German Studies

Professors: Manwell (Co-Chair), Sederberg (Co-Chair), Powers

In studying languages, students acquire not only a linguistic skill but also an understanding of other peoples’ cultures and histories. They gain a new perspective from which to view their own cultural background and language. Knowledge of a second language is an important facet of the liberal arts program, and proficiency in a second language at the 201 level is a graduation requirement.

Our innovative German curriculum foregrounds cultural topics at all levels, while helping students develop skills in speaking, reading, writing, and listening. The disciplinary basis for the program, German Studies, draws on literature, history, art, gender studies, environmental studies, popular culture, music, architecture, and film (among other things) to aid students in the development of a critical understanding of the German-speaking world and their own. The German Studies curriculum uses a genre- and literacy-based approach to language learning that is dedicated to integrating linguistic knowledge, cultural learning and textual analysis throughout the four-year major curriculum, top to bottom. Students do not need to wait for advanced classes to explore meaningful topics relevant to German-language cultures and communities. For example, through genre-focused courses such as those on film and contemporary German-language culture, the German Studies program recognizes the importance of new media in the 20th and 21st centuries and how these media are reshaping contemporary culture. Other advanced courses take a wider historical view, examining the changing nature of German cultures through the lens of a particular genre (such as film) or theme (such as minority cultures).

Most Kalamazoo College students participate in the study abroad program; for students interested in German, there are short-term and long-term opportunities in Erlangen and L√ľneburg. Course work and off-campus experiences are complemented by on-campus opportunities that maintain or improve a student’s language skills, including conversation groups led by teaching assistants from Germany.

Faculty members meet students inside and outside the classroom, participate in campus activities, and advise students regarding career choices in foreign service, education, publishing, international business, and other fields. A number of German majors, as well as students in the German program, have been able to participate in opportunities such as scientific research, or internships with German companies, both in the United States and in Europe.

As part of the study abroad program at Kalamazoo College, scholarships for one year of further study at the German universities of Erlangen and L√ľneburg are available to qualified graduates of the College. Students from German Studies have been particularly successful in obtaining Fulbright fellowships and other support for further study, research, or work in Germany or Austria. Competition for these scholarships is not limited to German majors.


All incoming students who have previously studied German in high school or elsewhere must take the College’s placement test in German.

Those students who wish to receive credit for German courses that they have taken at another college or university before enrolling at Kalamazoo College must take the German language placement test and test into a higher-level course than the one for which they are seeking credit. Any appeal of the placement test results should be directed to a faculty member in the Department of German Studies.

Advanced Placement

For students with an advanced placement (AP) score of 4 or 5, credit toward the B.A. degree will be awarded automatically upon admission. Study must begin with GERM 203 or above to receive credit in German at Kalamazoo College. Students with AP scores of 3 may be granted the waiver of a prerequisite, but may not count an AP 3 for credit.

Requirements for the Major in German Studies

Number of Units

Eight units are required, not including GERM 101,102, or 201 (the eight may include the SIP). One English-language cognate taught in German Studies may be counted, e.g. GERM 200. No more than two of these units may be earned during study abroad. Courses from study abroad may replace required courses in consultation with a faculty member. For students on long-term study abroad, please consult with faculty, as three units may be counted in some cases.

Required Courses

  • GERM 203 Advanced German I: Germany Today
  • GERM 204 Advanced German II: German Stories and Histories
  • GERM 301 Introduction to German Cultural Studies: Reading Texts and Contexts
  • GERM 470 Contemporary German Culture
  • GERM 490 Senior Seminar


Three courses above 201, two of which must be at the 400-level.  Courses from study abroad may replace required courses in consultation with a faculty member.

Students considering a major in German Studies are urged to begin their study of German in their first year.

German Studies majors and minors are encouraged to take coursework in cognate programs in areas such as History, Jewish Studies, Political Science, Philosophy, Art History, Film and Media Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, International and Area Studies, or International Economics and Business.

Cognate courses of particular interest to German Studies majors: ARTX 145 and 150 Survey of Art, HIST 254 History, Memory, and Identity in Modern Europe, HIST 256 Refugees and Migrants in Modern Europe, HIST 263 Jews in a Changing Europe, MUSC 150 and 155 Western Art Music, PHIL 208 19th-Century Philosophy, PHIL 214 Philosophy of Art, PHIL 306 Philosophy of Language, PHIL 310 Critical Social Theory, POLS 107 International Politics, POLS 270 The European Union, POLS 330 Politics of the Holocaust.

Requirements for the Minor in German Studies

Number of Units

Six units are required, not including GERM 101 and 102.  No more than two of these units may be earned during study abroad.  Courses from study abroad may replace required courses in consultation with a faculty member.

Required Courses

  • GERM 201 Intermediate German
  • GERM 203 or 204 Advanced German I or II
  • GERM 301 Introduction to German Cultural Studies: Reading Texts and Contexts
  • GERM 470 Contemporary German Culture


Two 400-level German Studies

German Studies Courses

GERM 101 Beginning German I: The Personal World An interdisciplinary introduction to the German language with an emphasis on the personal world and developing global awareness. Through interactive communicative activities covering the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), students learn to ask and answer questions and share information about themselves, their families and friends, and their daily activities. Themes includes art, weather, climate change, and food cultures.
GERM 102 Beginning German II: The German-Speaking World Expansion of the skills acquired in GERM 101. Students build on their basic knowledge of everyday German-speaking culture (through topics such as tourism and transportation, health care, and leisure activities, interior design and daily routines, consumerism and global trade, plastics and food waste, eco-activism, childhood traditions and memories), improve their communicative competence, and develop skills needed to negotiate a variety of cultural settings. GERM-101
GERM 200 German Film One of the most revealing ways to explore the complexities of German history in the 20th and 21st centuries is through film. This course examines German cinema as a reflection of one of the most dynamic, and at times problematic, nations in the modern world. Through a deep dive into masterpieces of German cinema, we will explore the role that films have played in shaping and reflecting German cultural ideals from the early 20th century through the present. Along with gaining fluency in the basics of film analysis, students will learn to apply fundamental concepts in film theory to works from a broad range of genres, styles, and periods. No previous knowledge required. In English.
GERM 201 Intermediate German: Topics in German Culture Continued expansion of the skills acquired in GERM 101 and 102. Students further develop their ability to communicate in German and their understanding of the German-speaking world by engaging with increasingly complex topics (such as education, environmental issues, politics, history, and multiculturalism). topics such as multiculturalism in Austria; art, music, and history in Vienna, utopia and dystopia and visions of the future; linguistic change; and social justice projects. As in German 101 and 102, all four language skills are practiced, and comparisons between American and German society provide the basis for class discussions, to develop increased linguistic complexity and self-expression. GERM-102
GERM 203 Advanced German I: Germany Today This course centers around themes related to life in contemporary Germany, with special emphasis on developing students' writing skills in various genres. In a unit on current events in Germany, for example, students read and listen to news reports, practice vocabulary items and linguistic structures typical of journalistic texts, and finally compose (in multiple drafts) a newspaper article on a topic of their choice. In German. May be taken after German 204. GERM-201; GERM-203L must be taken concurrently
GERM 204 Advanced German II: German Stories and Histories This course centers around texts presented within the historical and cultural context of 20th century Germany, with special emphasis on developing students' reading skills and cultural literacy. Continued practice of linguistic structures and systematic vocabulary building are also central to the course. In German. May be taken before German 203. GERM-201; GERM-204L must be taken concurrently
GERM 239 Cold War Kids This course examines the various shapes and impacts of youth rebellion in the GDR (= East Germany) and looks at how the state reacted to these rebellions with attempts at indoctrination and control. The course examines these topics through readings, film, and music that offer a wide variety of perspectives on the topic and allow the students to develop analytic skill and improve their understanding of cultures beyond their own experience.
GERM 295 Marx and the Arts What role does art play in the struggle to combat different forms of social, economic, and racial injustice? From the moment Karl Marx wrote his first reflections on this topic, this question has continued to preoccupy philosophers and artists from different schools of the Marxist tradition. In this course, we will examine the highly contested relation between art and politics within the legacy of Marxist thought. Focusing on key artists and thinkers concerned with the revolutionary potential of art, we will continually seek to explore the relevance of historical and theoretical debates to our current historical moment.
GERM 295 Bearing Witness: Holocaust Literature & Testimony First-person accounts of the Holocaust testify to persecution and violence, and represent acts of resistance against the Nazis' attempt to destroy all signs of Jewish life and culture. Memoirs, diaries, poetry, oral histories, and literary works of Holocaust victims and survivors continue to be read across the world. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we discuss what it means to bear witness to traumatic events, and how survivors (and subsequent generations) thematize the challenges of memory. Students will learn about the historical events of the Holocaust, and will discuss the role of these powerful literary works in post-Holocaust memorialization. Sophomores only
GERM 301 Introduction to German Cultural Studies: Reading Texts in Contexts This course serves as an introduction to upper-level courses in German Cultural Studies. It stresses the central role that culture plays in fostering an understanding of German society, and it introduces students to the tools and theories of cultural analysis. Readings and genres range from literature and film to documentaries, magazine articles, blogs, cartoons, and music, and they may be focused on a single theme across a number of time periods to provide a context toward an understanding of how a particular text reflects cultural identities. In German. GERM-203 or GERM-204
GERM 420 Introduction to German Cinema This course will offer an overview of German cinema through the analysis of nine films from the Weimar Republic through the post-Wende period. We will screen and discuss films from a wide variety of periods of German cinematic history during this course: the Weimar Era, the Third Reich, Postwar Cinema, New German Cinema, East German or DEFA Cinema, Women's Cinema, and post-Wende cinema. Our primary focus in this course will be on learning the basics of film language and analysis; developing skill in close textual reading of film through sequence analysis; and understanding the film both as art and as cultural artifact within its historical (and film historical) contexts. In German. GERM-301
GERM 430 Themes in German Literature and Culture This course examines the changing nature of German culture through a variety of texts (ranging from literature, history, and popular culture to music, architecture, and film) on a particular theme. Possible themes for the course include "Green Germany," "German-Jewish Literature and Culture," "Germany Imagines Itself: Culture and Identity in the 18th and 19th Centuries," "Holocaust Literature and Film," and "Reading Berlin." May be repeated for credit (consult with the department). In German. GERM-301
GERM 435 Minority Cultures in Germany This course focuses on Germany as a multicultural society and on related popular cultural discourse. It explores issues surrounding immigration in Germany since 1960, focusing on the period after 1990. It examines various cultural practices as staged in film, fiction, blogs, political articles, Hip Hop, television (documentaries, talk shows, sitcoms), with an emphasis on the constructions of ethnicity, nation, race, class, and gender. We analyze several political and cultural debates that dominated the media in Germany and Europe at large (e.g. the headscarf and integration debates), and read theoretical articles examining the relationship between immigration, culture, and identity. In German. Take GERM-301
GERM 440 German Diary Cultures: Adventure, Intimacy, Scandal This course explores German-language literature and culture through diaries, which have remained popular among published authors and ordinary people for centuries. Some diaries provide a record of travels, others give a more private account of self-discovery. Diaries are often social texts, to be read and shared with family and friends. We will discuss various texts: travel journals, war diaries, refugee accounts, hybrid letter-diaries, fictionalized diaries, diaries in film, and new media forms. We will consider what makes this form of first-person writing powerful, how it affects writer and reader, and issues of subjectivity and representation in autobiographical writing. Must have taken GERM-301.
GERM 470 Contemporary German Culture This course examines a selection of topics, themes, and issues that are part of the contemporary German cultural and political landscape. These include relations between east and west Germans, efforts to reform German higher education, social challenges posed by Germany's aging populace, German immigration laws, ongoing efforts to come to terms with the history of National Socialism, and the influence of the United States on German popular culture. Students will work with a wide variety of texts that range from autobiographical and fictional works (novels and short stories), to films, film reviews, music, on-line newspaper articles, government press releases, surveys, and political cartoons. Students will acquire and practice sophisticated vocabulary, grammatical structures, and discourse markers that will allow them to comprehend and discuss these texts. Student responses will take the form of informal conversations, prepared debates, formal presentations, discussion leadership, and written essays in various genres. In German. GERM-301
GERM 490 Senior Seminar This course examines the changing nature of German culture through a variety of texts (ranging from literature, history, and popular culture to music, architecture, and film) on a particular theme. Possible themes for the course include "Green Germany," "German-Jewish Literature and Culture," "Germany Imagines Itself: Culture and Identity in the 18th and 19th Centuries," "Holocaust Literature and Film," and "Reading Berlin." May be repeated for credit (consult with the department). In German. GERM-301 and Senior Standing
GERM 593 Senior Integrated Project Each program or department sets its own requirements for Senior Integrated Projects done in that department, including the range of acceptable projects, the required background of students doing projects, the format of the SIP, and the expected scope and depth of projects. See the Kalamazoo Curriculum -> Senior Integrated Project section of the Academic Catalog for more details. Permission of department and SIP supervisor required.
GERM 600 Teaching Assistantship