Core Courses

German Linguistics (Paul Roberge)

This course is offered, at the discretion of the professor, in two versions, as “Structure of the German Language” and “History of the German Language.” Either one satisfies the core requirement. The Structure of the German Language is an introduction to the formal analysis of German grammar: phonology, morphology, word formation, syntax, semantics. It is designed to provide future teachers and scholars with a basic understanding of German as a linguistic system. The course also considers the German language in its historical, sociolinguistic, extraterritorial aspects. The History of the German Language introduces students to the historical development of the German language from the earliest times until the modern period. We shall look at some of the phonological and morphosyntactic changes that differentiate German from English, Dutch and other related languages, and give the modern language its hallmark linguistic features.  We shall further examine the historical and cultural context in which German developed, noting the impact of important events, from Christianization to the Reformation, from courtly poetry to the invention of printing, on language use. Students will read short texts in the main historical forms of the language — Old Saxon, Old High German, Middle Low German, Middle High German and Early New High German.

Foundations in German Studies I (taught by rotating faculty)

Foundations I offers a survey of German literature, language and culture from 1000-1700 as well as an introduction to research methods in medieval and early modern German literature. It is during this period that German literature begins to differentiate itself from other discourses like that of religion, philosophy, rhetoric and history and in which early aesthetic forms begin to take shape at the interface between orality and textuality. In order to be able to read medieval literature in the original and produce viable scholarly translations, students will be introduced to the Middle High German language, including grammar and semantics. Our journey through different genres and cultural contexts will be guided by the following questions:

  • What are the cultural conditions—social, political, economic, ideological—for literature to establish itself as a discourse?
  • What role does material culture play for the concept of literature?
  • What are early medial forms and what is their relationship with literature?
  • Is there a medieval/early modern aesthetics or a medieval/early modern literary theory and how does it relate to ‘modern’ literary and aesthetic theory?
  • What is literary about religion? What is religious about literature?
  • What are the specifics of medieval/early modern narration, drama and poetry? How are they comparable to later forms and what can we conclude from the changes?
  • What is an early modern/medieval author?
  • What concepts of fiction and reality does medieval/early modern literature have?
  • What is the medieval/ early modern meaning and significance of transhistorical literary motifs and concepts like love, violence, power, gender, sociability, individuality, nature, culture etc.?
  • What are the conditions and limits of literary interpretation?

Over the course of the semester, we will read one courtly romance in its entirety, translate individual passages and discuss grammatical and semantic transformations that occurred in the German language between 1200 and the present. We will ask how philological questions are tied to literary and cultural ones.

Readings include texts and authors such as Parzival, Tristan, Nibelungenlied, writings by Meister Eckhart and Luther, carnival plays as well as literary-philosophical treatises and love lyrics.

Foundations in German Studies II (taught by rotating faculty)

This seminar offers an intensive survey of literary, cultural and intellectual developments in German-speaking lands between the years of 1750-1900, supplemented by attention to research methods of the field.  Success in Foundations II does not require a command of the material covered in Foundations I.  We begin with the Enlightenment and move through the sometimes intersecting and sometimes divergent movements of Sturm und Drang, Romanticism, Weimar Classicism, Biedermeier, Vormärz, and Realism, as well as considering thinkers who defy categorization. 

Our goal is to cultivate an understanding of literary history as a cultural formation that changes over time by paying particular attention to:

  • the respective stylistic particularities, genres, textual forms, generic properties and idiosyncratic features of cultural production as reflected in their historical moment/movement;
  •  the historically-bound ideologies and norms – literary, philosophical, historical, political, socio-economic, naturalistic/scientific – that are actively produced or contested through the complexity of aesthetic forms;
  • evolving and heterogeneous models of what is German that have shaped the study of the diverse set of texts we are considering;
  • the role that shifts in media (literacy, visual and tactile art, various print technologies) and their interrelation played in constructing different concepts of literature; and
  • attendant philosophical and theoretical concepts relevant for situating literary texts within larger discursive context within their respective time. 

Throughout, through critical readings from a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will explore distinct approaches to analyzing texts and related cultural artifacts in order to foster a knowledge of the modern tools of scholarly inquiry (editions, translations, dictionaries, critical approaches and methods) that are fundamental to the field of German Studies.. 

This course is designed as a reading-intensive seminar. In addition to completing the readings and participating actively in seminar discussions, students will be expected to take a midterm and final exam and to give several oral presentations. No papers will be required.

Will include authors such as Winckelmann, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Schlegel, Tieck, Hölderlin, Kant, Günderrode, Kleist, Eichendorff, Stifter, Heine, Keller, Büchner, Droste-Hülshoff, Marx, Storm, and Fontane.

Foundations in German Studies III (taught by rotating faculty)

The final seminar in the Foundation’s series, this course completes CDG’s intensive survey of German-speaking cultures between the years of 1900 and the present. Success in Foundations III does not require, however, a command of the material covered in Foundations I or II. Instead of beginning with literary modernism, this seminar begins by introducing students to the birth of cinema and will proceed by bringing film into productive dialogue with both literature and theory. Grasping German literary history throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century will accordingly seek out the productive points of contact with other bodies of thought as well as other mediums of representation. In addition to early narrative and experimental cinema, the course will explore the cinema of the Weimar Republic, Nazi cinema, rubble cinema, the cinema of divided Germany, as well as post-unification cinema like the Berlin School. Similarly, the course will also introduce students to the plurality of styles around 1900 (symbolism, Jugendstil, impressionism), the historical avant-gardes (expressionism, Dada), New Objectivity, völkische Literatur, rubble literature, Gruppe 47, socialist realism (as well as its deviations), documentary literature, new subjectivities, postmodernism, and pop literature.

As with Foundations I and II, this seminar provides CDG students with a comprehensive understanding of essential documents and intellectual histories central for understanding the last 120 years of German-language culture. Particular attention will be paid to:

  • German film history; debates around film as it relates to cultural, intellectual, and literary histories; as well as basic methodologies required for analyzing film professionally and the theories of film and media essential for research in film studies;
  • German literary history; the succession of literary epochs widely recognized as constituting the canon; as well as the historical shifts in styles, genres, and forms as they relate to the literary and texts under discussion;
  • Intellectual history and its philosophical and theoretical concepts as they relate to the primary texts and the larger discursive context.

Throughout, through critical readings from a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will explore distinct approaches to analyzing texts and related cultural artifacts in order to foster a knowledge of the modern tools of scholarly inquiry that are fundamental to the field of German Studies.

This course is designed as an intensive reading and screening seminar. In addition to reading and screening assigned literary works and films, students are expected to participate actively in seminar discussions. Students will be expected to take a midterm and final exam and to give several oral presentations. No papers will be required.

This seminar include filmmakers, authors, and thinkers such as: Adorno, Akin, Altenberg, Bachmann, Balazs, Benjamin, Beyer, Brecht, Brinkmann, Celan, Döblin, Enzensberger, Fassbinder, Freud, Fried, George, Grass, Handke, Harlan, Herzog, Hoffmansthal, Iser, Jelinek, Kafka, Kittler, Kluge, Lang, Lukacs, Th. Mann, Maetzig, Murnau, Özdamar, Pabst, Petzold, Plenzdorf, Riefenstahl, Rilke, Schanelec, Sebald, Seghers, Sloterdijk, Staudte, Stefan, Tawada, Wedekind, von Sternberg, Wenders, Wiene, Wolf.


Foreign Language Pedagogy: Theories and Practice (Christina Weiler & Cori Crane)

This course introduces new Teaching Assistants in the joint program to current methodologies and pedagogies relevant to teaching in a communicative classroom. We will consider theoretical developments as well as current issues in language pedagogy discussed in recent articles (Die Unterrichtspraxis, Foreign Language Annals et al.) and such readings as Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen (Lee and VanPatten), Teaching Language In Context (Omaggio-Hadley), and Approaches and Methods in Language Training (Richards and Rodgers). Furthermore, we will explore practical applications of the studied approaches and theorems, debate and engage with language, literature and culture classroom settings and methods and start building online teaching portfolios containing sample lesson plans, syllabi, and teaching philosophies.