Curriculum Overview 

The study of German provides the broadening of linguistic and cultural awareness that accompanies the learning of any foreign language. In addition, knowledge of the German language and culture offers advantages in a wide range of fields. Germany plays a central role in the European Union, and a quarter of the population of the EU speaks German as a native language. Germany is the world’s fourth largest exporter, one of the top three nations in research and development of high-tech and green products, and a leader in industrial, architectural, and automotive design. German is one of the top three languages used on the internet, and Germany is a leader in global book and film production. Our majors have entered fields as diverse as teaching, law, business and medicine and have used their mastery of the language to work in German-speaking countries. Students from other disciplines have taken courses in German for personal enrichment, for graduate school qualification, or for preparation in research or study in a German-speaking country.

From the first semester on, the German curriculum at Franklin & Marshall integrates German language learning with a broad knowledge and in-depth understanding of cultural production within German-speaking Europe. Students practice their oral communication skills in a variety of settings, including classroom discussions, informal conversations, and formal presentations. Over the course of the curriculum, students acquire advanced writing skills in German in multiple genres, including short argumentative and interpretive essays, journalistic texts, and personal writing in the form of journals and letters.

German courses at all levels are organized around themes that provide students with an overview of German literature and culture. By engaging with texts (written, visual, and audio-visual), students sharpen their interpretive skills, become literate members of a German-speaking community on campus and beyond, and acquire a critical understanding of issues that have shaped German society of the past and present

Students majoring or minoring in German may pursue one of three tracks: German Language and Culture, German Literature and Culture, or German Studies. GER301, GER302, and GER450 are required courses for all majors.

Students in the German Literature and Culture track generally enter Franklin & Marshall with prior study of German. The focus of this track is development of advanced language proficiency and a thorough grounding in the major works and authors of the German literary tradition. A major in German Literature and Culture consists of nine courses beginning with GER 202, including at least five 400-level courses and GER 450. A minor in German Literature and Culture consists of six course credits in German beginning with GER 202, including at least two 400-level courses and GER 450. 

Students in the German Language and Culture track generally begin their study of German at Franklin & Marshall. The focus of this track is the development of upper-intermediate to advanced German language proficiency, along with knowledge of German culture and a critical understanding of the German-speaking world. A major in German Language and Culture consists of nine courses from the point of placement, including at least two 400-level courses and GER 450. A minor in German Language and Culture consists of six course credits in German from the point of placement.

The German Studies track combines German department courses with courses in English on topics related to German culture. These may be approved Franklin & Marshall courses or courses taken in an off-campus program. Students in this track develop intermediate German language proficiency and a critical understanding of the German-speaking world from multiple disciplinary perspectives. A major in German Studies consists of nine courses from the point of placement and must include GER 301, 302, and 450. A minor in German Studies consists of six course credits from the point of placement, including up to two approved German Studies courses in English. Approved Franklin & Marshall German Studies courses include (but are not limited to) ART 335, HIS 255, MUS 231, PHI 317, and PHI 319.

German majors are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or year studying in a German-speaking country. In recent years, majors have studied abroad in the following programs: Heidelberg College program in Heidelberg, Germany; IES Berlin, Freiburg, and Vienna. See International and Off-Campus Study section of the Catalog for further information. Students majoring in German (all three tracks) may transfer no more than three courses  for credit toward the major; students minoring in German (all three tracks) may transfer no more than two courses for credit toward the minor.

Courses in German

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (WP) World Perspectives requirement.


101. Elementary German I. What is German?
An introduction to the question “What is German?” through topics such as family life, interpersonal interactions, and holiday traditions. Students will explore German-speaking culture through cross-cultural comparisons with the United States and by viewing and discussing classic German films of the silent era. Through communicative activities covering the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), students learn to ask and answer questions, share information, and negotiate a variety of cultural settings. Offered every Fall.

102. Elementary German II. What is German?
Students expand their understanding of the question “What is German?” through topics such as daily routines, food and restaurants, fairy tales, and immigration. By reading and discussing films, short texts, and a full-length youth novel, students gain knowledge of German culture and society, improve their communicative competence, and develop skills needed to negotiate a variety of cultural settings. Prerequisite: GER 101 or placement. Offered every Spring.    

201. Intermediate German I. What is German? (LS)
Students further develop their understanding of the question “What is German?” by engaging with increasingly sophisticated texts and films on the themes of family, friendship, home, immigration, and multiculturalism. As in GER 101 and 102, all four language skills are practiced, and comparisons between American and German society provide a basis for class discussions. Prerequisite: GER 102 or placement. Offered every Fall.    

202. Intermediate German II. Stories of Twentieth Century Germany
and the African Diaspora. (H) (WP)

In this course, students will build on the solid foundation of German they have previously acquired, sharpening their skills in the four critical areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The thematic focus of the course will be the history of twentieth-century Germany with a special focus on the experiences of people of African descent in German society, including the following topics: the history of Germany in the 1920s, 1950s and today, with an emphasis on the experiences of people of African descent; children and children’s literature in 20th-century Germany; famous Germans and their contributions to the realms of sport, music, art, literature in the 20th century, including prominent people of African descent; and the history of interactions between Germans and people of African descent during the age of imperialism, the Third Reich, and the years following the Second World War. Prerequisite: GER 201 or placement. Offered every Spring.

301. Reading German Texts and Contexts I. (H)
This course, together with GER 302, serves as an introduction to advanced courses in German literature and culture. Students undertake an in-depth study of a period of twentieth-century German culture through a variety of texts, films, and cultural artifacts. The course emphasizes the continuing development of student reading skills, interpersonal and presentational communication skills, and writing skills in multiple genres. Prerequisite: GER 202 or placement. 

302. Reading German Texts and Contexts II. (H)
This course, together with GER 301, serves as an introduction to advanced courses in German literature and culture. The course is focused on a single theme across a number of time periods, and it stresses the central role that literature plays in fostering an understanding of German society. By reading and interpreting texts, which vary from prose and poetry to drama and film, students develop advanced reading skills and acquire the linguistic tools for textual analysis. Prerequisite: GER 301.     

451. Germans in Love. (H)
“Romantic” is probably not the first word that comes to mind when most people think about what Germans are like, but German literature is full of men and women in love. This course features novels, plays, novellas, films and lyric poetry that offer insight into whether love is, indeed, a kind of “temporary insanity,” as American thinker Ambrose Bierce suggested. The course begins with an exploration of love relationships in Germany in the former GDR and the Federal Republic before and after reunification, followed by works from the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, where social class and gender roles play a different role in constructing love relationships from the way they do in the twenty-first century. Prerequisite: GER 302. 

461. German Cinema. (H)
This course explores the history of German cinema since its origins in the 1920s. Why do black-and-white silent films like Caligari, Nosferatu, and Metropolis continue to resonate with film enthusiasts in the twenty-first century? What is so visually compelling about a Nazi propaganda film? What happened to German movie production after twelve years of misuse by Hitler’s cultural ministry? What marks did the forty-year division of Germany leave on film in the united nation? How has immigration of new populations affected German film? And where, after all, are the boundaries between “global” film and “German” film today, when so many directors, actors, and studio artists work in more than one country? Prerequisite: GER302. 

462. The Meaning of Work in German Culture. (H)
Are Germans as hard-working as everyone thinks? How can such a small country be a top exporter of manufactured products with workers getting at least five weeks annual vacation? This course explores how today’s attitudes and practices of work in united Germany emerged from older traditions as set down in written texts, folk songs, films, and graphic arts. We examine traditional and contemporary interrelationships of work and gender, work and ethnic identity, work and social class, as well as the specific vocabulary of German work. Prerequisite: GER 302.  

463. Contemporary German Culture. (H)
This course examines a selection of topics that are part of the contemporary German cultural and political landscape, including Germany in the European Union, relations between east and west Germans, sports and German national identity, social challenges posed by Germany’s aging populace, and minorities in German society. Through discussion of these issues, students explore what it means to be German today and how different groups within Germany define themselves. Students work with a wide variety of texts that range from news articles to films, film reviews, surveys, interviews, websites, and television news programs. Prerequisite: GER 302. 

464. Depictions of Women in German Literature.
Freud famously asked “What do women want?” This is a question that authors of texts featuring female characters have sought time and again to answer, and their responses naturally vary widely. In this course, we focus on depictions of female characters in German-language plays, films, and prose works from across two centuries. The unifying theme of the course is the relationship of gender to sex, violence, and power, a theme that we will analyze through close readings, examination of the socio-historical context in which the work arose, and through the lens of feminist literary criticism. Prerequisite: GER 302.  

465. German Legends and Tales. (H)
This course takes as its focus the rich tradition of fairy tales and legends that Germany has famously contributed to world literature, with a nod to the ballads that were part of its folk tradition. The course begins with a consideration of some (deceptively simple) folktales of the Brothers Grimm, organized by type. This is followed by two well-known “literary fairy tales,” i.e. stories “invented” by known authors at known times. The latter part of the course is devoted to ballads and legends, principally the legend of the Nibelungen and that of Faust. Prerequisite: GER 302. 

470 479. Topics Seminar in German Literature and Culture.
A special course offering whose topic spans the centuries, genres or cultures.

490. Independent Study.
Independent study directed by the German staff. Permission of the chairperson.

INT 350. Language Precepting Seminar.
Students will develop an understanding of foreign language pedagogy and methods by collaborating with an instructor in a beginning or intermediate foreign language course at F&M. Students will discuss lesson plans and approaches with their instructor/mentors and assist learners during class time. In addition, students will meet weekly or biweekly with other preceptors in the Language Precepting course to explore theories of second language acquisition and how they inform classroom practices in foreign language courses, as well as to reflect on their own experiences as preceptors. One half credit. Permission required.


 Course in English Translation

162. Life and Times of German Fairy Tales. (H)
Did Disney get it wrong? In this course, we will return to the German roots of both classic and lesser-known fairy tales as we explore why fairy tales continue to fascinate audiences around the world. The cultural context of the Grimm brothers, the position of fairy tales within folklore studies, and fairy tales across cultures will be important topics in the course. Class members will also learn about various modes of literary analysis by applying them to the Grimms' tales. We will conclude the course by discussing animated fairy tale films by Walt Disney with an eye to how Disney transformed the Grimms' tales to appeal to 20th-century American audiences. The course will be discussion-based, and students will write response papers and interpretative analyses of fairy tales. Class members will also write and present their own original fairy tales. Same as LIT 162.

235. Destroying Images. (A)
Defacement, destruction, removal, erasure: all are forms of iconoclasm, or “image-breaking.” This course is designed to help you make sense of the diverse manifestations of physical assaults on inanimate objects, historically and in the present-day, as the arena in which colliding cultural, political, and social beliefs are exposed. Although we devote the last portion of the course on image-destruction after the election of Barack Obama and in the wake of Black Lives Matter, we begin with the historical and conceptual foundations for image destruction as a social practice found across time and cultures. Exploring the social, cultural, and political investment we place in material objects, we aim to answer the following question: why do we believe that ideas (and in some cases people) live in inanimate objects?  Same as ART/RST 235.

255. Dictatorship, Division, and Democracy in Modern German History. (S)
Focuses on continuities and ruptures in German society during the Second Empire, the Weimar Republic, National Socialism, the competing Republics, and the (unified) Federal Republic of Germany. Major questions include German industrial and state formation; gender, class, and religious identities; the impact of total war; economic and political crisis; the roots of dictatorship and democracy; the organization of genocide; and European unity. Same as HIS 255. 

450. German Capstone Seminar. (H)
This course is intended to prepare German majors to conduct research and write formal literary analyses on literary topics. Since the course focuses on writing in English, students read important longer works from the German literary tradition in English translation, along with secondary literature in English. The course also gives students a summary overview of the major periods of German literary and intellectual history. Equally importantly, students have the opportunity to develop their writing skills in literary analysis. Each student prepares a significant research project on a longer work of German literature of their choosing and presents a formal presentation on this work at the end of the semester. Prerequisite: Senior standing, or LIT 201. Offered every Fall. 

Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2022-2023 


  • Language Matters in German Culture.
  • Reading Berlin.
  • Business in Germany.
  • Song Cycles and Concept Albums.