Overview and Learning Goals


The German department offers courses in the language, literature, and culture of the German-speaking countries of Europe. The program is designed for students who wish to become literate in the language and culture, comprehend the relationship between the language and culture, and gain a better understanding of their own culture in a global context. The major is a valuable asset in a wide variety of postgraduate endeavors including business, science, and international careers; and in law and graduate school.

Learning Goals

The major enables students to become literate in German and competent in the cultures of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland through critical engagement with texts, cultural objects, and practices.

In the process, students acquire fundamental knowledge of major literary, social, and political developments and become able to communicate the historical significance and transnational impact of the German-speaking world.

Upon completion of the German major, students will be able to converse in German on a wide range of topics—including academic topics—to comprehend and analyze German texts, and to write critically. They can effectively articulate and carry out research.

All courses place equal importance on the acquisition of linguistic and cultural knowledge, with increasing complexity and sophistication.

GER 1101 Elementary German I/GER 1102 Elementary German II:
Communication: Recognize and reproduce patterns of vocabulary and grammatical structure; paraphrase in order to demonstrate understanding; produce simple declarative statements, describe people and places, transition to narrative comprehension (identify key passages and vocabulary structures when reading a text) and narrative production.

Cultural Competency: Discover and explore historical and cultural facts.

GER 2203 Intermediate German I: Germany within Europe/GER 2204 Intermediate German II: German History through Visual Culture/GER 2205 Advanced German Texts and Contexts:
Communication and cultural competency become increasingly integrated: students recognize, differentiate, and produce texts of different genres, identify and apply linguistic nuance, and differentiate language use. They demonstrate knowledge via oral presentations and short papers and analyses; they engage in critical discussion with peers. Students deepen their cultural knowledge by exploring key themes such as Europeanization, visual culture, and youth culture in their historical context. These courses prepare students to study in the language at German-speaking universities.  

GER 3308 Introduction to German Literature and Culture/GER 3310 German Culture Studies: Made in Germany:
Students become increasingly cognizant of German studies as a discipline that is defined by the exploration of texts and cultural objects in context. They define, compare, and interpret literary genres of different time periods and recognize, research, and analyze how context creates cultural products and vice versa. They refine their oral and written German skills through analysis, interpretation, and presentation.

German 331x:
Students identify historical coherence and importance of time periods as a mode of cultural inquiry and analysis. They categorize and arrange knowledge. They apply concepts and methodology, while refining their German language and analytical skills by identifying key passages in literary texts, conducting close readings of texts and objects, and creating historical connections between them. Students demonstrate these skills in oral presentations and writing of different formats and lengths. These courses complement rather than precede courses in the 339x category.

German 339x:
Students identify thematic coherence and conceptual formation as a mode of cultural inquiry, analysis, and production. They categorize and arrange knowledge across time, national contexts, and artistic modes or genres. They engage with abstract concepts and may integrate different methods through work with theoretical models and their application. As they do in the 331x-courses, students refine their German language and analytical skills by identifying key passages in literary texts, conducting close readings of texts and objects, and creating cross-disciplinary modes of presentation in speech and writing. 

Students in GER 2262 Not Lost in Translation: German Across the Disciplines/GER 3362 Not Lost in Translation: German Across the Disciplines acquire cultural competence through specialized linguistic and interpretive skills and appropriate techniques of translation. They evaluate language use and apply theories of translation, while building specialized German language skills in vocabulary, style, and syntax. They create cross-curricular connections allowing them to integrate knowledge from other disciplines with their study of German. The dual-level course fosters collaboration and cooperation between students of differing linguistic abilities; at the 3362-level, students carry out a research project involving presentation, simulation, and translation. Study abroad enables students to apply and expand upon the linguistic and cultural knowledge acquired at Bowdoin in their interaction with native speakers. Their daily immersion in the native culture, in turn, fosters comparative perspectives and allows them to relate different course contents from German-speaking universities back to their German courses at Bowdoin.

Independent Studies/Honors Program

These student-driven and faculty-guided research courses allow students to plan, design, and execute independent research, with the possibility of completing an honors thesis. The thesis demonstrates critical acumen, and intellectual and methodological rigor.

The department complements its major program with interdisciplinary courses in English—in so doing strengthening Bowdoin’s liberal arts mission and opening its course offerings to majors, minors, and students from all disciplines.

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department

Students may elect to major in German or to coordinate a major in German with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing a coordinate major may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in German. 

Department Website

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue