Undergraduate Program

Lesende, Gerhard Richter, 1994 (courtesy of the artist)
Gerhard Richter, “Lesende” (1994), oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist.

Program of Study

The program in Germanic Studies is intended to provide students with a wide ranging and highly personalized introduction to the language, literature, and culture of German-speaking countries and to various methods of approaching and examining these areas. The innovative and flexible undergraduate program at the Department of Germanic Studies offers a broad curriculum through which you can engage with a variety of fields ranging from languages such as German, the most widely used first language in the European Union, to Norwegian, and Yiddish; literature and art; philosophy and cultural theory; theater and performance; political theory and history; psychoanalysis; visual culture; and gender studies. The department offers a window onto European thought more broadly and it is a gateway to the humanities in general. For example, you can learn about Goethe, Nietzsche, Kafka, and Freud; fairy tales and gothic stories; expressionist architecture and Weimar cinema; the Nazi past; the development of the European Union; nature and Green Germany; migration and globalization – among other topics.

The department prepares students for successful careers in business, law, and politics; culture, research, and teaching; as well as related work.  Our work-abroad program has helped students complete successful internships at companies in Germany, Europe's largest economy, and other countries, as well as at German corporations and institutions based in Chicago and the US.

We invite all interested students to take courses in Germanic Studies as a part of their undergraduate education, as a major, as a double-major alongside another field, or a minor. Students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty and receive one-on-one attention. Many students find that double-majoring in German gives them a competitive edge after graduating. The undergraduate program in Germanic Studies is an ideal double-major with Music, Political Science, History, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Art History. With Germany’s high research profile in mind, students in the natural sciences have also found Germanic Studies to be an ideal second major or minor.

The department gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a vibrant cultural life by participating in workshops, guest lectures, film series, music performances, the German Club, weekly study breaks, and the German or Yiddish language tables. All these complement the academic work.

Students have the chance to participate in our study abroad programs in Vienna and Berlin, two truly global cities of great beauty and cultural richness. The department has an impressive record of students winning foreign language acquisition grants (FLAGs), which defray the costs of intermediate or advanced language study abroad. Furthermore, our graduates frequently apply for Fulbright or DAAD fellowships, which allow them to spend a year abroad after graduating. We are dedicated to helping our students when applying to a range of programs.

Students majoring in Germanic Studies write a BA research paper in their fourth year and those double-majoring have the possibility of writing one paper that counts for both of their majors. Recently, students have written on topics such as: Metaphors of Communication in Luther’s Postils; The Holocaust and German Responsibility in Postwar West German History Textbooks; Inherited Orientalisms: American and German Scholars in Dialogue in the Archived Director’s Correspondence from the Oriental Institute, 1933 – 1945; Revaluation in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; Representation of Syrian Refugees in Austrian Newspapers: New(s) Frames Since 2015; A Look at German and Syrian Poetry; Aesthetic Politics and the Past, Present, and Future of Wiener Kaffeehauskultur; Locating the Canary Islands in the Germanic Cultural Imaginary; The Problem of Perspective: Magnetic Influence in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Works; Modernity’s Apocalypse: Alfred Kubin’s Die andere Seite as an Expressionist Vision of Modernity in Crisis; Between Republicanism and Fascism: Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi’s Politics of Neo-Aristocracy, 1920-1938; Trials of Recollection: An Analysis of Memory in Selected Poems of Paul Celan’s Mohn und Gedächtnis; The Rights of Man and the Powers of State: A Realist Analysis of Nationalism.

Students can choose from a wide selection of courses. Recent examples include:

Kafka: Acrobatics of Reading
Metaphysics, Morbidity, and Modernity: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain
Nordic Noir: Scandinavian Crime
Problems in the Study of Gender and Sexuality: On “Women’s Writing”
Wagner's "Ring" in Performance
Das magische Wort: Knights and Nuns in the Middle Ages
Apocalypse Now: Scripts of Eschatological Imagination
The Romantic Mountain
Philosophy and the Poem of Nature
Women Who Wrote in Yiddish
Babylon Berlin: Politics and Culture in the Weimar Period
Music and German National Identity
Literature as Self-Help: The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke