About Us

At Grinnell, all studies take place within a liberal arts framework, focusing on the study of German literature and culture through the contexts of the arts, history, social history, philosophy, and politics.

While the German language provides the foundation of our department, the German Department at Grinnell is not simply a language department. The goal of foreign language study at a liberal arts college should do more than simply facilitate the acquisition of a tool (though that is, without a doubt, one of the most tangible and life-long benefits for any student); rather, our department does more:

We immerse students in the literary, artistic, and filmic traditions of the German-speaking world.We present students with unfamiliar historical experiences and cultural values that cause them to question their own.We furnish students with a deeper understanding of the grammar, idiom, vocabulary, and evolution of their native language, making them, in turn, better writers and communicators.

Our department is at the heart of the College’s efforts to foster international understanding, cultural diversity, and critical thinking in our students. Our department exemplifies the College's core values of excellence in education, diversity, life-long learning, and engaging with the world beyond the campus. 

According to our Office of Institutional Research, the Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that, collectively, the foreign language departments at Grinnell have ranked #1 or #2 nationally in production of PhDs by undergraduates from undergraduate institutions since 1995, with only Bryn Mawr outranking us in some years. 

At Grinnell, students can take advantage of numerous programs and activities to expand their linguistic and intellectual horizons beyond the classroom. Off-campus study in Germany or Austria provides students with an excellent opportunity to achieve linguistic and cultural fluency. Most Grinnell German majors and many non-majors study in Berlin, Freiburg, or Vienna.

On campus, a weekly German Table lets students and faculty members practice and speak German in an informal setting during lunch.

At German House, students create a total-immersion environment to strengthen and reinforce their language skills. A language assistant from a German-speaking country lives in the German House and serves as an informal resource person and tutor.

The Department maintains an extensive German film collection - including films by Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Valie Export, Tom Tykwer, Fatih Akin as well as Weimar-era classics by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Leontine Sagan, Ernö Metzner, and others. 

Curriculum and the Major

All courses are conducted in German, and instructors prefer a communicative and interactive approach to lecture formats. Small classes mean that personal attention and extensive interaction among students and faculty are essential features of the major. The literature courses span from the Middle Ages to contemporary times and cover all literary genres. German majors at Grinnell study German literature and culture through the contexts of history, social history, philosophy, and politics. Because Grinnell's German major is solidly grounded in the liberal arts, students enjoy interdisciplinary study. The senior seminar, the capstone course for majors, offers a combination of literary theory and practice and provides an opportunity for reading and discussion at a very advanced level.