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Academics

Undergraduate Courses

We are sorry to write that, due to recent retirements, we are not offering courses in Scandinavian language and culture.

German 110: Elementary German I. 3 credits.

This course is designed to develop proficiency in the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) in a cultural context. At the end of this course students will be able to communicate in German about everyday life, including daily routines, studying, leisure time, food, travel, your interests, friends and family. They should be able to use spoken German to describe familiar people, places and objects, use German in travel situations, write complete sentences and short paragraphs, understand spoken German used for classroom purposes as well as simple conversations and messages on audio and video recordings, and read short cultural texts. Course materials from a variety of media will introduce students to the cultures, traditions and institutions of the German-speaking world. No prerequisites.


German 111: STEM German I. 1 credit. 

In this one-credit add on to German 110 (Elementary German I) or to German 126 (Intensive Elementary German), beginning German students will begin to develop vocabulary and language tools specific to science and technology. This is a STEM-sampler course that addresses topics in the various STEM and Engineering fields of the students in the class. Students will meet once per week for one hour to practice using STEM-specific German language in speaking, reading, listening and writing. Taught in German.


German 120: Elementary German II. 3 credits.

This course continues the goals of Elementary German I. It is designed to develop proficiency in the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) in a cultural context. At the end of this course students will be able to communicate in German about everyday life, including holidays, clothes and fashion, domestic life, the four seasons, travelling, means of transportation, technology and media. They should be able to write complete sentences and short paragraphs on these subjects, understand spoken German used for classroom purposes as well as simple conversations and messages on audio and video recordings, and read short cultural texts. Course materials from a variety of media will introduce students to the cultures, traditions and institutions of the German-speaking world. Prerequisite: German 110 or equivalent.


German 121: STEM German II. 1 credit. 

In this one-credit add on to German 120 (Elementary German I) or to German 126 (Intensive Elementary German), beginning German students will begin to develop vocabulary and language tools specific to science and technology. The focus of this course is Chocolate and Mathematics. Students will meet once per week for one hour to practice using STEM-specific German language in speaking, reading, listening and writing.


German 126: Intensive Elementary German. 6 credits.

Accelerated, one semester language course for students who want intensive practice in grammar and acquiring basic speaking skills and who have had no previous training in German. Vocabulary quizzes, chapter tests, final. Equivalent of German 110 and 120.


German 230: Intermediate German I. 3 credits. 

This course is designed to develop proficiency in the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) in a cultural context. At the end of this course students will be able to communicate in German about everyday life, including health, city life, art, professional life, nature, and the environment. They will be able to use spoken German in class discussions, write short compositions, understand spoken German used for classroom purposes and simple conversations and messages on audio and video recordings, and also read short cultural texts. Course materials from a variety of media will introduce you to the cultures, traditions and institutions of the German speaking world. Prerequisite: German 120 or equivalent.


German 231: STEM German III. 1 credit. 

In this one-credit add on to German 230 (Intermediate German I) or to German 246 (Intensive Intermediate German), intermediate German students will continue to develop vocabulary and language tools specific to science and technology. The focus of this course is on renewable and fossil energy resources. Students will meet once per week for one hour to practice using STEM-specific German language in speaking, reading, listening and writing.


German 240: Intermediate German II. 3 credits.

Students explore topics pertaining to German culture through a variety of media, including literary texts, short films, music, and the internet. Chapters from our textbook will take participants through different regions and cities in Germany, familiarizing them with the specifics of these places. Students will engage in cross-cultural comparisons on issues pertaining to everyday life, art and politics, nationalism/patriotism, migration, and multiculturalism. They will critically examine a variety of cultural texts, and also expand their language skills through contextualized grammar topics and vocabulary lists. Prerequisite: German 230 or equivalent. German 240 fulfills the Humanities and Fine Arts Language requirement.


German 241: STEM German IV. 1 credit.

In this one-credit add on to German 240 (Intermediate German II) or to German 246 (Intensive Intermediate German), intermediate German students will continue to develop vocabulary and language tools specific to science and technology, and prepare for their study abroad experience. Students will meet once per week for one hour to practice using STEM-specific and professional German language in speaking, reading, listening and writing.


German 246: Intensive Intermediate German. 6 credits.

A thorough review of grammar, reading and discussion of texts; emphasis on the cultural background of German-speaking countries. Equivalent of German 230 and 240. German 246 fulfills the Humanities and Fine Arts Language requirement.


German 260: From Mozart to Rammstein. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: AT)

Social theorist Jacques Attali wrote “[T]he world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing. It is not legible, but audible.” Taking his words as a point of departure in this course we will examine the interrelation between music, history, politics, and society from the late 18th century until the present. It is therefore central to this course to examine how music has been influenced by, and commented on, historical, socio-political and cultural processes and transformations. We will explore music regarding constructions and representations of gender, ethnicity, race, class, and national identity within German contexts past and present. Guiding questions will include: Can an instrument connote a specific region? How does a melody provide a sense of community? How can music symbolize belonging, or promote exclusion? How does music become a political, nationalistic or propagandistic tool? We will listen to and discuss musical pieces from diverse genres such as opera, rock, rap, film music and sound tracks, punk, and pop. In addition to the music itself, course materials will include films, documentaries, and theoretical texts on the cultural study of music. Conducted in English.


German 285: Language Suite Conversation (both semesters; 2 credits with additional 1-credit Honors option)

Designed as part of the living-learning community in Thatcher Language House. Improves knowledge of the German language with emphasis on oral skills. Builds vocabulary, develops ability to understand and communicate more freely by focusing on social and cultural issues. For course activities see the Thatcher Blog: https://blogs.umass.edu/khicke/.


German 297A: Crusades and the Image of Islam

The medieval Crusades and the image of Muslims and Islam in 11th- and 12th-century historiography, theology, and literature, such as The Song of Roland, St. Bernard, and Muslim accounts. How European views of Islam and the East contributed to European expansionism and self-definition.  Conducted in English.


German 304: German Film: From Berlin to Hollywood. 3 credits. (Gen. Ed.: AT)

This course offers a survey of German cinema from the 1920s on until the 21st century and focuses on transborder mobility of pictures and artists. We will examine the emigration of film directors from Babelsberg, the epicenter of the ‘Golden Age’ in German cinema to Hollywood. From celebrated directors such as Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, and Ernst Lubitsch, to stars, such as Marlene Dietrich and Peter Lorre, we will trace the careers of those working in exile in the 1930s and 1940s. The course will continue with an exploration of the postwar period and the export of West German films into the US, while we look at the work of directors Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarete von Trotta and Harun Farocki who also significantly shaped the perception of North America in Germany. We will conclude with discussions of more recent works by Tom Tykwer and Michael Hanneke, well-known among cineastes today for their international coproductions, Hollywood remakes, or Netflix series. Key issues in the course will be the transformation of film financing and material production circumstances as a result of European funding structures and a persistent ‘transnational aesthetic’ emerging in the work of the above directors. Both big budget blockbusters and independent films will be considered in their implications for film content, style, and social content. Conducted in English.


German 310: Advanced German I. 3 credits

Expansion of vocabulary and extensive practice in speaking and writing, grammar review as needed. Prerequisite for 310, German 240 or equivalent; for 320, German 310 or equivalent.


German 311: Reading German Culture

Introductory course to increase reading comprehension and fluency. Selected literary texts, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. Prerequisite: German 240 or equivalent.


German 312: Advanced STEM German I. 3 credits. 

In this course, students will focus on technical and scientific German to expand their proficiency in the German language at the advanced level. Students engage with a variety of foundational vocabulary and language structures in mathematics, medicine, biology, chemistry, mechanics, computer science, and engineering. The focus will always be on German perspectives, policies and research to help students build internationally informed views on their STEM-major discipline. Review of advanced grammar structures, specifically as found in scientific and technical texts, will be implemented throughout the semester.


German 319: Representing the Holocaust. 3 credits. (Gen. Ed.: AL, DG)

Major writers, works, and themes concerning the Holocaust and its representation and commemoration. Exploration of narrative responses (including film, memoirs, poetry, video testimony, music, and memorials) to the genocide of European Jews and other peoples during World War II.


German 320: Advanced German II. 3 credits.

In this seminar, students read, analyze, and perform scenes from some of the best-known German dramas from the 20th and 21st centuries. We explore concepts such as self-deception, hypocrisy, civil courage, materialism, nation, homeland, and belonging, and their relevance in recent history and contemporary German society, and culture. Language skills will be honed through class discussion, scenic readings and performance, and various writing assignments, including contextualized grammar review. Prerequisite: German 310 or equivalent.


German 322: Advanced STEM German II. 3 credits.

In this course, students will focus on technical and scientific German to expand their proficiency in the German language at the advanced level. Students will engage with a variety of large-scale engineering projects in German-speaking countries, and explore the German perspective on environmental problems (water and air pollution; climate change; renewable energies, and many more), as well as investigate some of the cutting-edge research in German-speaking countries. Review of advanced grammar structures, specifically as found in scientific and technical texts, will be implemented throughout the semester. Students will also benefit from practicing writing application papers, engaging in mock-interviews, and learning about the work environment in German-speaking countries to prepare students for study abroad, laboratory placements, and internships abroad.  


German 323: Modern German History. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: HS) 

This course surveys the troubled history of the modern German nation-state.  It traces how the loose federation of German monarchies and duchies coalesced in the late nineteenth century into a European powerhouse.  It also investigates how the monarchy, the aristocracy, the middle class, and the world’s largest and best organized workers’ movement shaped its subsequent development.   Topics include absolutism, the old regime, the Enlightenment, the Napoleonic occupation, the 1848 revolution, unification and rule under Bismarck, German Jews before 1914, mass politics under Wilhelm II, the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi dictatorship, the Second World War and the Holocaust, the divided Germanys, and the Federal Republic since 1989. Conducted in English.


German 331: Medieval German literature (Gen. Ed.: AL)

An introduction to and survey of medieval German literature, including the story of Siegfried and Kriemhild (Nibelungenlied), the visionary Hildegard of Bingen and the mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg, and the stories of the Grail (Wolfram's Parzival) and Tristan and Isolde (Gottfried).  While the primary focus of the course will be on literature itself, we will try to see it in its cultural, historical, and social context.  Language of instruction and all texts in English.


German 341: Early German Culture (Gen. Ed.: HS)

A broad survey of medieval German social and cultural history, literature, music, art, and architecture, from Tacitus's first-century description of the Germanic tribes to Charlemagne ad the Franks and the 12th-century renaissance and courtly culture.  Works read include the Lay of Hildebrand, the Nibelungenlied, and Hildegard von Bingen's 'songs.”  Language of instruction and all texts in English.


German 363: Witches: Myth and Reality. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: G, I) 

This course focuses on various aspects of witches/witchcraft in order to examine the historical construction of the witch in the context of the social realities of the women (and men) labeled as witches. The main areas covered are: European pagan religions and the spread of Christianity; the “Burning Times” in early modern Europe, with an emphasis on the German situation; 17th-century New England and the Salem witch trials; and the images of witches in folklore, fairy tales, popular culture, and film, in the context of the historical persecutions. Course materials include readings drawn from documentary records of the witch persecutions and witch trials, literary representations, scholarly analyses of witch-related phenomena, and essays examining witches, witchcraft, and the witch persecutions from a variety of perspectives, as well as documentary and feature films. Conducted in English.


German 365: Berlin – Global City. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: AL, DG) 

Berlin has long been a hub of musical, filmic, and literary activity. Since the fall of the Wall and Berlin’s reinstatement as the German capital, the city has led efforts to shape a new national identity and culture. Ongoing discussions about Germany’s ‘Leitkultur’—its so-called hegemonic culture—emanate in large measure from the metropolitan center. And yet, Berlin is also home to the country’s largest migrant population, and remains what it has long been: a city of varied cultural influences. In this course, we will examine how these cultural influences manifest themselves in the arts. In particular, we will focus on how Berlin is represented as a global city with connections to other cultural contexts, concentrating primarily on the city’s migrant and minority voices since the postwar period, specifically the last two decades. Course materials cover a wide variety of texts raning from short stories, poems, and novel excerpts, to rap songs, documentary films and video installations. Finally, secondary sources from various disciplines–historical overviews and essays on migration, multiculturalism, globalization and transnationalism as well as theoretical texts on key concepts such as ethnicity, race, and national identity–will also be incorporated. In addition to becoming familiar with Berlin’s broad variety of cultural productions, students will—with Berlin as a case study—investigate the relationship between culture and society in general. Conducted in English.


German 370: 19th-Century German Thought “Radical Subjectivity”. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: I) 

This course is an introduction to German thought in the so-called long nineteenth century (1789-1914).  It surveys one of the most extraordinary eras in intellectual history.  Deeply influenced by the international the French Revolution (1789), most nineteenth-century German thinkers believed in many Enlightenment principles, such as human rights and a faith in science.  But they went far beyond the Enlightenment in thinking more deeply about human freedom.  They also wanted to account for our unavoidable irrationality.  The project led them to explore labor and human activity, the role of history, and social differences in shaping thought.  They wanted to know about the effect of the unconscious, and the possibility that there may not be any truth at all.  Arguably more than in other periods, their arguments dealt not just with theory but with practice too.  They so shaped the bureaucracy and organizational structure of modern states.  They also laid the foundation for the modern academic disciplines of economics, sociology, psychology, and social-science history.  Some even say that they helped spawn fascism and radical communism and perhaps led the European nations into war in 1914 and genocide in 1941.  In this way they fundamentally shaped the political development of the world in the twentieth century. Conducted in English.


German 371: Crime & Criminals in Modern German Culture. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: HS) 

Crime and criminals (both real and imagined) have provided material for artists and cultural critics from antiquity to the present day. Beyond supplying provocative subject matter, criminality has historically presented an avenue by which to affirm or to critique cultural standards and practices, to intervene in legal and political discourse, and to challenge social norms of class, gender, morality, etc. Social, political, and scientific developments in modern Europe brought new valences to cultural understandings of crime, and thus also sparked new social policies and new modes of representation by artists and other thinkers. In this course we will focus on German culture in the 19th and 20th centuries through historiography, literature, painting, and film, as well as changing legal codes, texts from the criminal sciences, feminist writing and other cultural documents related to criminality. Conducted in English.


German 372: Vienna 1890-1914. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: AL) 

At the turn of the century (1890-1914) Vienna was home to some of the most innovative and exciting thinkers and artists in Western Europe. At the same time, however, alongside the explosion of creativity and innovation in the worlds of art, philosophy, and science strong currents of conservativism, nationalism, anti-feminism and anti-Semitism carried Vienna and Western Europe toward one of the most destructive periods in world history. How are we to understand this paradoxical confluence of creative and destructive extremes? In this interdisciplinary course students will gain a historical overview of the period and engage with a diverse array of cultural objects. Examining developments in art, music, literature, science, philosophy and culture, students will explore the concurrent and competing veins of thought that made turn-of-the-century Vienna such a fascinating and contradictory time and place. Conducted in English.


German 374: The First World War. 3 credits.

The First World War was the original catastrophe of the twentieth century, the event that started the most violent half-century in history. This course explores the origins of the war in colonialism, nationalism, failed diplomacy, the arms race, and the domestic politics within countries. It looks at the various campaigns: in the air, in the trenches, on the high seas, and on the various fronts in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It gives special attention to the everyday life of soldiers, workers, mothers, youth, colonial subjects, and civilian victims of war and genocide.  It looks at how the war weakened Western Europe, empowered the United States, and ended with revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe. The course evaluates the peace settlements, the borders they created in Europe and the Middle East, and their continuing legacy today.  The course gives special attention to the events in Germany. Taught in English. 


German 376: Holocaust. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: HS) 

This course explores the causes and consequences of what was arguably the most horrific event in all of history.  Topics include both the long-term origins of the Holocaust in European racism and anti-Semitism and the more immediate origins in the dynamics of the Nazi state and the war against the Soviet Union.  Particular attention will be given to debates and controversies, including the motivations of German and non-German perpetrators, bystanders, and collaborations; the place of the Jews and non-Jews in Holocaust historiography; the continuities of racism and genocide and their comparability; and the consequences of the Holocaust for memory and world politics. Conducted in English.


German 377: Politics and Culture

East and West Germany in the 1970s: Surveillance, Fear, and Terror? Democracy, Freedom, and Feminism? This course is designed as an introductory seminar to German Cultural Studies. After a brief introduction to methodology and theory and the Post WWII history and the two German states, the course will focus on the 1970s, a time described in recent political and cultural theory as a time of crisis and contradiction. Conducted in English.


German 379: Germany Today. 4 credits. (Gen. Ed.: I)

This course examines historical, political, social and cultural developments, movements, and transformations in Germany since reunification. Students explore the fall of the Berlin Wall, Holocaust memory and memorialization, the GDR past, reunification and multiculturalism, and how Germans engage with these topics in literature, film, exhibits, memorials, and the media. In addition to the primary sources, course materials will include secondary sources on German history, politics, society, and culture.  Conducted in English.


German 380: Weimar Germany Society and Culture

Germany between WWI and the Nazi takeover, 1919-1933. This class presents an interdisciplinary approach drawing on secondary sources in history and urban and cultural studies, as well as primary sources of various types. Beginning with a basic historical overview, the course then looks at various aspects of Weimar society and culture, including: the aftershocks of war; the Republic as laboratory of democracy; changing social definitions: lifestyle, gender, class, work; poverty, criminality and nationalism; art in society. Conducted in English.


German 391G: German Studies Junior Seminar (Honors section available)

This course is designed to introduce majors to a range of issues and approaches central to contemporary German and Scandinavian Studies, while focusing on upper-level writing and analytic skills. We will explore how this interdisciplinary field of study approaches events and artifacts of modern history and art. At the same time, we will develop the writing and analytic skills required to handle advanced study of complex social, historical and creative subject matter. Fulfills Junior Year Writing Requirement with one credit add-on. Conducted in English. Honors section available.


German 391G: Biography (German Studies Junior Seminar)

This course teaches students how to write biography using primary-sources like newspapers and other published sources. Students have an option of writing critical papers that compare existing biographies. Students will work on Wikipedia, submitting new biographies or expanding current ones in German or English. Taught in English with substantial German-language texts.


German 391G: Twentieth Century German Thought "Art, Authenticity and the Trial"

An introduction in English to major German-language writers of the twentieth century. Readings from Kandinsky, Buber, Benjamin, Heidegger, Jaspers, Arendt, Adorno.


German 391K: Franz Kafka. 3 credits.

This seminar is an introduction to the short stories, novel fragments, letters and diaries of Franz Kafka, with special emphasis on the works of his "breakthrough" period. Through small-group discussion and frequent analytic writing assignments, we will also explore the major critical interpretations of Kafka's work since his death in 1924 and consider both Kafka's literary context (Austro-German high modernism, fin-de-siecle decadence, Expressionism) and the unique political and social environments of Prague and Berlin during his lifetime (Czech, German and Jewish nationalism, socialism and anarchism, sexualities and the modern city, mass-culture).


German 425: Topics in German Studies. 4 credits. (Advanced German III) 

In this course you will expand and improve your writing, reading and oral proficiency by engaging with a variety of cultural texts. Your engagement with these sources will include different writing genres, as for example reviews, in-depth analyses, and creative writing, as well as various in-class activities ranging from close reading, discussion, to formal and linguistic analyses. Offered with changing topics (Postwar German Literature; Berlin, Berlin; Comics; The Refugee Experience in Comics and Graphic Novels) and can be taken for repeated credit. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 320 or equivalent.


German 432: Brecht and Modern Drama

Twentieth-century drama in German, concentrating on Bertolt Brecht, his principal plays and theory (epic theater, estrangement). Post-World-War-II dramatists mainly in relation to tradition created by Brecht: Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Peter Weiss, and some works from East Germany (e.g. Heiner Müller). Prerequisites: German 311 and 310, or equivalent.


German 433: 20th-Century Prose

During the twentieth century German-speaking central Europe underwent a series of radical transformations politically and socially, as well as intellectually and culturally.  In this seminar students will read German prose from a variety of 20th-century authors as a means to access some of the ways in which different thinkers engaged with and participated in these changes. As an advanced course taught in German, students will read, write and speak only in the German language.


German 597A: Old Norse

This course is a basic introduction to the language of the Vikings and of the Old Norse sagas and Eddas. By the end of the semester, students will have acquired a basic reading knowledge of Old Norse. No prior knowledge of Old Norse or of modern Icelandic is required.


German 584: The German Language

The origins and history of the German language, its relation to the Indo-European language family, particularly in relation to English. Prerequisite: German 240 or equivalent.