Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.


Chair, 2011-12: Margaret Hayford O'Leary, Norwegian language and literature

Faculty, 2011-12: Karen R. Achberger, 20th-century literature, cinema, Austrian literature; Karl J. Fink, Goethe, Herder, history of science; LaVern J. Rippley, German Romanticism, German-American studies

Learning German can connect students with 120 million native speakers around the globe. As the official language of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein as well as Germany, the world’s largest exporter, German is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the European Union. It is the native language of a significant portion of the population in northern Italy, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, eastern France, and parts of Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Romania. It is the second-most commonly used scientific language and the most widely spoken language in Europe. In a radius of 1000 kilometers (625 miles), Germany lies at the center of a European population of 300 million people, taking a decisive role in the political, economic, and educational dynamics of the continent.

Studying German offers students access to a culture of scientists and innovators, philosophers and theologians, writers, artists and composers. German is the language of Gutenberg and Hertz, Fahrenheit and Einstein, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, of Luther, Goethe and Kafka, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mahler.

The German Department offers courses on campus and abroad in German language and culture, including literature, history, and film for both majors and non-majors. A pivotal component of German language study at St. Olaf is study abroad. In keeping with a German tradition dating back to medieval times, German universities today have opened their doors to students from around the world, sharing their research in science and technology, their specialized training in the fine arts, and their rich archival collections in the humanities, with only one requirement: German language proficiency. With adequate proficiency in German, St. Olaf students may study for a semester or a full year at the University of Konstanz or the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Beyond the classroom, students may also participate in the weekly German conversation table (Stammtisch), film series, and events in Deutsches Haus, an honor house where St. Olaf students live together in a German community with an exchange student from Konstanz.


In courses for the major, students gain an understanding of German culture, literature, and civilization as they develop analytical and communication skills in the spoken and written language. All courses for the German major are taught in German.

German majors are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one of a variety of study abroad opportunities offered in semester and full-year programs as well as during the January Interim and the summer sessions.

Level II courses beyond the language requirement are divided into two sequences.

In 250-level courses, students focus intensively on development of their language skills while learning to engage in close study of visual and written texts. These courses, targeted primarily at first- and second-year students, provide an introduction to the content areas of the major while sharpening specific critical and linguistic skills. The targeted proficiency level is Intermediate High according to a standard set by American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). 250-level courses are not sequential and all have the same level of difficulty; a higher 250-number does not indicate a greater level of difficulty. All 250-level courses count toward the German major and are open to non-majors.

In 270-level courses, students continue to explore new content areas in German culture while at the same time advancing language skills and developing writing strategies for reseach papers. Courses at this level are designed to prepare students for level III research work in German. The targeted proficiency level is ACTFL Intermediate High. 270-level courses are not sequential and all have the same level of difficulty; a higher 270-number does not indicate a greater level of difficulty. Most study-abroad courses taught in German count toward the 270-level.

Level III courses build upon students’ interpretive skills and the knowledge of the German-speaking world gained in 270-level courses, as well as through study in Germany. Students examine in depth a particular genre, author, or topic through the analysis and interpretation of representative works. The targeted proficiency level is ACTFL Advanced.

Students need not be German majors to take level II and III courses or to study abroad. Most begin their study of German in the 231-232 sequence. They complete this sequence and take at least one writing course on campus at the 250-level or above before spending a semester or a year studying in Germany. Courses taken in Germany may satisfy general education requirements as well as requirements for the German and/or other majors.

Courses taken abroad in English may count toward a major in other departments with prior approval.


Graduation Major

A student must complete eight courses in German above 232, including two 250-level courses, two 270-level courses, two 370-level courses, and two other courses of the student’s choice. One each of the required 250, 270, and 370 courses must be taken on campus.

Requirements for a German major with K-12 Teaching License

A student must complete eight courses in German above 232, including 250 or a semester/year of study in Germany, three 250-level courses, two 270-level courses, and two 370-level courses, plus Education 353 and other courses required for certification.

Study Abroad

The German Department offers January Interims in Germany and Austria and also sponsors semester- or year-long programs for more advanced students at two German universities: Konstanz and Humboldt University-Berlin. Summer and January internships are arranged through partner universities according to student skills and availability in the German or Austrian workplace.

German 251 or 252 is the required pre-requisite for a semester or year at the University of Konstanz or at Humboldt University-Berlin.

German 233 or 239 (January Interim abroad) may be taken to fulfill the foreign language requirement (FOL-G) and may be counted toward the major. The pre-semester course in Konstanz or Berlin may count as one of the two 250-level courses required for the major. An internship taken abroad at the 294 or 394 level may count as one of the three courses a student may bring back from a semester's study in Germany or of the four courses a student may bring back from a year's study in Germany.

Courses in English for General Education Credit

German courses in English translation (German 147, 245, 246, 247 and 249), carry general education credit and are open to majors and non-majors alike. Examining key aspects of German history and culture, they are taught in English and require no previous knowledge of German. Some are offered with a German FLAC component.

Foreign Language Across the Curriculum (FLAC)

German House

German majors and students motivated to be part of a German living community may apply to live for a semester or a year in Deutsches Haus, a co-educational honor house. Each year a native German student is selected from the University of Konstanz to live in Deutsches Haus to speak German and organize cultural events with the other house residents.

recommendations for graduate study

Students planning on graduate study in German should take the graduation major plus additional courses, such as History 224, to be planned with the student’s academic advisor. In recent years, St. Olaf German majors have been accepted for graduate study at the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Wisconsin.


language courses

111 Beginning German I

Students begin to learn German through listening, speaking, reading, and writing about situations familiar to them including their personal biographies, families, daily life, studies, travels, and hobbies. Regular writing assignments are designed to help students learn vocabulary, check spelling, and to form thoughts with German sentence structure. Regular speaking activities aid in acquiring good pronunciation and listening skills. Offered annually in the fall semester.

112 Beginning German II

Students continue to develop basic language skills with emphasis on expanding vocabulary and on writing assignments that aid in the practical application of grammatical concepts. Communicating in German about familiar personal topics, students acquire vocabulary about sports, food, holidays, school, the environment, and life in German speaking cultures. Prerequisite: German 111 or placement by test.

231 Intermediate German I

Students explore life in the German-speaking countries through reading, discussing, and retelling narrative texts. The course emphasizes vocabulary building, a thorough review of German grammar, and the composition of short narratives to develop writing skills for paragraph-length discourse. Taught in German with some grammar explanations in English. Prerequisite: German 112 or placement by test.

232 Intermediate German II

Students continue to explore life in German-speaking countries, using cultural readings, films, and other authentic materials to develop vocabulary and composition skills. Drafting short reports enables students to practice writing skills for paragraph-length discourse. Selected grammar topics are reviewed as needed. Open to first-year students. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 231 or placement by test.

233 Language and Culture Studies in Germany (Abroad)

A total immersion experience and capstone course for students completing the language requirement. This course integrates listening, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural competence by exploring the recent history and contemporary aspects of major German cities, especially Berlin. Students self-select immersion situations, keep a journal of field experiences, and write short papers on topics from journal notes. Taught in German. May be counted toward the German major. Prerequisite: German 231 or equivalent. Offered during Interim. Open to first-year students.

239 Culture and Language Studies in Vienna (Abroad)

A total immersion experience, this course explores Vienna's recent history and present-day society. Students discuss short readings, keep a journal of daily experiences, and write weekly reports on Viennese and Austrian culture. Site visits allow students to explore the city and nearby areas, including the Vienna Woods. For their final project, students work in pairs on an instructor-approved research topic of their choice. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 231 or equivalent. Offered alternate Interims.

250-level courses

250 Speaking German

This course is designed to teach speaking strategies and bring students to an Intermediate-High level of oral proficiency through practice in everyday communication such as telling stories, giving reports, and organizing social events. The course focuses on higher-order functions such as paragraph-length narration, presenting opinions, small group discussion, and formal presentations, as well as interviews, debates, and regular group conversations with classroom guests and speakers. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 232 or equivalent.

251 Understanding Narratives

Students examine narrative texts, such as short stories, novel excerpts, and other fictional works, including film, with respect to plot and characters, relationships and themes, narrative strategies and structures. Weekly writing assignments offer practice in narration, extended description, as well as expressing and supporting an opinion about the texts and the ways they engage their respective times. The course is designed to teach writing strategies and includes basic and advanced grammar review, as needed. The final project is a short paper written in German. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 232 or equivalent.

252 Exploring Non-Fiction

Students examine expository texts such as (auto)biographical writings, journalistic articles, and critical essays, with an eye to understanding the strategic organization of the text, the information presented, and the various layers of critical voices in a text. Coursework includes weekly writing assignments on the analysis of structure, style, argumentation, evidence, and perspective in a text. The course is designed to teach students writing strategies and the final project is a short paper written in German. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 232 or equivalent.

270-level courses

270 German in the Professions

Students examine a variety of texts used in a particular professional or disciplinary field such as economics, the sciences, medicine, art, music, and theology. Coursework enhances listening and reading skills in specialized areas of the work world as well as writing and speaking proficiency in the workplace across the German professions. Recommended for students considering an internship in Germany. Taught in German. It includes strategies for writing letters, resumes, reports, and documented professional work in German. Prerequisite: German 251 or 252.

271 Topics: Introduction to German Literature

Students encounter German literature and develop skills and strategies for reading and interpreting literary texts in their historical and cultural contexts. In interpreting the texts, students practice writing and oral communication individually and in small groups. The specific topic may vary and may be broadly or narrowly defined to include a survey, genre, theme, period, or the literature of one German-speaking country. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 251 or 252.

272 Turning Points in German History

Students examine a major period of German history and its impact on the institutional, intellectual, and artistic heritage of Europe. This course involves close reading and analysis of primary sources as well as critical evaluations of the period and focus on history as an interpretive reconstruction of the past. Sample periods include: the Reformation, Weimar Classicism, the German revolution of 1848, post-1945 Germany, and post-unification. The course emphasizes strategies for writing papers in German. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 251 or German 252. May be repeated if topic is different.

273 German Media

This course is designed to teach media literacy in the German context with emphasis on ideological, cultural, aesthetic, and ethical perspectives. Students examine current issues, events, culture, politics, education, entertainment, advertising, and other non-literary topics as treated in contemporary German print and electronic media, including press, television, film, internet, and radio. Students compare and contrast presentations by different German media and by German versus U.S. media. The course emphasizes strategies for writing papers in German. Taught in German. Prerequisite: German 251 or 252.

294 Internship (abroad)

Students spend four weeks during Interim or summer in an individually selected German or Austrian workplace. Opportunities include work in health care, communications, and manufacturing as well as non-profit organizations, libraries, businesses, laboratories, offices, and churches. Assignment of position varies with availability in host institutions. Prerequisite: at least one 250-level course.

298 Independent Study

370-level courses


371 Topics in German Literature

Students explore the form, history and theory of a particular genre or medium, including film, the novella, drama, poetry and short story, or the works of a single author or period. Coursework includes close reading, discussion, analysis and interpretation of visual and/or written texts. Taught in German. Prerequisite: at least one 270-level course. May be repeated if topic is different.

372 Topics in German Studies

Students explore an interdisciplinary topic in language, literature, history, or culture through close reading, discussion, analysis, and interpretation of selected works, including theoretical texts. Sample topics include: the Germans in exile, the German-American heritage, the German Holocaust, Germany in the European Union, and Germanic myths. Taught in German. Prerequisite: at least one 270-level course. May be repeated if topic is different. Counts towards medieval studies major.

394 Internship (abroad)

Students spend four weeks during Interim or summer in the German or Austrian workplace. Opportunities include working in health care, communications, and manufacturing as well as non-profit organizations, libraries, businesses, laboratories, offices, and churches. Assignment of position varies with availability of host institutions. Prerequisite: at least one 270-level cou

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision.

398 Independent Research

courses in English translation

147 Fairy Tales, Folktales and Fables (in English)

Reading and discussion of writings that ultimately go back to oral traditions, including chapbooks such as the Nibelungenlied, Till Eulenspiegel, and Faust, fables created on models from antiquity during the eighteenth century, fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, and Kunstmärchen (literary fairy tales by known writers). The course emphasizes both the literary aspects of the works and their historical contexts.

245 Arts in Vienna (in English abroad)

Students encounter Vienna's rich cultural heritage in museums, theaters, operas, operettas, concerts, and coffeehouses. Coursework focuses on the shift in Vienna from the late-19th-century romanticism of the declining Habsburg Empire to an unprecedented modernism in all the arts. This includes the study of architecture (Loos) and music (Schönberg), as well as psychology (Freud), literature (Schnitzler), philosophy (Wittgenstein), and the cult of death and suicide in fin-de-siècle Vienna. Offered during Interim.

246 The Age of Goethe (in English)

Students examine the transformation of German political culture from feudal society to modern institutions of art, science, education and commerce. While the French Revolution (1789) is the historical axis on which this change turned, the life of Goethe (1749-1832) spans the period in which Germany made significant progress toward unity and democracy. Illustrative materials in digital and video form supplement the readings.

247 Mare Balticum (in English abroad)

Starting with Hanseatic and Teutonic traditions of entrepreneurship from the 13th-century, this course focuses on the political and economic history of a region that has transitioned from tribalism to feudalism, then to mercantilism, capitalism, communism, and now EU-style capitalism. The course develops in an itinerant way -- city to city -- starting in Lübeck, Germany, then proceed eastward to the cities of Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald, Wolgast, Szczecin, Koszalin, Danzig, Malbork, Ketrzyn, Vilnius, Kaunas, the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg in Germany's East Prussia), Klaipeda, Riga, Tartu, Tallinn, crossing by ship to Helsinki, Finland, and again by ship to Stockholm, Sweden. Students deliver several oral presentations, including a group project of a business plan for a hypothetical start-up. Offered during Interim.

249 German Cinema (in English)

A survey of German films from Caligari (1919) to The Counterfeiters (2008), this course examines 20th-century German history through the lens of Germany's most renowned films. Students develop analytical and critical skills in "reading" films as cultural products and as cinematic works of art. The course focuses on the increasing social and political importance of mass media for understanding the past. Counts toward film studies concentration.