German Studies

Chair: TBA, Foreign Languages and Literatures
German
Susan Babilon
Emily Jones
Affiliated Faculty
Dennis Crockett, Art History and Visual Culture Studies
Patrick Frierson, Philosophy
Julia Ireland, Philosophy
Paul Luongo, Music (on Sabbatical, Spring 2015)
Lynn Sharp, History
Walter Wyman, Religion

German Studies Website »

German studies is an interdisciplinary major that allows students to gain a comprehensive understanding of German culture by examining it from a broad range of academic perspectives. In consultation with their adviser, students design a course of study that may include, in addition to advanced language study, selections from multiple disciplines such as German language and literature, art history and visual culture studies, history, music history, philosophy, religion, or world literature. Coursework may include courses taught in German, courses taught in English, and courses taught in English but cross-listed with German studies (which require students to complete a portion of the work in German).

Placement in language courses: Students with previous foreign language experience should consult the statement on placement in language courses in the Foreign Languages and Literatures section of this catalog.

Distribution: Courses completed in German apply to the humanities and cultural pluralism distribution areas, with the following exceptions:
     No distribution: 391, 392

Learning Goals: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Acquire the linguistic skills needed to read, write and converse in German. Understand the fundamentals of the culture, literature and history of the German-speaking world. Acquire the conceptual skills necessary to navigate through German culture.
  • Accessing Academic Community/Resources
    • Engage in German-language materials.
  • Communication
    • Convey understanding of German culture in both English and German. Analyze and synthesize orally and in writing.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Rely on good evidence and sound reasoning.
  • Research Experience
    • Engage in research with German-language materials.

The German Studies major: A minimum of 36 credits, including four credits in senior thesis, four credits in a course taught in German at Whitman at the 400 level and another 12 credits (three courses) in German at the 300 level or above. The additional 16 credits of coursework may be in German at the 200 level or above, or may be a combination of German at the 200 level or above and up to (but not more than) 12 credits in the approved German studies courses. Regularly approved courses in German studies are available in history, music, philosophy, religion, art history and visual culture studies, and world literature (see below). Other courses, including those taken abroad, may be accepted as German studies with consent of the faculty in German studies.

Typically, the student entering Whitman with little or no German would include in his or her major: second-year German, third-year German, two German literature courses, two additional courses, either in German literature or in German studies, and a senior thesis.

The student who was able to take third-year German as a first-year student would have more flexibility and would typically take third-year German, three additional German literature courses, three additional courses either in German literature or in German studies, plus a thesis.

The thesis is written in English, but students must work with texts in the original German. Because these theses are so interdisciplinary in nature, we require an outside reader whose area of academic specialization can enhance the development and assessment of the thesis. The outside reader is not necessarily from the affiliated faculty, but rather the person on the Whitman faculty who has the most expertise in the student’s subject matter and is willing to serve.

The Final Comprehensive Exercise consists of the oral defense of the thesis. Prior to the defense of the thesis, students will be asked to prepare presentations on a significant text in German literature and an important scholarly analysis of German culture, chosen by the faculty. During this oral examination, students also will be asked to discuss these texts as well as their own thesis. In the course of the examination, students will need to demonstrate a broad knowledge of German literature, history, and culture.

Honors in the major: Students majoring in German Studies should register for “German Studies 492: Senior Thesis” for their final semester. If at the Senior Comprehensive Exam, Committee members determine that the thesis written is an honors-level thesis, the student will earn Honors in Major Study, if he or she additionally:

  • earns distinction on his or her Senior Comprehensive Exam;
  • attains Cumulative and Major GPAs specified in the faculty code (3.300 and 3.500, respectively); and
  • earns a grade of A or A- on the thesis.

The Program Director will notify the Registrar of those students attaining Honors in Major Study no later than the beginning of the third week of April, at which time the Registrar will change the thesis course in which they are registered from German Studies 492 to German Studies 498. Two copies of each honors thesis must be submitted to Penrose Library no later than Reading Day.

The German Studies minor: A minimum of 20 credits: 12 credits in German at the 300 level or above; at least four of which must be from a course taught in German at Whitman at the 400 level; eight additional credits in German at the 200 level or above or in an approved course in German studies at the 200 level or above; no independent studies count toward the minor. Courses that count for other majors may be used for the minor.

Note: Courses taken P-D-F prior to the declaration of a language major or minor will satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor. Courses taken P-D-F may not be used to satisfy course and credit requirements for the major or minor after the major or minor has been declared.

Students who major in German studies may choose among the following courses for their required area courses and electives:

Art History and Visual Culture Studies 355 German Visual Culture: 1871-1933
History 278 Twentieth Century Europe
History 277 Nineteenth Century Europe, 1815-1914
History 339 Modern Germany: Imagining a Nation?
Music 298 Music History II: Classical and Romantic Periods
Philosophy 215 German Moral Thought
Philosophy 318 Hannah Arendt as Political Thinker
Philosophy 322 Kant’s Moral Philosophy
Philosophy 338B Introduction to German Philosophy
Philosophy 351 What is the Human Being?
Philosophy 422 Heidegger’s Being and Time
Religion 228 Modern Western Religious Thought I: Crisis and Renewal
Religion 229 Modern Western Religious Thought II: The Twentieth Century
Religion 240 Modern Jewish Thought

105, 106 Elementary German
4, 4 Fall: Jones; Spring: Babilon

This beginning German course will provide students with the skills to communicate in basic German. Grammar is taught with an emphasis on its use in oral and written communication. Reading skills and cultural topics are introduced as well. Four periods per week. Prerequisite for 106: German 105.

200-204 Topics in Applied German Studies
1-2

A course meeting once per week, designed to provide students with supplementary language practice. May be offered in conjunction with an English-language course on a German cultural topic or as a stand-alone course. One-two credits, depending on course requirements. Prerequisite: German 205. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism. Any current offerings follow.

200 ST: German Theater Club
1, x Babilon

Students will develop oral communication skills in German through exercises in theatrical improvisation. Class activities will blend traditional theater sports and scene work from existing texts. Since the goal is improvement of conversational skills in German, there will be no public performances. No theater background is assumed. Course meets for one hour each week, with approximately one hour per week of homework. Prerequisite: German 205 or equivalent. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism.

205, 206 Intermediate German
4, 4 Fall: Babilon; Spring: Jones

Intermediate German provides a comprehensive review of German, focusing on all four language skills — speaking, aural comprehension, reading, and writing. While grammar will be reviewed and expanded upon, emphasis is on communication and German cultural knowledge. German is used extensively in classroom. Four periods per week. Students who have not taken German at Whitman previously are required to take a departmental placement exam for entrance. Prerequisite for 205: German 106. Prerequisite for 206: German 205.

228 Modern Western Religious Thought I: Crisis and Renewal
4; not offered 2014-15

This is a course in Christian theology which begins with the Reformation of the 16th century. What were the religious ideas of the Protestant Reformers that lead to the break with Roman Catholicism? Next the course will turn to the rise of religious skepticism in the Enlightenment: How did modern science in the 17th century, and modern philosophy in the 18th, lead to a crisis in religious belief? The course will conclude with 19th century attempts to respond to atheism and skepticism, and to reconstruct theology on a modern basis: “What is it reasonable to believe in the modern world?” Not open to first-year students. Students enrolled in German 228 must meet the German prerequisites and will be expected to complete some reading and writing assignments in German. May be elected as Religion 228. Prerequisite: any 300-level German course, placement exam, or consent of instructor. Offered in alternate years.

229 Modern Western Religious Thought II: The Twentieth Century
4, x Wyman

This course is a continuation of Religion 228, focusing on how 20th century religious thinkers have answered the question, “What is it reasonable to believe in the modern world?” How have 20th century religious thinkers, both conservative and liberal, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, responded to the challenges to the religious traditions of the West presented by the modern world? Topics vary, but may include: responses to skepticism and atheism; the pluralism of religions and the problem of religious truth; God and the problem of evil; liberation and feminist theologies; contemporary interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth; Jewish responses to the Holocaust. Students enrolled in German 229 must meet the German prerequisites and will be expected to complete some reading and writing assignments in German. May be taken independently of Religion 228. Not open to first-year students. May be elected as Religion 229. Prerequisite: any 300-level German course, placement exam, or consent of instructor. Offered in alternate years.

305, 306 Composition and Conversation
4, 4 Babilon

For students who aim to attain a high level of proficiency in writing and speaking skills for the discussion and study of more advanced topics in German culture. Extensive daily conversation, along with weekly readings, advanced grammar review and student-led discussions on current events. Students also prepare weekly essays. Instruction entirely in German. Three classroom meetings per week, plus required conversation practice with the language assistant. German 305 may be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: any of the following: German 206 or any 300-level German course, placement exam, or consent of instructor.

318 Hannah Arendt as Political Thinker

4; not offered 2014-15
Hannah Arendt disavowed the title of philosopher, instead describing herself as a “political thinker.” This seminar will investigate what Arendt means by this description, focusing in particular on the notions of “world,” “natality,” and what she calls the vita active. Texts will include Between Past and Future, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem as well as selections from Arendt’s work on Kant and aesthetics and cultural theory. Biweekly seminar papers and a final research paper will be required. May be elected as Philosophy 318. Students enrolled in German 318 must meet the German prerequisites and will be expected to complete some reading and writing assignments in German. Prerequisite: one course in Philosophy 300-level or higher and any 300-level German course or placement exam. Open only to senior Philosophy majors, German Studies majors, or by consent of instructor.

335 Romantic Nature
4, x Jones

Why does nature inspire us? Where did our understanding of nature come from? We have inherited our interactions with nature from a variety of sources: The Enlightenment was marked by political, intellectual, and scientific revolution and attempted to explain the world through science. The Romantics, on the other hand, reacted by trying to restore some mystery to Nature and to acknowledge its sublime power. This Nature ideal spread throughout Europe and then on to America, where European Romanticism inspired writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and their contemporaries’ nature writing, which continues to exert influence on the American understanding of the natural world. This course will look at where American Transcendentalists and Romantics found inspiration. Students will read key literary and philosophical texts of the Romantic period, focusing on Germany, England, and America and explore echoes of these movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: How do the Romantics continue to influence the discourse of environmentalism in America and around the world? Is the Romantic impulse at work in the establishment of the national parks system? Can we see echoes of the Romantic Nature ideal in narratives of toxic, post-industrial landscapes? May be elected as Environmental Studies 335.

339 Writing Environmental Disaster
4; not offered 2014-15

From natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, storms) to man-made ecological catastrophe (nuclear accidents, oil spills, the thinning ozone layer), environmental disaster inspires fear, rage, and action. This course will focus on fiction and non-fiction that meditates on these events and our reactions to them. We will examine the ways in which literature and the other arts depict disaster, how natural disaster descriptions differ from those of man-made environmental crisis, whether humans can coexist peacefully with nature or are continually pitted against it, and how literature’s depiction of nature changes with the advent of the toxic, post-industrial environment. Authors discussed may include Kleist, Goethe, Atwood, Ozeki, Carson, Sebald, and others. May be elected as Environmental Studies 339.

387, 388 Special Studies
4

Designed to permit close study of one or more authors, a movement, or a genre in German literature. Conducted in German or English, at the discretion of the instructor. Prerequisite: consent of instructor. Any current offerings follow. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism.

391, 392 Independent Study
1-3, 1-3 Staff

Directed reading and preparation of a critical paper or papers on a topic suggested by the student. The project must be approved by the staff. The number of students accepted for the course will depend on the availability of the staff. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

400 Advanced Special Studies
4

Designed to permit close study of one or more authors, a movement, or a genre in German literature. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 305, 306, or consent of instructor. Any current offerings follow. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism.

407 Heimat und Heimweh
x, 4 Babilon

In this course we will examine portrayals of the experience of the outsider in German language texts from nineteenth-century travel literature to contemporary transnational literature. Our focus will be on encounters by German travelers and immigrants with Amerika, as well as on more recent discussions by writers of minority and immigrant groupswithin Germany. We will look at issues of identity and assimilation, as well as the history of immigration policies of the U.S. and Germany. Of particular interest will be questions of how German-language writers examine their identity, their new and old homes, and how they engage those communities as ordinary citizens, but also as writers contributing to the construction of the local culture. We will also examine how issues of the outsider are presented in popular music and film. Class conducted in German, short weekly papers, one presentation and a final research paper. Prerequisite: German 305, 306, or consent of instructor. Offered every three years.

408 Berlin: Evolution of a Metropolis
4; not offered 2014-15

Just as Paris was “the capital of the nineteenth century,” Berlin has emerged as the capital of the twentieth century. Students in this course will study the origins of the great city and discuss essential issues of memory, identity, and history. We will study literature, art and film from the nineteenth century to the present. In addition, special attention will be paid to architectural landmarks (buildings, squares, monuments) that will act as case studies in how the city’s government and people process the past. This course will give students a solid grounding in twentieth century German history and literature while introducing theoretical concepts from Benjamin, Foucault, Kracauer, Simmel, and others. Class discussion, presentations, most readings, and all written work will be done in German. Prerequisite: German 305, 306, or consent of instructor. Offered every three years.

409 Revolution, Rebellion and Resistance
4; not offered 2014-15

This course will examine prose, drama, poetry and theoretical literature written during the most tumultu­ous moments of modern German history. We will explore transformations in German self-perception through close readings of texts that directly address: the Napoleonic Wars and the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, World War I and the November Revolution, re­sistance to fascism, the student movement of 1968, and the sanfte Revolution of 1989 that preceded Germany’s reunification. Class discussion, short presentations, readings and written work will be in German. Prereq­uisite: German 305, 306, or consent of instructor. Offered every three years.

410 The Fairy Tale
4; not offered 2014-15

Fairy tales allow us to study literature as it transforms itself over the course of history. In this class we’ll examine the German tradition of the folk tale in the collections of the Brothers Grimm as well as in the early art tales, and later variations thereof. We’ll approach the tales from a variety of perspectives, including structuralist, historical, sociological, and feminist. While gaining an understanding of the tales’ place in German literature, history, and society, students will continue to expand their German language skills through reading, writing, and participating in class discussions. Class conducted in German, short weekly papers, one presentation and a final research paper. Prerequisite: German 305, 306, or consent of instructor. Offered every three years.

492 Senior Thesis
4, 4 Staff

In-depth research concluding in the preparation of an undergraduate senior thesis on a specific topic in German studies. Required of German studies majors.

498 Honors Thesis
4, 4 Staff

Designed to further independent research or project leading to the preparation of an undergraduate thesis or a project report. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in German. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.

The program in German Studies also includes courses in world literature. These classes are listed in the World Literature section of the catalog.