German literature and German studies offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich language and literature of the German-speaking world. Our courses ask students to reflect on the nature and value of literary, cinematic, and artistic works as part of a larger inquiry into the meaning of life. Through intensive study of canonical and contemporary works in the original German language, our majors and minors develop inquisitiveness, critical analysis, judgment, wisdom, creativity, and appreciation for literature and art. Courses in translation offer the campus community insights into culture and history that foster self-awareness on the part of the reader and respect for people around the world.
Our strength is in our faculty’s personal attention to students and confidence in the merits of German language and literary study.
Study of related subjects such as French, European history, comparative literature, philosophy, cinema studies, and the history of music and art provide students with a well-rounded Oberlin education. A degree in German or German studies often leads to graduate work in German or comparative literature, library science, or linguistics. Our graduates also have rewarding careers in education, government, music, the nonprofit sector, international business, journalism, medicine, and law, both in the United States and in Europe.
Recognizing the cultural dimensions of language, the German department teaches linguistic skills through classroom and cocurricular activities that allow students to acquire real proficiency and cultural understanding. Literature in the form of short stories, poems, and contemporary novels are introduced already at the beginning and intermediate level of language courses. In literary survey courses, students acquire a good knowledge and understanding of the literature of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from 1700 to the present in its socio-historical and aesthetic context. At the advanced level, majors explore some of the major critical approaches to literature as well as literary topics in depth.
Our Max Kade German Writer-in-Residence Program, which brings a prominent German, Austrian, or Swiss author to campus for a 10-week residency, enhances our study of German literatures in unique ways. The program, now more than 40 years old, receives funding from the Max Kade Foundation, whose mission is to support diverse educational initiatives that promote German studies and international understanding.
The faculty strongly recommends participation in the different study abroad programs sponsored by the department. Majors should spend one term or preferably a full academic year in a German-speaking country. We believe that “otherness” should not only be explained, read, and talked about but also experienced. We also encourage all majors to live in the college’s Max Kade German House, a coeducational residence hall for 38 students. Kade House residents can immerse themselves in German language and culture through daily contact with native speakers. Guest lectures, film screenings, writer-in-residence readings, and social gatherings make the Kade House a focal point for German study at Oberlin.