Two students having a conversation in a classroom in Peters Hall.
Program Overview

German Language and Literatures

Explore German culture from Autobahn to Zeitgeist.

Photo credit: John Seyfried

German: A Key To Many Doors

When Obies at the college and conservatory come together to learn German, they gain access to the rich language, literature, and culture of German-speaking communities around the world. They become familiar with foreign cultures, and they begin to see their own culture in a new light—and that perspective can be life-changing. Think of learning German as a key to many doors. Whether you are fascinated by art history, chemistry, environmental studies, music, or politics, German can enhance and complement your studies. Our courses ask students to reflect on the nature and value of a broad range of cultural works as part of a larger inquiry into the meaning of life. Given Germany’s central role in the European Union and on the global stage, our students and majors also gain the skills and dispositions necessary to thrive in a cosmopolitan and multicultural context.

An Inviting Community from Oberlin to Berlin

Our intimate, intellectually curious department gives students the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty mentors and writers-in-residence as part of regular coursework. A hub for German culture on campus, the Max Kade German House hosts conversation meetups as well as guest speakers, screenings, and social events. Many students who take German study abroad for one or two semesters, at partner universities in Berlin, Munich, Heidelberg, Marburg, and elsewhere. We have a strong record of placing students in such postgraduate fellowships and exchanges as Fulbright student grants and the Congress/Bundestag Youth Exchange. Our graduates have gone on to successful careers in a range of sectors from international politics, law and finance to the arts, education, academia and STEM fields.

130 million People worldwide who speak German as a first or second language. German is the largest language group in the EU, and an official language in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.

Max Kade German House

Home to over thirty students as well as a native speaker of German and a faculty member who organizes cultural events, the German House (Deutsches Haus) is a social hub for German learners and a place for linguistic immersion.

Residents gathered in the Max Kade lounge.
50 German authors have spent a semester with Oberlin students over the past half century. They have included such preeminent writers, poets, dramatists and filmmakers as Peter Bichsel, Christa Wolf, Peter Stephan Jungk, and Nora Gomringer.

Max Kade Writer in Residence

The unique Writer-in-Residence program invites world renowned authors to teach Oberlin students in an intimate seminar setting. Writers such as Uwe Kolbe, Esther Dischereit, and Nora Gomringer (pictured above) have spent a semester working closely with our students.

Nora Gomringer.

Featured Courses

GERM 246

Sex under Socialism: Narratives of Sexuality and Ideology

This course aims at exploring the unlikely combination of sexuality, ideology, and art in Socialist states. Focusing on literary, cinematic, and musical narratives from the Soviet Union and East Germany, we will look beyond the obvious flaws of the political systems infamous for their authoritarianism and total control. We will discuss sexual liberation and reproductive rights, shifts in gender roles and the family structure, and the development of the feminist movement and LGBTQ culture. While investigating the artistic representation of these topics, we will consider how artworks of different genres depict human experiences on the edge between the private and the ideological. Readings, subtitles, and discussion in English.

Taught by
Olesya Ivantsova
GERM 311

Enlightenment to Romanticism

A study of major movements, problems, and oeuvres in the literature from the 18th to the mid-19th century (Enlightenment through Romanticism). This course will explore the culturally productive tension between nascent nationalism and Goethean cosmopolitanism, the sometimes stunningly modern portrayal of women, and political and ideological tensions between Enlightenment and Romanticism. Prose, drama, and poetry by Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, and others.

Taught by
Steven Huff
GERM 312

German Literature: Young Germany to Modernism

Provides a foundation for literary studies through 19th and 20th century drama, prose and poetry. Features works by Büchner, Grillparzer, Droste-Hülshoff, Thomas Mann, Lasker-Schüler, Kafka and Brecht.

Taught by
Steven Huff
HIST 288

Weimar Berlin

The German city of Berlin has long been a city of fascination and transformation. During the short years between WWI and the Nazi takeover, it was the center of a cultural efflorescence that has rarely been matched since, including the music of Kurt Weill, the art of Dada and Neue Sachlichkeit, and the designs of the Bauhaus, among others. This course will examine the culture of Weimar Berlin and situate it within the turbulent social life and politics of those years.

Taught by
Annemarie Sammartino

Student Profiles

Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Fellow

After studying abroad in Germany during his junior year, Lukas Griffin ’20  knew he wanted to return. After graduation he was awarded the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) fellowship, a cultural immersion program in which American and German young professionals spend one year studying, interning, and living with hosts in each other’s countries.

Lukas Griffin.

Teaching High School in Austria

Milena Kagel ’20, a history and German studies double major, received a U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) in Austria. The USTA award provides recent graduates with the opportunity to teach English in secondary schools around Austria. 

“I hope to be able to pass on my enthusiasm for language learning and create some curiosity about cultural exchange,” she says.

Milena Kagel.

A Fulbright Fellowship to Germany

Jasmine Anderson ’17 fell in love with the German language in high school and during a gap year through the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program in Berlin. A German studies and politics major at Oberlin, she was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Germany’s southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg.

Jasmine Anderson.

What does German at Oberlin look like?

A student is being tutored in a classroom.

The German program features one-on-one peer tutoring as part of its curricular pathway.

Photo credit: John Seyfried
Four students singing in the Kade lounge.

An impromptu musical moment at the Max Kade German House.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College
Students holding up yellow signs.

Oberlin’s German students at the 2019 climate march.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College
A group of students lines up outside.

A field trip organized by the German House to a nearby Amish farm.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

Peters Hall looking over the arch.
Photo credit: Polk Photography