Majoring in German

Dear Students,

Studying German or pursuing a major in Germanic Languages and Literatures is a unique opportunity to acquire fluency in the German language while also developing deep knowledge of the culture of German-speaking countries with their rich literary, artistic, philosophical, and historical traditions. In our basic language classes you will develop your initial linguistic skills through content-based, communicative, and project-based learning with a focus on multiliteracies.

In our advanced content classes you can further your knowledge in a variety of fields including current events, politics, contemporary culture and film, pre- and post-1945 history, and literary genres. You can choose from exciting offerings such as the Afro-German Experience, Contemporary Culture through Sports, The DDR, the German Fairy Tale and its Legacy, Youth Movements Across the Centuries, the History of the German Language, Green Germany, and many more, all taught fully in German. Students who complete four advanced German classes (classes with numbers in the 150s, 160s, or 170s) can earn the certificate of advanced language proficiency.

In addition to advanced classes taught in German, the department offers a variety of classes in English that further allow you to dive into German literature, philosophy, history, and politics and can be taken at any time during your college experience.

Majors choose to concentrate in one of the following areas: (1) literature, (2) media and media theory, (3) history and politics, (4) critical thought, and (5) aesthetics and the arts. They select courses from the department and other cross-listed courses to study rich and complex texts in poetry, fiction, and philosophy, as well as in economic and social theory.

German-speaking authors have influenced many of today’s humanistic and social thoughts and theories as well as natural sciences and students in our courses have the chance to study the original texts. As a major you can read texts by Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Hölderlin, Wolfgang Goethe, Immanuel Kant, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, alongside contemporary authors such as Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Elfriede Jelinek, Uwe Timm, and Yoko Tawada. Students receive practical training in close textual analysis, the logics of literary language, the ethics of reading, and the discourses of knowledge and their critiques since the enlightenment; students are encouraged to bring in their own academic interests to the German major and explore areas connected to their backgrounds such as film, visual art, electronic media, music, politics, and history.

All students are invited to participate in our summer and semester-long study abroad offerings, or complete internships in a German-speaking country. Some of our students have spent a semester of even a year in places such as Berlin, Freiburg, and Stuttgart. Students have completed internships in a variety of fields such as medical research in Munich, chemistry research in Jena, and literary research in Cologne. We are excited to work with you and help you find an internship that fits your interests, language skills, and schedule to complement your study of German at Yale.

The department also offers a variety of extracurricular events for all students interested in using the language in informal contexts outside of the classroom. Readings by well-known authors or people of interest in the German-speaking world are organized a few times each year. Check our calendar of events for updates!

Please write or stop by if you’d like to talk about becoming a major, if you have questions about the certificate of advanced language proficiency, or if you’d like to talk about anything else related to German classes at Yale

Theresa Schenker, DUS

Office Hours: T/Th 11.30am-12.30pm and by appointment

German Studies

The major in German Studies covers a broad tradition of more than five centuries in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and neighboring lands. Students gain deep competence in the German language while also reading great literature, analyzing distinctive artworks in many media, deducing intensive theories, and exploring political, linguistic, and cultural history. The German faculty works closely with undergraduates to develop their special areas of interest within these rich currents of German culture.
Majors in German Studies gain a solid grounding in German language through courses that emphasize listening, speaking, reading, and writing in interaction with authentic cultural materials. The curriculum also introduces students to the basic questions and methods of literary criticism, with a focus on rigorous reading practices for a wide range of works from different genres, disciplines, and historical moments.
German Studies courses are diverse in their topics and highly relevant to other fields of study today. Pioneers in philosophy, political theory, sociology, psychology, history, classical philology, the visual arts, architecture, and music wrote and thought in German, as did founders of the modern natural and practical sciences. Majors discover Kant, Goethe, Beethoven, Einstein, Freud, Kafka, Arendt, and many other thinkers and writers who laid the groundwork for modernity and still hold keys to understanding it.
Germany is the third-largest economy in the world, and German is spoken by over 80 million people worldwide. Students with a foundation in the language, literature, history, and intellectual revolutions of Germany are prepared to enter a wide variety of vocations. Majors have gone on to postgraduate study in Germany and the United States, and many have entered top-tier law schools and graduate programs. Recent graduates work in fields as diverse as environmental policy, journalism, arts management, consulting, and engineering, as well as in governmental and nongovernmental organizations and businesses.
Descriptions of the major in German Studies may also be found in the Bluebook (YCPS). Please refer to the YCPS for all matters pertaining to policies, regulations and requirements.