Discover Our Department
We offer both an undergraduate and graduate program. Undergraduates have the option to pursue a concentration in German Studies, Scandinavian Studies, or a joint concentration in German and another field. Graduate students complete a PhD program in Germanic Languages and Literatures. While the focus is on literature and cultural studies, the department encompasses and encourages interdisciplinary work. Many graduate students include the study of interdisciplinary fields such as critical theory and philosophy, comparative approaches to literature, the history of science, social and political thought, film and media studies, art history, performance studies, the digital humanities, and musicology in their coursework and dissertation, taking full advantage of the incomparably rich and unique collections held at the Harvard Libraries, Art Museums, and Film Archive.
We offer a wide variety of courses in German, Nordic languages, and English on topics of cultural and historical interest. Important figures such as Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and Kafka are the subject of regular lecture courses, as are such topics as the Vikings and the Nordic heroic period, Nazi film, German social thought, German history, and Nordic cinema. Smaller, discussion-type courses cover the age of Goethe, the relationship between Germany and the European Union, America in the German mind, German music, German and Scandinavian drama, German cinema, the role of sexuality and gender in German literature and art, media studies, and much more.
In addition, we maintain a vibrant series of events that reach from invited lectures and workshops to theater productions, musical events, and informal social gatherings, including language tables, our bi-weekly Kaffeestunde, and other gatherings organized by the Harvard College German Club. The close-knit community of graduate students organizes various events, including invited presentations by graduate students from other programs in the US and writing workshops addressing dissertation chapters, conference presentations, and articles in preparation. Twice a semester, faculty and students meet for Sherry Hour, in which all of us discuss short contemporary literary texts selected by the graduate students.
The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures looks back on a long and proud history. Since the beginning of formal instruction in German language and literature at Harvard College in 1825 and the establishment of the department in 1897, some pre-eminent Germanists have taught at the department and have developed fresh theoretical and methodological approaches in their research and teaching.