenagel funds. For information, see the department chair.
Since the program is an integral part of Wesleyan's undergraduate curriculum and an organic component of the German Studies Department's offerings, majors in German studies are urged to participate, either as sophomores or, at the latest, as second-semester juniors. Up to 30 students from Wesleyan, Vanderbilt, Wheaton, and other colleges and universities are admitted to the program annually. Open to students who have had at least three semesters of college German or the equivalent, the extended semester is divided into intensive language preparation (January-March) and regular matriculation at the University of Regensburg for the German summer semester (April-July).
Students choose from a broad selection of university courses, supplemented by group tutorials organized and monitored by the resident director. An informal series of cultural events includes visits to theaters and concerts, excursions to historical sites and museums, and guest lectures.
Students earn credit for four, or, in special cases, five, courses. The preparatory language course is taught by the staff of the university's Institute for German as a Foreign Language. A faculty member from one of the sponsoring institutions administers all aspects of the program and advises students during their six-month stay in Germany. Under the terms of the agreement with the University of Regensburg, all Wesleyan participants are guaranteed rooms in dormitories and other housing facilities that ensure maximum contact with German students.
Brochures and application forms are available from the German Studies Department, 65 Lawn Avenue, or from the Office of International Studies, 105 Fisk Hall. The application deadline is November 1.
The minor in German Studies was approved by the Educational Policy Committee in 2011-12 and is available to students graduating in 2013 and beyond.
Requirements and procedures
The minor requires 6 course credits with a minimum GPA of B. Four of the courses must be above the GRST 211 level and taught entirely in German; at least two of these must be taken at Wesleyan. The other two courses may be in either English or German; they must be taken in the Wesleyan German Studies Department. All courses counted toward the minor must be taken for a letter grade. Exceptions will be made for students majoring in the College of Letters and the College of Social Sciences.
Any student who intends to earn the minor in German Studies should speak with the department chair by the end of the junior year at the latest. Satisfactory completion of the minor will be certified by the department