Welcome to the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Initiated in 1825 and officially established in 1897, The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard continues to enjoy a prestigious and highly regarded reputation, offering undergraduate concentrations, secondary fields, and doctoral training in a broad variety of texts, media, and other cultural productions. Faculty share a number of intellectual engagements in both German and Scandinavian materials across the centuries, from the medieval period to the present day. Our curriculum is supplemented by cross-disciplinary interests in art history, music, and visual culture, critical theory and philosophy, the history of science, performance studies, folklore, anthropology, and ethnopoetics, taking fullest advantage of the incomparably rich and unique collections held at the Harvard Libraries, Art Museums and Film Archive. 

In addition to rigorous training in theory and the interpretation of literary and cultural materials, both within and outside of the canon, graduate students are encouraged to develop individualized courses of study across the University in preparation for successful careers in teaching, research and related work. To this end, the Department consistently maintains a vibrant series of invited lectures, colloquia, conferences, and workshops. Moreover, theater productions, musical events, and informal social gatherings, including a bi-weekly Kaffeestunde, make an engaging and enriching contribution to our undergraduate concentrations and language programs. 

Upcoming Events

Apr 07

Henrik Williams, Uppsala University: "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll in Runic Times"

See also: Lectures


Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 2:00pm


Kates Room, Warren House

Henrik Williams holds the professorship in Scandinavian Languages at Uppsala University and was recently awarded the Rudbeck medal for his ground-breaking work in runology. His lecture, which will discuss some perhaps unexpected human activities recorded in runic inscriptions, is open to the public.

Apr 23

"Post-Phonements"--Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book--25th Anniversary, with presentations by Judith Butler, Samuel Weber, Hent de Vries, Homi Bhabha, Thomas Schestag, and Avital Ronell.

See also: Lectures


Thursday, April 23, 2015, 6:00pm to 8:00pm


Harvard Art Museums, Menschel Hall - 32 Quincy Street

Avital Ronell’s Telephone Book first appeared in 1989, the annus mirabilis that witnessed vast waves of dissent, protest and resistance: revolutions across Eastern Europe; uprisings and violent oppression in China; and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Revolutionary in its own right, Ronell’s untimely intervention would in hindsight prove to have arrived extraordinarily on time. Today, following twenty-five years of unprecedented technological and medial profusion, of persistent electrification and schizo experience, Ronell’s work deserves and even demands commemoration, re-assessment, and further prognostications. 

Sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature (Harvard), the Mahindra Humanities Center, and Brown University Department of German Studies. 

Department News

Columbia University Press has published Eric Rentschler's new book: The Use and Abuse of Cinema: German Legacies from the Weimar Era to the Present.

March 11, 2015

The Use and Abuse of Cinema takes readers on a series of enthralling excursions through the fraught history of German cinema, from the Weimar and Nazi eras to the postwar and postwall epochs and into the new millennium. These journeys in time afford both rich panoramas and nuanced close-ups from a nation's production of fantasies and spectacles, traversing the different ways in which the film medium has figured in Germany, both as a site of creative and critical enterprise and a locus of destructive and regressive endeavor.

Eric Rentschler, along with David Bathrick and Andreas Huyssen, co-edited the special issue of New German Critique (no. 122, Spring 2014) entitled "Miriam Hansen: Cinema, Experience, and the Public Sphere."

August 15, 2014

The volume includes a roundtable discussion on "Cinema and the Legacies of Critical Theory" and articles by, among others, Susan Buck-Morss, Edward Dimendberg, Mary Ann Doane, Tom Gunning, Martin Jay, Gertrud Koch, Laura Mulvey, David Rodowick, Heide Schlüpmann, and Yuri Tsivian.